|Subject: Sleep training
Did you know that "sleep trainers" claim if your baby does
not get 12 hours of sleep the brain does not develop properly?! They also advise readers
to put on headphones when the cries get too intense to bear.
This is another tragic instance of mistrusting nature. Babies will
take the sleep they need, as long as they are in good health, they feel secure, and the
environment is reasonably quiet. There are no rules that apply to each and every baby's
sleep requirements, or for any other developmental need. We've known for a very long time
that sleep requirements, like all other human variables, form a bell-shaped curve. Most
children fall near the average, but there are always some who measure at one extreme or
the other. Many babies require twelve hours of sleep, but some will require much less, and
some will require more. As Joseph Chilton Pearce counsels in The Magical Child,
nature "programs only for success."
Telling parents to put on headphones when their baby cries is like
telling someone to put in earplugs if their smoke detector goes off. A baby cries for a
reason, just as smoke detectors ring for a reason. Nature has intended a baby's cry to be
disturbing for the baby's protection, to ensure that an adult will respond.
If a parent prevents a child's cry from reaching him, this is
tantamount to child neglect. How will the child notify the parent of an emergency
situation? Children have died in fires, choked on vomit, been bitten by pet animals, been
injured by diaper pins, become severely ill, and even have been kidnapped. If this type of
situation takes place while parents have taken themselves "off-duty", what can
the child do? The use of ear plugs to avoid a child's crying is a dangerous and
irresponsible practice that ought to be included in laws protecting children from parental
neglect. A child in this situation may as well have been left at home alone.
There is another hazard - perhaps the most dangerous of all. If a
child is left to fend for herself, she will eventually conclude that (a) it is appropriate
to ignore the suffering of others and that (b) it is foolish to count on others, even
those who claim to love her, to come to her aid. She will come to believe that it is too
risky to trust and love others because they will abandon her just when she needs them the
most. Because this is one of the most painful experiences a human being can have, she will
begin to protect herself from the possibility of further betrayal, by not caring.
She will gradually become unable to trust, depend on, or feel compassion for others. This
is surely one of the greatest tragedies that can befall a child.
It is the parent's responsibility to meet the child's need for love
and reassurance, not the child's responsibility to meet the parent's need for an
Parents who use earplugs to render themselves deaf to their child's
cries could learn something from parents who have true deafness. Many of these parents
sleep next to their children so they can be assured of the child's well-being. These
parents may be deaf but their heart is open to the needs of their children, who will learn
by example what it means to love someone. These children are far more fortunate than their
friends whose physically able parents have chosen to abandon them to face the night alone.
British Medical Journal, D.S. Vorster, "Crying and Non-Crying
British Medical Journal, July 5/80, pp. 58-59
Because crying is a signal, and not negative behavior, responding to
that signal (the only way babies can talk) reinforces that the parents care about the
baby's needs. Babies who are carried at least three hours a day have a 40% reduction in
Babies are not born knowing what manipulation is - this is
(unfortunately) an adult creation.
Marnie Larsen Ko