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Is Sleep Training Stressful For Your Baby?

If you’re considering sleep training your child, you’ve probably done some research online and found some troubling “information” that suggests allowing your child to cry at night can actually cause brain damage.

That would be a major cause for concern, obviously, if it were true.

But, luckily for you and your child, it’s not.

An article published a number of years back on AskDrSears.com suggested that researchers had found a link between allowing children to cry during sleep training and increased levels of adrenaline and the hormone cortisol, which, according to the article, “…may have permanent implications on the development of sections of their brain.”

The Guardian newspaper picked up the article and the hysteria quickly spread.

What the article failed to mention was that the researchers who had conducted the study didn’t agree with his interpretation of their findings; quite the opposite, in fact.

Articles in Time and Slate magazine exposed the junk science of the article shortly after its publication, but by that time, people had already jumped on the bandwagon and were perpetuating the rumor.

In a follow up to the Pediatrics study that Sears refers to in his original article, the conclusions clearly state that, “Parents and health professionals can confidently use [behavioral sleep] techniques to reduce the short- to medium-term burden of infant sleep problems and maternal depression.”

So how did Dr. Sears manage to stir up all of this hysteria in the first place?

The type of stress your child experiences when she cries for short periods at night is what’s known as positive stress. This is the type of stress we experience when we’re facing a challenge that we can overcome, and that only lasts a brief period of time. Things like public speaking, job interviews, trying a new sport, and first dates are good examples of positive stress.

The experiences researchers found to cause the elevated levels of cortisol that were actually damaging to a child’s development were found in babies who were outright neglected and left to cry when they were hungry, had wet diapers, and so on. This is called toxic stress, and it occurs when the cause of the stress is persistent and all encompassing.

By failing to distinguish between neglected babies and those who were allowed to cry during sleep training, Sears’ article made a lot of false assumptions and generated a lot of pointless apprehension.

The truth is, you and your child both need a good night’s sleep in order to function properly; both independently and as a family unit. I could go on for days about sleep’s role in the regeneration of serotonin and dopamine, but there’s really no need to get too scientific about it. We all know firsthand that we just feel so much better when we get a good night’s sleep. We’re happier, more energetic, we have an easier time concentrating, and life’s little challenges don’t weigh so heavy on our minds.

In short, a proper night’s sleep allows us to function like we’re meant to. That goes for you and your child.

Sleep training also has benefits beyond those wonderful, rest-filled nights. According to Dr. Anna Price, (who, incidentally, was the lead author in one of the studies Sears cited in his article), “Teaching parents to regulate their children’s sleep behavior is a form of limit setting that, combined with parental warmth, constitutes the optimal, authoritative, parenting style for child outcomes.”

So if you’re ready to get your baby sleeping 11 – 12+ hours a night, check out The Sleep Sense Program. Just follow the link below for immediate access.

Learn more here.

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Certified Sleep Sense Consultant Tip

“Soother vs. Lovey, what’s the difference?

Soothers keep children in a lighter stage of sleep and prevent them from getting deep restorative sleep. A soother requires baby to fully wake to either replace it or have someone else do it for them. Fragmented sleep is not as beneficial as consolidated sleep. A lovey can allow baby to fall back asleep without help but it isn’t going to cause a child to wake. 

Loveys don’t impact a baby’s ability to cycle through deeper stages of sleep. I like to compare a lovey to a pillow; you could sleep without one, but it makes sleeping more comfortable just like a lovey for little ones.

Kathryn Wood
Sleep Stars Consulting
www.sleepstars.ca
kathryn@sleepstars.ca
(778) 881-4345


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