If you’re like most parents, you probably can’t take more than a couple of steps in your house without tripping over a doll, a stuffed animal or a Tonka truck. You are most likely more than familiar with the sensation of getting those hard, tiny Lego pieces embedded in the bottom of your bare foot or having to spend ten minutes scooping your child’s dripping army of rubber duckies and plastic fish out of the bathtub after he’s had his bath every night.
I often think toy companies must sit around brainstorming all the different places they should convince parents they need to stockpile toys in order to entertain their kids: the car, the living room, the bathtub and the crib, just to name a few.
A lot of parents who use soothers feel a twinge of guilt the first time they stick a pacifier in their baby’s mouth. However, dealing with a screaming infant in the grocery line or on a long car trip will make most parents try just about anything they can think of to calm the child down!
The truth is, it often works. Babies are born with the instinct to suck. They have limited means of expressing what they want and can’t let you know if they’re hungry, thirsty or in pain. Sucking soothes them and brings them comfort, which is why a baby will suck on just about anything you put in its mouth, whether it’s a bottle, breast, finger or toy.
But at a certain age, kids are more than capable of learning to self-soothe, and pacifier dependence can cause long-term problems. Many experts agree that soother use up until about age one is okay. Anything past age two and there are some worrying issues.
That right there might be the single most common question new parents ask.
Is it a developmental milestone? A regression? Are they getting too much sleep during the day, or not enough? Maybe they’re just hungry. Maybe they’re too hot, or too cold.
Well, the truth is that it could be any of those things, and it could be a combination of several of them.
As the parent of a new baby, the number of questions you’re going to find yourself asking are, to put it mildly, astronomical.
The old saying about babies not coming with instructions has cemented itself in parental lore 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, so no manual, no set of instructions, no 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 swings 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.
Eat, Poop, Cry, Sleep - and Repeat!
Babies basically eat, poop, 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 poop that we didn’t realize we had.
Which leaves us with sleeping and crying, and as a baby sleep consultant, I assure you, I’ve done a lot of research on both. 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. 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?”
Will Crying Harm my Baby?
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.
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.
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 and a condition known as persistent crying, both of which are a far cry from allowing a child a few minutes of crying time.
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.
Misleading Sleep Information
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?
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 cited 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 miss-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”
Another went so far as to actually note in the study’s own conclusion that, “Our findings provide evidence that the quality of maternal behavior appears to be unrelated to this effect.” 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, but its supporters will invariably ask, “Where’s your evidence to the contrary? How do you know it’s not harmful?”
As a professional sleep consultant, I hear the term “regression” used in regards to just about every imaginable circumstance. Essentially, if baby doesn’t sleep well for a couple of nights, parents start dropping the ‘R’ word. Some people subscribe to the idea that there’s an eight month regression, a 9 month regression, a 1 year regression, as well as teething regressions, growth spurt regressions, and so on. Others see these as simple hiccups caused by extenuating circumstances.
But the four-month regression, everybody agrees on, and for good reason. It’s the real deal, and it’s permanent.
So in order to understand what’s happening to your baby during this stage, first you need to know a few things about sleep in general. So here’s the science-y part, told in plain English.
Many of us just think of sleep as an on-or-off situation. You’re either asleep or you’re not. But sleep actually has a number of different stages, and they make up the “sleep cycle,” which we go through several times a night.
Daylight savings starts each spring season. It is time to “spring forward” the clocks. It can be a dreaded time for parents of young children because with this, comes an adjustment that does not happen immediately. This is because children tend to be more structured in their bedtime and wake up around the same time each morning and that is why people usually
can see a greater effect on children when the time changes.
However, there are some things you can do to help make the transition to the new
time go a little smoother. My recommendation is to leave your clock alone Saturday night. Wake up Sunday morning, have breakfast, then go around your house and change your clocks. Psychologically, it will feel much better for everyone if you wait until Sunday morning to change the time.
My best advice for children to help them with the change is to split the difference with the old time and the new time.
How does that work?
That’s right, I said it. Your baby will never sleep straight through the night.
And neither will you, for that matter.
In fact, pretty much anyone who isn’t heavily sedated before going to bed can expect to wake up multiple times in the night.
This isn’t due to stress, caffeine, lack of exercise, or any other factors that can contribute to a lousy night’s sleep. It’s a normal, natural part of the human sleep cycle.
We’re all familiar with the various stages of sleep from our own experience. You might not be able to put a name to them, but you’ve certainly felt the difference between waking from a light sleep and a deep one.
Raising kids is a high-stakes responsibility, and in this age of social media and easy access to information about anything and everything, parents are easily overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As a sleep consultant, I see this all the time from parents whose babies aren’t sleeping well.
One of the other major contributors to the, “I’m doing something wrong,” sensation is separation anxiety; that oh-so-challenging part of a child’s life when they start to completely flip their lids whenever Mom’s not around.
The thought process, it would appear is one of...
After all, a well-adjusted child should probably feel reasonably safe when they’re separated from their parents for a little while, shouldn’t they? I mean, Sally from the office says her baby is perfectly content being left with her sitter, even overnight. And that one mom in your Facebook group said that her baby will happily play by herself for hours at a time, and actually takes her toys to her room occasionally in order to get a little ‘me’ time.”
Two things to keep in mind.
First, never compare yourself, or your child, to the mothers and babies described in the parenting groups on social media. Much like everything else on Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are almost always a tiny snippet in a moment of time that people post to keep up with other peoples moments in time.
And second, separation anxiety is completely normal, expected, and a sign of a healthy attachment between parent and child.
So what is separation anxiety, exactly.....
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