Like any good parent who is thinking about sleep training their child, you’ve probably done a little online research. And — if you’ve found your way to this page — you’re probably having some serious second thoughts!
That’s because you’ve probably read an article about how letting your baby cry for a few nights causes elevated levels of cortisol (the so-called “stress hormone”), which could “rewire” your child’s brain and affect long-term health.
Well, I’m here to tell you: It’s simply not true.
First things first: Let’s talk about the word “stress”.
There are basically three different kinds of stress:
1. Positive Stress
This is the kind you feel when you have to do things you’re afraid to do, but that will benefit you: first day at a new school, asking a girl out on a date, getting up in class and making a speech. Basically, it sucks at the time but it’s for a greater good. Getting immunized and having to eat your broccoli every night could fall under this category as well, depending on how much you hate broccoli.
2. Tolerable Stress
This comes from events that are unpleasant or sad, but that don’t last forever. Examples would be: your child breaking her leg skiing, parents divorcing, or the death of a loved one. With support and love and time to heal, this kind of stress can be turned around.
3. Toxic Stress
So this is the bad kind. Toxic stress occurs when the bad things keep happening. Examples would be children being raised in poverty or in war zones, where the threat to their health and safety is unrelenting. After years of this kind of intense, all-encompassing stress, there can be changes in the brain chemistry. But even in these cases, once the threat is removed, there is a chance for recovery.
As you can see, letting your baby cry for small periods of time does NOT fall under the toxic stress category. It doesn’t even fall under the tolerable stress category: Nobody died. Your child
is just learning to sleep. The stress your baby will feel is mild and fleeting.
And I think it’s downright irresponsible for some attachment parenting activists to suggest otherwise.
(So do quite a few of the scientists who are upset about their research being intentionally misrepresented, by the way.)
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