||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 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