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Is Sleep Training Safe? Facts and Myths Debunked

As the parent of a new baby, the number of questions you’re going to find yourself asking are, to put it mildly are astronomical!

The old saying about babies do not come with instructions has cemented itself in parental folk law for a good reason. Even after spending nine months doing endless research on what to expect when baby arrives, as soon as we’re sent home from the hospital with our little ones, there’s an unavoidable feeling of unpreparedness.

Every baby is different, after all. There is NO

  • manual
  • set of instructions
  • amount of coaching from friends and family

is going to prepare you for your child in particular.

And since this is just about the biggest responsibility that a human being can have, to raise another living person, we feel an incredible obligation to get it right.

Unfortunately, we don’t get any practice runs or dress rehearsals. Your first run-through is the final performance, so to speak, which only increases our dedication to solving problems before they spring up.

Sleep Training Safe For My Baby

And since babies basically eat, poo, cry and sleep, we’re naturally very focused on those four things.

What to feed baby, that’s often a contentious subject on its own and we often find ourselves with a sudden fascination in poo that we didn’t realise we had.

Which leaves us with sleeping and crying.

As a baby sleep consultant, I assure you, I’ve done a lot of research on both.

Crying is a normal

Because the biggest question that parents have when they start sleep training is, “Will my baby cry?”

This really isn’t the question they want the answer to, of course, because babies cry all the time. In fact, if a baby didn’t cry, it would be cause for concern.

Crying baby

Crying baby

What they’re really asking when they pose this question is, “How much will my baby cry, and will I be able to provide comfort when they do?”

Why is this the major concern with new parents? Well, naturally nobody likes to hear their baby cry, but parents nowadays are able to access a wealth of misinformation that claims if you don’t respond immediately when your baby cries, you could actually be harming them.

Unhelpful So-Called Experts

This wasn’t always such a contentious issue. Up until Dr. William Sears came out with his Attachment Parenting theory in 1993, parents were reasonably

comfortable with the idea that leaving a child to cry for a period of time when they woke in the night was safe, if maybe a little unpleasant.

But once The Baby Book was published, a generation of new parents began to cling to the idea that it was not just ineffective but was causing brain damage.

Sears cited studies to back up his claim, but those studies looked at babies who were suffering from

COLIC

a condition known as persistent crying, both of which are a far cry from allowing a child a few minutes of crying time.

And so the argument has raged on for nearly 25 years now, with attachment parenting advocates accusing sleep training advocates of willfully neglecting their babies for their own convenience.

It’s surprising that the pediatric and scientific community haven’t done more to prove or disprove this assertion, given the magnitude of the consequences.

After all, if we’re causing our babies brain damage by allowing them to cry, even for a short period, wouldn’t almost every parent in the world alter their approach to prevent it?

Misinterpreted information

One reason Dr. Sears’ claims didn’t provoke an immediate and widespread investigation was because they were hugely misleading.

The Yale researchers who conducted one of the studies his research pulled from responded to his use of their work by saying, “Our paper is not referring to routine, brief stressful experiences, but to abuse and neglect.

It is a mis-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”

Dr William Sears

Dr William Sears

 

Another went so far as to actually note in the study’s own conclusion that ,

“Our findings provide evidence that the quality of maternal behaviour appears to be unrelated to this effect.”

So the mother’s response or lack of it to the condition of persistent crying was inconsequential.

So that’s the argument against the original suggestion that started this whole movement.

Sleep Training Safe Isn’t Harmful

But its supporters will invariably ask, “Where’s your evidence to the contrary? How do you know it’s not harmful?”

Well, back in 2012, Dr. Anna Price, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health in Melbourne, Australia, conducted an extensive study that followed a group of two hundred and twenty six children, measuring mental health, sleep, stress regulation, child-parent relationship, maternal health and parenting styles.

Five years later, she followed up with the families to see the if the one third of the children whose parents had employed some method of sleep training had experienced any of the terrifying side effects that Dr. Sears had warned of.

The result… they had not.

In fact, to quote the study, “There was no evidence of differences between intervention and control families for any outcome.

Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects.”

But critics continue to try to shoot holes in the evidence. “The sample size was too small,” is a common complaint, no matter what the size of the study might be. “We need further study,” is another, assuming that further study supports their position, which, as of yet, it hasn’t.

Further Research Conducted in Support

So in March of last year, when Pediatrics published another peer-reviewed study that showed sleep training to be both effective and safe, it didn’t change the mind of Dr. Sears or his followers.

But for those new parents who have been bombarded with misinformation and hearsay regarding the safety and efficacy of sleep training, it’s yet another assurance that you can feel confident in the fact that getting your child to sleep through the night is important, safe, and beneficial to your entire family.

Because there’s one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s the fact that a good night’s sleep is beneficial for mother and baby alike.

So the answer is yes, sleep training is safe. Sleep itself is glorious, rejuvenating, and beneficial to you, your baby, and your entire family. Focusing on your child’s sleep habits is something you can feel good about, and a commitment that will pay off exponentially.

In short, your baby and yourself can both sleep soundly, knowing you’ve made the right choice.

 

Hot nights and sweaty sheets are no fun for little babies trying to get to sleep. While you can get up, strip off and reposition a fan to cool down, your baby can’t manage her temperature so easily.

Read more

Bed sharing with your baby the risks - Baby Winkz Blog

Bed Sharing or Co-sleeping with your Baby ?

