Depending on popular news outlets for your child sleep education
information? You might want to think twice. Here we analyze an article
running in the popular “Huffington Post” that offers some stunning
opinions and myths posing as sleep truths.
The Full Huffington Post Article Can Be Found Here: How do I get my infant to sleep through the night
There is truth to the statement that many pediatricians will give you conflicting advice when it comes to your child’s sleep. The follow up question that should be asked by parents is why? And the follow up to that should be seeking out someone who specializes specifically in child sleep.
The fact that this article was written by a pediatrician who bases her sleep advice on the “two healthy components of sleep” while neglecting to even mention the importance of an age appropriate, biologically beneficial sleep schedule is disappointing and somewhat laughable. The insinuation that having a soothing routine and being armed with a sleep training method is enough is just not true. If your child isn’t on the correct schedule, no bedtime routine or sleep training method is going to keep them from screaming through the entire night because they are consistently over tired from being on an inappropriate schedule.
She even mentions that “sleeping through the night” doesn’t typically entail sleeping from 7pm-8am. My response to that? No, and it shouldn’t. Tweak that by an hour and yes, it’s absolutely possible to have your child sleeping from 7pm-7am. Her point and insinuation was that a 12-hour sleep stretch (which is the definition of sleeping through the night) is a ludicrous goal. My point- it’s both attainable and achievable. My secondary point- her mention of the 8am wake up time insinuates that she believes that to be an ideal wake up time. This further points to the idea that she is completely ignoring the importance of sleep schedules. A child that is still napping should wake up in the morning no later than 7am to protect their daytime sleep.
By far the most disappointing part of this article is what the author offers as examples for why most parents sleep training their children: is it “because you can’t tolerate your baby waking in the middle of the night because you absolutely need the sleep or is it because you feel like he or she “should” be sleeping through the night, and it’s something to do? Sleep waking is only an issue if your family can’t tolerate it.”
She is essentially telling parents that the only reasons behind sleep training are selfish, selfish and selfish. Her insinuation is that families should be able to continually deal with being sleep deprived because constant night wakings night after night are something that families should be able to “tolerate.”
A child who continually wakes up throughout the night, night after night, will accrue a sleep debt. This is absolutely not healthy for them and should not be tolerated. I’m not speaking to night feedings; I’m speaking about children who are over the age of 4 months and who are continuously waking at night, every night and it’s not because they need to be fed.
Babies who are experiencing multiple night wakings every night will not be functioning at their optimal level and this continuous lack of consolidated sleep can have long reaching effects on their cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that toddlers who were poor sleepers and had poor sleep habits “performed more poorly on neurodevelopmental tests when they were 6 years old” (Touchette et al 2007). The same research even found that “this was true even for kids whose sleep improved after age 3. The researchers speculate that there may be a “critical period” in early childhood, when the effects of sleep restriction are especially harmful” (Touchette et al 2007).
Bottom line- babies need sleep; it feeds and fuels their brains. Parents who feel that their babies “should” be sleeping through the night from age 4 months and above (we don’t advocate sleep training prior to 4 months adjusted age) are not selfish. Whether by way of sleep education or instinct, they are aware of how much better everyone, children and adults alike, function when they are sleeping well. And there is nothing selfish about that.