Well, another mainstream media article about sleep training and cry it out is now making the rounds online again. Doctors telling people their babies need to be fed on four hourly schedules and left to cry so they can self-settle. When will this insanity stop?! When will this rubbish stop being published? Give these poor sleep deprived parents support and information! Not sleep training, cry it out methods!
Believe me…I get it!! I have three kids, I’ve been sleep deprived beyond belief! Here is the picture to prove it. This was taken about nine years ago after a long sleepless night with my eldest son. Don’t we look excited and energetic?
Last week the latest mainstream sleep article was published on foxnews.com. It is about scheduled feedings and letting your baby cry. The headline? “A new method to help newborns sleep through the night.” Um…no. It’s not new, it’s actually been around for decades and is now considered harmful and outdated advice! There have also been studies done since this advice first started going around about how detrimental it is to breastfeeding and how stressful and harmful it can be for babies. One study shows that babies who are left to cry have elevated stress hormones in their bodies even after they have stopped crying and are asleep.
I’d like to start by saying YES. We need more sleep. Yet I really believe that by changing our thinking and understanding about why our babies need to wake frequently, we can then put support into place or change our daytime routines to help us get more rest, without having to schedule our feedings or by letting our babies cry. Please CLICK HERE for some suggestions on how to do this.
So I think I’ll start with this gem of a quote from the video section of the article. This is word for word what the pediatrician stated, “It is psychologically healthy for a baby to find comfort in their own cry.” I almost cried myself when I heard this. And you know what? If I had started crying my husband would have come over to me and asked me, “what’s wrong”? He also would have given me a hug. Because we acknowledge and recognize how adults don’t like to be ignored when crying or when feeling sad, alone or scared. Babies and children are no different. They do not, “find comfort in their own cry.” I wonder if he comforts children and adults when he sees them crying or distressed? I’m going to place a bet that he does.
Here are some highlights from the article which I have written responses to…
“When we first brought Peyton home from the hospital he would wake up every two to 2 ½ hours, and we would have to feed him two to three times during the night,”
Oh I know the feeling. The frequent night feeding. The poopy nappies that must be changed at EVERY.SINGLE.FEED. The way you want to curl up into the fetal position when you hear them crying AGAIN. The way you have to hold your eyelids open with toothpicks while holding your IPhone in just the right way to get some light onto your boob or bottle warmer. It’s EXHAUSTING. I don’t actually think exhausting is even the word to describe it. There is not one word that can encompass the overwhelming feeling of sleep deprivation new mothers feel.
Yet what if these parents were told something different than, “your baby will find comfort in his cry and you need to space out the feedings”. What if they were told how difficult it is waking frequently but how important it is developmentally for their baby? What if they were told the following important and crucial points about babies and sleep?
-Babies are literally made to fall asleep at the breast and one of the main purposes of breastmilk is to help your child fall and stay asleep. Breastmilk contains nucleotides which help your baby fall asleep (click here for the study). If your baby is bottle fed, you will find that most likely your baby will fall asleep while bottle feeding, sucking on a pacifier or while being cuddled to sleep. This is because it is the biological norm for babies to fall asleep while eating, being held and when they feel safe.
-It is crucial to your supply (especially in the early months) to breastfeed your baby every time they are asking to be fed. This is because your breasts work on supply and demand. The more you breastfeed, the more you make! Women also have different storage capacities within their breasts. We all make about the same amount of milk within the 24 hour period but we all hold different amounts at any given time. Some babies will need to breastfeed more frequently to help stimulate the breasts so they make enough milk with that 24 hour time frame.
-Babies breastfeed for many different reasons other than hunger. Have a read of my article HERE on the many different possible reasons your baby is asking to breastfeed. All the doctors talked about in this article (and their book about sleep) is how to get your baby to sleep longer, never once did they mention the important reasons why a baby wants and needs to breastfeed frequently both during the day and at night.
-What about those who are bottle feeding (such as the couple in this article). These babies still need cuddles and comfort even if they are not “needing” another bottle of formula. They are just as much in need of comfort as a breastfed baby. Being trained and left to cry is harmful no matter what your baby is actually eating.
The doctor said, ‘I’m going to get you through this and by next week at this time or within two weeks you’re going to be sleeping seven-plus hours.’”
-Babies are actually not meant to sleep through the night. It is the biological norm for babies to wake frequently. Why is this? For many reasons…some of the important ones include the need for your baby to keep up your milk supply and the need for your baby to get cuddles and comfort (human babies are born very prematurely compared to other mammals). There is also research which shows how frequent night waking is actually a protective factor against SIDS. Have a read of Dr. McKenna’s articles for more information on this.
The doctors, “created a method that eliminates middle-of-the-night feeding by stretching out meal times to occur at four-hour intervals during the day.”
Unfortunately nowhere is it mentioned in this article how detrimental it can be for someone’s milk supply to schedule feedings like this. Babies have tiny little stomachs and breastmilk is so easily and quickly digested, there are times where a baby must breastfeed every half an hour (called cluster feeding) to help build and maintain their mother’s supply. Most mother’s who breastfeed by following their baby’s cues find that their baby cluster feeds in the late afternoon hours of the day. This is incredibly important for milk supply. Babies will also breastfeed more frequently when fighting an illness or going through a developmental milestone. Most importantly though; regardless of how your baby is fed, they do not need to be “trained” to sleep and left to cry, nor do they need their feeds to be “stretched out”. What they need are cuddles, breastfeeds (or bottle if you are bottle feeding) and comfort!
“As long as a baby gets fed the appropriate amount of food needed for healthy weight gain and development, they will not become hungry at inconvenient times— like 2 a.m.”
Yup, I agree that 2am is inconvenient. Yet we are missing out on the most important point here with this whole sleep thing…we do not need our babies to be trained. We need community support, we need help! We need to sleep as much as we can during the day. We need to let the house get dirty sometimes. We need to lay around in our pajamas some days. WE NEED COMMUNITY. There will always be mothers out there with no one to help. And unfortunately this is the root of the problem. We are meant to live in large, close communities. This is how we have lived since the beginning (and many people still live today) but our societies have changed so much. We go home by ourselves with our babies. We then have crying babies with no one to pass them off to when we need a break.
“The most challenging part was stretching out the feedings,” Alyssa, 31, said. “When we were trying to get it to four hours we would try taking him for a walk in the stroller to calm him down and just distract him for a little bit.”
Yes, this part is challenging because it is not how babies, kids or adults eat! Could you imagine as an adult if someone put you on an eating schedule? Every single day you were told when and how much you could eat? You were fed whether or not you wanted it and then told to wait when you were hungry? Oh, and let’s not forget then being left to cry by yourself as apart of this training?! It sounds crazy! It sounds insane! Yet we are told this is how we should treat our babies!
“Just because they’re crying doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hungry— it’s their effective way to communicate with us,” Dr. Jonathan told FoxNews.com.
Yes! This is true! This is exactly why it’s incredibly important to pick them up, comfort them, offer them the breast to see if that is what they want. It is not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby. Can I overfeed a breastfed baby?
“A baby is a creature as far as habit