Many experts and parenting authorities have come out against parents sharing their bed with their infants, citing safety concerns. On the other side, organisations that promote attachment parenting or breast feeding believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

Bed-sharing and co-sleeping are closely related: bed-sharing involves the infant sharing the same bed as one or more parent, and co-sleeping involves the infant sleeping close to, but on a different surface than, the parent(s). Here, we will mostly address bed-sharing with your newborn or infant. Let’s look at both sides of the debate in detail.

The Risks of Bed-Sharing

Experts cite studies showing an increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation amongst newborns and infants who engage in bed-sharing. The increased risk comes from soft mattresses, loose sheets and blankets, pillows and other impediments to infant breathing. There is also an increased risk of a parent rolling over onto the child, crushing or suffocating it. Opponents also point to the risk of death and injury from falling off the bed or becoming wedged between the wall and the mattress.

Beyond the physical risk, opponents claim that bed-sharing or co-sleeping create stress for a child once they are expected to sleep alone. Another claim is an unhealthy dependence of the child upon the mother or father. Finally, co-sleep may interfere with a healthy relationship between the mother and father, as it reduces sexual intimacy and communication at bedtime.

The Advantages of Bed-sharing

One of the most cited arguments for bed-sharing is that sleeping outside the parental bed is a relatively recent phenomenon – it had its onset in Europe and America in the 19th century. Bed-sharing then had another peak in the 1990’s. Beginning in 1992, a global SIDS awareness campaign effectively cut the rate of SIDS deaths by over 50%. Whilst there are studies showing a decrease in bed-sharing, many researchers believe bed-sharing is underreported due to social stigmas involved. The current reported rates in various studies range from 12-45% of parents engaging in the practice of bed-sharing with infants and young children, from routine to occasional. Yet despite this rate, the incidence of SIDS has continued to decrease.

Proponents of attachment parenting cite scientific studies showing reduced levels of stress hormones (especially cortisol) in both mothers and babies who co-sleep, and others that show a more stable physiology in co-sleeping babies, including more stable temperatures, fewer long pauses in breathing and more regular heart rhythms. Additionally, psychological and emotional health has been shown by numerous studies to be higher in co-sleeping children. This includes increased happiness and self-esteem, less anxiety and fear about sleep, fewer behavioural problems and more independence as adults.

Finally, co-sleeping and bed-sharing help mothers get more sleep, especially when breastfeeding. Older infants and toddlers are able to breastfeed without waking the mother.

Balancing Risks and Benefits

Much of the risk specifically applies to bed-sharing. Co-sleeping using specialty products can help reduce the risk of proximity between parent and child while promoting the benefits. Parents can purchase bedside bassinets that attach to the bed and are open on the parent’s side, bed-top sharing surfaces that keep baby from rolling off the bed and are raised enough that the risk of parents rolling over is reduced, and infant enclosures that are placed on the bed and prevent rollover, suffocation and wedging.

Remember that you can have the advantage of proximity through a co-sleeping arrangement as opposed to a bed-sharing arrangement.

October is SIDS Awareness Month, it is important to help create widespread exposure about SIDS. As safe baby sleep habits are just as important as healthy sleep habits, detailed in this article are facts about with SIDS facts, risk factors and actions to reduce the risk.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is the leading cause of death in infants and children age one month to one year. Despite advances in research, the cause of SIDS is still not thoroughly understood. The diagnosis is given to children under one year who die in their sleep without any other known cause. Research shows there is a strong correlation to breathing and oxygen levels during the sleep cycle.

Safe Sleeping

While there is no way to prevent SIDS, there are ways parents can reduce the risk of infant death. Infants who are placed to sleep on their backs are at a much lower risk for SIDS than those placed on their stomachs. Babies sleeping on their backs are in less danger of experiencing restricted air flow.

The crib itself should also be free of anything that might unintentionally obstruct breathing. For instance, stuffed animals and pillows should be left outside of the sleeping environment. Mattresses should be firm and sheets tight. Crib bumpers, while cute, can also pose a risk to your baby.

Your baby’s comfort is also important. Many parents fret over whether their infant is warm enough during sleep and like to pile on blankets that not only pose a danger for restricted oxygen flow, but also make the baby too warm. There are various authorities that state the ideal room temperature for safe sleep is between 18.3 and 21.1 degrees Celsius. In fact, placing a fan in the room may decrease your infant’s risk of SIDS by 72%.[1]

Outside the Crib

There are several other ways you can reduce the risk of sudden infant death as a result of SIDS. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from SIDS. Good prenatal care is also important and may play a role in reducing risk further.

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have infants that die from SIDS. Even passive smoke exposure can double your infant’s chances of death. The top priority is to quit smoking if at all possible. At the very least, refrain from smoking in your home and car, or anywhere near your infant.

Finally, it is vital that all caregivers be aware of the risk of SIDS and understand the necessities of safe infant sleeping. Relatives and daycare providers should all practice safe sleeping procedures:

  • Baby should sleep on his or her back
  • No smoking in the home, car or immediate area
  • No loose sheets, stuffed animals, pillows or blankets in the crib
  • Keep baby comfortable and not too warm
  • Use a fan in the room if available

 

Following these important tips can significantly reduce your infant’s risk of suffering from SIDS and make your time with your baby a less worrisome experience.