Do you remember what it was like before you had your family? Do you remember seeing other families or friends whose children were misbehaving and thinking to yourself, “my child will never do that”. Or did you make statements (to yourself) such as, “I will never let my child use my iPad”, or “I will never put up with my child behaving like THAT”, or “I will never use TV as a babysitter!”
Some of the most common promises parents make to themselves are about sleep! For me, one of the most common statements I hear from parents is that they never thought they would end up with their child in their bed. The second most common statement I hear is that they were never going to hold their child for sleep. The third most common is they are never going to use feeding as a sleep tool, or sleep “crutch”. Inevitably all of those ideals go out the window when baby arrives!
With parents who are resistant to hearing their baby or child cry and promise they will never allow that (for any reason), their commitment is admirable but a very hard promise to keep. After all, babies cry! It’s what they do! Even with the best intentions in the world, your baby or child IS going to cry sometimes and our job as parents is to communicate to the child that it’s okay, that we love them and that we will help them through whatever it is that is upsetting them.
Crying is one of your baby’s/toddlers forms of communication. The other one is smiling, laughing, giggling etc. Of course we would all prefer to hear this one, other than crying.
Let’s say your baby is playing happily with a small toy and for whatever reason, you remove it from her. Her first reaction will be to cry loud and hard! She does not like it! She wants it back! What if she has grabbed something that is dangerous to her? Of course you would immediately take it away from her and she would absolutely cry loud and hard. She may even cry for a lengthy period of time! This does not mean that she is being harmed in any way. It means she is telling you “I want it back – I don’t like it that you took it away from me”. She may be frustrated that you have it and show you a little baby tantrum! She cannot use language so therefore she will cry or scream.
Would you like to consider another analogy which is also something I hear from parents often? Some babies scream and cry over the mere thought that they have to go in their car seat and into the car. Does this mean you won’t ever go anywhere? No. Travel in the car and car seat is mandatory in life and yes, something that can cause some upset. Sometimes parents relay stories that their child cries and screams the entire trip! Does that mean you don’t make the trip? No. The baby is fine at the end of the trip and travel by car and car seat is simply something a baby or child has to experience for safe journeys. Sure, even when you get to the end of said trip, the child may take quite some time to calm herself after coming out of the car. It doesn’t mean she is damaged psychologically because she had to sit in the back seat of the car by herself as you drove for 30 minutes (as unpleasant as it was).
Toddlers will throw themselves down on to the ground, kick and scream, go red in the face and resist any attempts you make to console or soothe them. I had an incident such as this with my little nephew in the McDonalds parking lot! He was just 18 months old at the time. He was having lots of fun in the “ball room of the play area” at McDonalds and did not want to leave. Unfortunately, we had to leave and I had to lead him out of the room and take him out of the restaurant. As we took 4 steps out of the front door, he dropped to the ground, threw himself on to his back, screaming, red in the face, sweating, flailing his arms and legs around wildly. Every attempt I made to scoop him up, hug him, reassure him etc, failed miserably. He was in his own world.
I made sure he was safe and could not hurt himself and gave him the room to work through it. After approximately 10 minutes, he calmed somewhat so that I could pick him up, put him into the car seat (all the while he was still struggling), and drive home. This occurred as a direct result of him not wanting to leave the play area at McDonalds! The entire reaction to this went on for approximately 25 minutes from start to finish. There was a great deal of crying and screaming!
Once safely in his car seat, he took a big deep breath and fell asleep! He was not harmed and he forgot about the entire episode. We laugh about this event. He thinks it was hilarious that he was so funny and silly! He still loves me! He was not “damaged” by this incident and the crying that ensued. If he had been able to talk at that time, we would have had a much a reasonable discussion about it and I could have probably reasoned with him successfully.
Your baby/toddlers’ crying during the initial stages of sleep training will be over relatively quickly and she will learn some valuable life lessons regarding sleep that will follow her through to adulthood.
Several of my clients who are GP’s, pediatricians and RN’s, have discussed this with me. They agree that some crying (if managed correctly) is not harmful to a child. It is simply her form of communication and she will not understand the changes you make in the initial stages of training. She will be confused. Only when a 2-3 day time frame has passed (and often even sooner than this), will she begin to understand, with your complete consistency in how you handle the gentle training, that there is another way of going off to sleep or soothing herself. Gradually she will begin to learn how to self-soothe.
I want to be very clear on my thoughts on the extinction method.
Really, it is not a method at all in my opinion. I usually have a very very long conversation with parents about the “crying” topic, ensuring they feel more comfortable about what is about to transpire and the reason for the crying. Most importantly, we discuss what they can do to alleviate some of the upset to their little one. Remember: even if your child is crying, it’s what you DO during that crying that is important. If you do nothing, I am sure it will be extremely unpleasant for everyone and your child will possibly feel extremely alone. Using this sleep training “method” is unnecessary. There is no need to take that tact. I cannot advocate the “extinction” method. There simply is no reason for it!
Over the many years I have been in this field (over 30 years’ experience with infants), I have devised methods that ensure your baby feels loved, supported, reassured and comforted, with your presence, touch, cuddles, and lots of attention.
Your child can learn how to sleep well in that type of environment. The methods that don’t allow you to touch your child are never recommended! There are consultants working in Canada and the US today that will advise you to use the “extinction” method. Yes there are even medical professionals that will advise you to use it! It really is completely unnecessary. Success can come with sleep training by using a gentler and caring approach and giving your baby or child lots of tender loving care, hugs, kisses etc during the process.
If nobody is sleeping at your house, it’s probably time to make a change. By actually deciding NOT to sleep train your child, isn’t that hurting your family more? I have literally seen families crumble and parents’ divorce over this sad situation. Within a very short space of time, the entire family can calm down and get the rest they need, all the while being supported during the process by phone and email by myself. Working one-on-one with clients ensures they stay on track and anything that needs to be tweaked can be dealt with quickly.
I look forward to working with you “one on one” to help you achieve your goals. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with sleep issues? There is no need for it to continue. Let’s get this fixed now!
Call me for a FREE 15 minute discussion about your little one’s sleep. (Helen 604-803-0068)