|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
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 uninterrupted night.
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 Babies,"
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 crying.
Babies are not born knowing what manipulation is -
this is (unfortunately) an adult creation.
Marnie Larsen Ko