A few blogs that I read on a regular basis have in the last week talked about how they have turned to Ferber to train their kids. Reading these stories made me cry. I understand that they have been fighting with their childrens sleep for a while now and I understand that they don’t want to deal with it anymore. However, I can’t understand why they believe that making their children feel abandoned and Cry themselves to sleep is the way to resolve their “sleep issues”…

In their posts they make it known that it feels so wrong yet they “know” that it is the right thing to do. How can someone believe that? How can someone justify making their kid cry themselves to sleep… Oh yeah….. they believe that babies are better off in their cribs in a seperate room and beleive that they should be happy to sleep there, they wouldn’t dare let baby sleep in their arms or in their bed…. so they turn to making their children fall asleep from pure exaustion after having cried for however long…. of course the reasoning is that it works…. of course it works… the child cries and cries and nobody comes, night after night nobody comes… so why bother crying anymore.

I really think that the people that turn to these awful and sad “sleep solutions” really believe that their intentions are good and really do beleive that it is best for their children.This is what I find sad. How can crying yourself to sleep and giving up be the best thing.

There was an article that I quoted recently on my blog written by Dr. Gabor Mate.

Here are a few parts of the article…

Ferberization is the process of “training”an infant to sleep by ignoring her crying. As a family physician, I used to advocate the Ferber technique and, as a parent, practised it myself. Since then, I have come to believe that the method is harmful to infant development and to a child’s long-term emotional health.

Ferberization seems simple: “After about one week, your infant will learn that crying earns nothing more than a brief check from you, and isn’t worth the effort. She’ll learn to fall asleep on her own, without your help, reads Dr. Ferber’s advice. The question is, what else does a baby learn when treated this way and what is the impact of such learning?

People cannot consciously recall what they “learned” in the first year of life, because the brain structures that store narrative memory are not yet developed. But neuropsychological research has established that human beings have a far more powerful memory system imprinted in their nervous systems called intrinsic memory. Intrinsic memory encodes the emotional aspects of early experience, mostly in the prefrontal lobe of the brain. These emotional memories may last a lifetime. Without any recall of the events that originally encoded them, they serve as a template for how we perceive the world and how we react to later occurrences.

Is the world a friendly and nurturing place, or an indifferent or even hostile one? Can we trust other human beings to recognize, understand and honour our needs, or do we have to shut down emotionally to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable? These are fundamental questions that we resolve largely with our implicit memory system rather than with our conscious minds. As psychologist and leading memory researcher Daniel Schacter has written, intrinsic memory is active “when people are influenced by past experience without any awareness that they are remembering.”

The implicit message an infant receives from having her cries ignored is that the world “as represented by her caregivers” is indifferent to her feelings. That is not at all what loving parents intend.

Unfortunately, it’s not parental intentions that a baby integrates into her world view, but how parents respond to her. This is why, if I could relive my life, I would do much of my parenting differently.

When the infant falls asleep after a period of wailing and frustrated cries for help, it is not that she has learned the “skill”of falling asleep. What has happened is that her brain, to escape the overwhelming pain of abandonment, shuts down. It’s an automatic neurological mechanism. In effect, the baby gives up. The short-term goal of the exhausted parents has been achieved, but at the price of harming the child’s  long-term emotional vulnerability. Encoded in her cortex is an implicit sense of a non-caring universe.

The baby who cries for the parent is not engaging in “tyranny”, she is expressing her deepest need.. emotional and physical contact with the parent. The deceptive convenience of Ferberization is one more way in which our society fails the needs of the developing child.

There is no lack of support for these moms either (on one blog there were hundreds of comments that supported CIO for a 6 month old). Even if it feels wrong to do it of they talk about it like it was their only choice and that it was the best thing to do, no one dare contradict them, they just get the stories of others that have done the same… and if someone does contradict them they are labelled as judgemental and “they have never been through it” blah blah blah…. Really, I think that the support is shared because of they really believe that this is the right answer and that because it felt so wrong, if they dare admit that they would have done things differently they would have to live with the guilt of knowing and that they potentially scarred their children for life based on their unrealistic expectations.

If so many children have “sleep issues” and have to be trained out of “desperation” then it is clear that the “sleep issues” are a norm. If they are the norm then it is clear that the real “sleep issues” lie within the parents expectations of the child and not what is physically and physiologically normal for the child. If people would stop fighting their children over when and where their children sleep, then sleep would not be such an issue. If a child wants to sleep in your arms, cuddled near your heart then so be it. Respect them and their needs. If you believe that your child must sleep in their own room alone and they do no want to because they want to be close to you, then recognize that it is not the child’s best interests that are served in such an arangement but it is yours. You are trying to force something that doesn’t feel right for the child, trying to force something that goes against the childs most primal needs. These unrealistic expectations are what leads to sleepless nights for so many people, the child just wants to be close to the person they feel safe with. Then of course, the only way to make the child conform to these expectations is to leave them there, to feel abandoned, to learn that no one will come, to retreat into their own space, to shut down, to give up.

I have to admit that I am “judgemental” when it comes to this and I am not sorry for it. (And no, Colin does not sleep through the night and still wakes up a few times to nurse, and occasionally so does Xavier) However, It is not really the mom that falls in the trap believing that this is the best for her child that I judge (though I cringe and tear up if I read it). It is whole movement in itself, the time-outs, the fear of “spoiling” the CIO…. All practices that work on emotional detachment in order to get what the parent wants while ignoring or denying the negative long term effects. All practices that make children know that their parents love is conditional. Conditional on behavior and time. It is a movement that has led us and will further lead us to a very untrusting and stressed out society.