Why I don’t believe in Sleep Training?!

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Do sleep training methods work? A qualified “yes”. Am I a fan of them? Absolutely not. Here’s why.

The Myth of Sleeping Through The Night

Nobody sleeps seamlessly through the night, not even adults; that’s a myth. We all sleep in cycles. The only difference between a baby and us is that we can segue from one sleep cycle to another. Hence, we don’t remember waking up at night or do not consider toilet breaks or thirst breaks as an interruption.

“Sleeping through the night” is a marketing gimmick created by the same creators of various sleep training methods. Exhausted, sleep deprived mothers jump on any promise of a good night’s sleep. But we must be aware of the long term consequences of this quick result-yielding method.

 What is a Normal Sleep Cycle for babies?

 Usually as short as 45 minutes. In my experience this was true for the first 10 months. After 10 months, the cycle changed to anything from 2 hours to 3 hours. And now at 15 months, his cycle is much longer, although he regresses at times for whatever reason.

Quiet is Not Calm

 Sleep training method usually mean putting the baby into the cot or bed, and expecting them to fall asleep either without nursing or simply by crying it out. In most cases the crying out needs to happen alone, where the parent only intervenes at several intervals. And the intervention is quite often minimal.

Babies are not stupid. After crying for hours. After a day or two (in some cases more), babies learn to conserve energy and stay quiet. I see it as a baby who has lost all hopes for affection and parental closeness at bedtime. And that is sad!

Research show that babies that are quiet after sleep training methods are not necessarily calm – and indeed are releasing elevated levels of the stress hormone Cortisol.

(Here is a very good review of the literature on this from a professor of psychology and executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201407/parents-misled-cry-it-out-sleep-training-reports

Trauma, Fight, Flight and Freeze Response

Bedtime can be very traumatic for babies, especially for babies who are either being trained to sleep on their own, in their own room, or in a separate cot or in a situation that the baby is not completely comfortable in.

Now we all know what is fight or flight response to any traumatic situation. Babies are physically and emotionally completely incapable of fighting any traumatic event in their life.

Helpless and scared, babies cry and cry and cry and eventually the last response kicks in: to freeze. We as humans often freeze in situation that we cannot escape. By mentally blocking ourselves out of the situation we may experience less pain, less trauma and in some case the threat (a raging dog?) may lose interest in us.

Freezing might be an instinct we all have and it can be beneficial in traumatic situations to keep our sanity intact but to practice such an instinct at such a young age may have questionable effects on children later in life. I do not want a “freeze response” to become my child’s primary response to a difficult situation.

Ignoring a Baby’s Needs

 Baby’s need touch, and physical closeness. It is a totally reasonable request and completely normal. Food, dry clothes and a lot of affection = a happy baby! Simple!

Just because we have changed the nappy, fed the babies a nice meal, given them a bath, read them a book, sang them a lullaby and then nursed them to sleep, does not mean that we know that the babies now must have no excuse whatsoever to be hungry, uncomfortable or feeling the need to want affection through the night!

Babies’ brains don’t function like ours. Unlike us, babies cannot rationalise the situation when they wake up from their sleep cycle. If we wake up scared, we rub our eyes, and we tell ourselves that everything is ok, perhaps it was a nightmare. If we wake up hungry, we rationalise by looking at the clock and telling ourselves that 3am is not a good time for a sandwich and if we are thirsty we simply drink water and go back to sleep (on our own because we can).

Now babies are not only incapable of rationalising the situation but also are incapable of curbing the needs they have. So if a baby wakes up slightly peckish, sleep training method will only encourage them to learn to starve. I don’t see that as a healthy way to grow up.

Loss Of Trust

If the baby has learnt that nobody comes to provide affection when they cry, no body listens to them cry or that nobody will feed them when they are hungry, they might start losing trust in their caretaker.

I, personally, would fear losing my child’s trust. I would expect my child to feel free to tell me about anything or anyone troubling them because they know that no matter how petty or how bad their experience is, mummy is always here to listen, cuddle and act on it.

What’s the rush?

It is difficult raising children. Sleepless nights are part of the territory. And no, I am not a SAHM that I can rest any time of the day so it is easier for me to say this. Here’s how I think: I chose to have a baby, I chose the sleepless nights and the wet nappies and the baby sick and tantrums. In the grander scheme of things, giving my baby two to three years of my life is nothing.

Get your family to help out. Take turns with your partner. And if you are a single mother, get some of your friends to help out. Easier said than done. But I’d rather make the effort than give up on my baby and let the baby cope with it’s own miseries.

Mother’s health comes first

What works for me, may not work for you! We cosleep and nurse on demand. That I think helps a lot in my child’s seemingly good sleeping habits. Even though my baby wakes up a few times to feed in the night still at 15 months, cosleeping makes it easy and my sleep is not as disturbed. And that works for us!

 Having said all of the above, I do believe in mother’s health to be of the utmost importance. I have absolutely no problem if you choose to sleep train or bottle feed or wean early or do whatever that you do with your baby for your own sanity and well-being as long as one is aware of the consequences.

