Sleep School is Out!

8 years ago
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The whole notion of the phrase ‘sleep school’ or ‘boot camp for babies’ makes me cringe.

We send our children off to school at 4-5 years of age expecting varying degrees of success along the way as they learn and develop. Unfortunately some parents have unrealistic expectations believing their little darling will become a nuclear scientist, deserve the leading role in a drama or musical event or become head of house or their school. Most of us are just thrilled if our children are well educated, happy, well adjusted individuals who will make their way in the world from the best opportunities we can provide.

We would be horrified if anyone tried to categorise our child as the ‘same’ as everyone else’s!

Why then would anyone expect a baby who has only 25% of their brain capacity developed at birth expect a baby to understand the strict rules and scheduling prescribed by sleep schools or baby boot camps??

It shouldn’t be rocket science that leaving a baby to cry or scheduling their sleeping or eating is bound to fail in more than 90% of cases. Why? Because until they can talk, we only have their non verbal and verbal cues to help us meet their very primitive needs: food, warmth, sleep and security.

Babies are continuously ‘drip fed’ if you like while in utero and rocked easily and quickly to sleep 24 hours a day. It’s a big ask that a baby should adapt to the outside world based on a set of ‘school rules’ they can’t read let alone understand.

Less than two or three percent of babies may appear to have read the ‘rule book’ just as the same number of children in a population may become rocket scientists. The reality is that the majority of babies need a lot of help adapting to the world outside the uterus and some need more help than others especially with settling and sleep.

To put it into perspective, do we deny ourselves food if we are hungry? No! In fact we eat or drink 17 to 20 times a day. If we are tired and having trouble sleeping we get help! Sleeping tablets, a warm bath, a warm glass of milk, camomile tea perhaps?

Similarly, if we were crying from loneliness, discomfort, pain or distress don’t we want someone to help or comfort us? Imagine, how would you feel if someone you loved and depended heard you crying and possibly vomiting, closed the door and walked away?

We want people to show us compassion and support when we’re distressed yet many feel babies don’t need or deserve support or compassion.

Sure a crying baby will stop crying just as we will when no one comes but, how about the person who ignored your cries for help? Sad? Anxious? Concerned they no longer love or care about you? What do you do? Withdraw? Become anxious? Distrustful? Frightened?

It’s hard to feel positive towards the person we thought we could trust. Babies may appear not to care, stop crying and sleep through the night but, it’s early days. How can you be really sure your baby isn’t frightened, anxious, distrustful. Can you be sure you haven’t altered their personality? Impaired their emotional development?

Science tells behavioural issues can occur later in life attributable to these early restrictive practices. We ‘helicopter parent’ children so much these days. We give them little opportunity to ‘act out’ in our presence so may not notice how small children or young teens interact with others or manage their own emotions out of our presence.

If we truly want the best for our babies it’s a risk to believe that controlled crying, restricted feeding and comfort is the best start for our babies. Most parents do need help reading their babies cues, managing their expectations of parenting and wanting more sleep.

There are reliable evidenced based alternatives to ‘hard core’ methods that lack science and compassion for your very vulnerable baby. Using key words in an online search engine such as: gentle parenting, attachment parenting, sleep and settling without tears, no control crying techniques will bring up information with options from qualified health professionals.