What I, personally, struggle with is when parents put their kids through such unnatural methods of training in the name of “their wellbeing”. No! That is utter nonsense. Two minutes or two days, there is nothing good about learning to sleep by crying it out or longing for affection. They are not learning independence of any sort, they are not actually still sleeping deeply and peacefully through the night (they have stopped bothering you, that’s all).

Resources:

http://theconversation.com/we-trust-children-to-know-what-gender-they-are-until-they-go-against-the-norm-42093

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=middlemiss+asynchrony

http://www.parentingscience.com/stress-in-babies.html

 

 

Can a five year old be a THIEF??

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Look at that cute little cheeky face. Butter wouldn’t melt. But…..SHE IS A THIEFFFFFF!!

No it isn’t the step-mother talking! Read on…

Having had my stepchildren with me since they were two and four, I have been responsible for their social, physical, psychological and moral upbringing. Now if I had a biological mother involved in our situation, I could have happily been just the friendly amazing partner of daddy’s. But no, I am now meant to be everything. I am getting used to it but not quite used to the situations where I have to teach moral values.

So a new thing that I had to face today was stealing. Our youngest who is five now, has been caught with a few pennies in her pocket previously that she “found” in the house, not even outside. I have been trying to explain how she needs to bring them back to mummy (that’s what they call me now) and daddy as money isn’t for playing with.

I have been dealing with it quite calmly up until this morning when she came downstairs all dressed up for school and unfortunately for her, coins clink. And I noticed a few pound coins, not even pennies. I wondered where she could have “found” them as she always uses the term “found”  as an excuse (and I blame myself for leaving them on the table). But turns out they were from my bag. Somehow 8am in the morning, I am slogging to get their lunch boxes ready, whilst in the middle of making breakfast and making sure they are cleaning their teeth and getting dressed etc, I couldn’t bear the fact that my child was turning into a child thief. She has taken this money treasure hunt to an altogether different level.

After using my high pitch at her, I banished her into her bedroom. I did that only because, this might sound bad, but the very sight of her was making me more angry and helpless as to where the hell did I go wrong? Where is she learning or developing such impulses?

I had to cool down before I could think of how to deal with the situation like an adult and to assess it from a child’s perspective.

After about 10 minutes of her throwing herself on the bed, crying, kicking and saying a hundred sorry’s in agitation at the wall; I was calm as well and I invited her to come downstairs and talk to me. I explained her that stealing money is the worst mistake ever and that money is not for playing with. I asked her if she knew what is the purpose of money and she very cleverly admitted ‘to buy things’. Well, having realised that she is not a silly little girl, she obviously knows what money means, I then asked her if she had to get something from the shop with that money but she said no, she only wanted to play. Fine, again money is not for playing with. Not real money. I explained her that if she wants to buy something, she should ask us for money and if she finds money on the kitchen counter, mum’s dressing table or even bag and she picks it up just to have a look but by impulse puts it in her pocket, that is fine as long as she returns them back as soon as she realises she has them.

Now Reuben is seven and much more clever and so he asked if children can be put to jail for stealing. I didn’t want to lie; and scary as it may sound, I said yes if you steal from someone who is not feeling particularly forgiving, they can complaint to the police. To mellow it down a bit, I further said, “But we don’t have to worry about that because from now on we will try not to take money from anywhere and if we find money, we will give it to mummy and daddy. And if we forget, we will apologise when we return it back to them.”

I think they understood. Or so I hope!

It is difficult when you have parents from two different school of thoughts. My partner was very lenient with money and it’s value etc when the kids were very very young. Children have a box where they put all the pennies (which hold no more value to us than copper weight in the purse). Their daddy often let them play with those coins. I was against the whole idea, because I strongly believed that children cannot differentiate between a copper coloured one penny from a pound coin. Collecting coins has become a hobby and now their impulses probably ask them to pick up any coin they see.

Another school of thought would say if one isn’t so rigid about money and let children have a little play with the money, rather than kept as a high value item of treasure, it won’t create a lot of curiosity in kids to either find them or keep them. But I believe there is a risk with that is children as young as 5 and 7 who cannot reason or rationalise, and hence will use money as a commodity. They do not see stealing the way we do. For them, stealing could be something as fun as a treasure hunt without realising that it means something to someone else. The basic value of caring for other’s emotions, hard-work and showing kindness.

It is very easy as a parent, to blame oneself for what children do especially something that is wrong. But one has to remember, they are young and adaptable. So a mistake must not be treated as a crime. A mistake or a behaviour can be altered. Children can be moulded into what you see them to be like in a few years, of course they will have their own characteristics and personality. But think about it, no body is born with the skill of stealing – it is definitely something in the environment you are exposing them to that has developed such an impulse. It could be anything from friends in school who may be bringing in money, or trying to impress someone in the park, or trying to buy a toy off a older child who has asked for money (kids know that won’t be allowed and hence take the plunge), or something could be as simple as what my little one wanted to do – play (she loves playing shops in her bedroom)!! It is our job, hence to identify that element and talk them through it. Or perhaps alter things in their environment if need be.

One of my solutions now is to try and buy her a few fake coins. Hopefully, once she owns them she will stop scouting for real money in the house or elsewhere. And we shall take it from there.

This was a new experience for me this morning and I was totally phased by it but also learnt something more about little children.