Cry It Out: Will it “Harm” my Baby?
Ah, the controversial topic of “Cry it Out”. We have all seen articles and blog posts floating around the internet claiming that cortisol floods your baby’s brain and nervous system when sleep
training is implemented. I remember having visions of this dreaded stress hormone circulating through my newborn’s body every time he cried. I couldn’t bear the thought of “sleep training” for fear he would grow up to be an anxious, emotionally dysfunctional adult due to the emotional trauma he would inevitably suffer from crying.
I am happy to provide some facts on the subject:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report outlining the effects of stress “The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Childhood Stress“.
They defined three types of stress; not all are bad. As we all well know, stress is a part of life. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have developed some great ways to work through stress on our own. Adults need these coping mechanisms to help buffer the effects of tolerable and toxic stress.
The second part of the sleep training/cortisol debate lies in the myth that all cortisol is bad.
This is simply not true.
Cortisol is a hormone that is released by our body continuously, not only during times of stress. Cortisol only becomes a problem when its levels are raised for a prolonged period of time.
So what helps battle elevated cortisol levels when helping your baby to sleep?
Otherwise known as the “love hormone”, oxytocin helps produce feelings of wellbeing, relaxation, and a sense of calm. This incredible neuropeptide actually lowers blood pressure and blocks stress hormones.
Oxytocin is release through physical touch (so yes, cuddling your baby is good for them!), and close physical proximity to a loved one. Breastfeeding is another great way to get the oxytocin flowing.
Well-rested mamas are at a lower risk of post-partum depression.
Both toddlers and babies have lower stress levels upon waking and throughout the day after a good nights’ rest. Toddlers and pre-schoolers who sleep are better able to regulate their emotions during the day.
The cortisol levels of babies between the ages of 3 and 6 months have been noted to increase when they play with an insensitive mother. On the flip side, cortisol levels decreased when babies played with a sensitive mother for only fifteen minutes. If sleep deprivation is affecting the parent’s ability to be responsive to their child, getting 8 hours of night time sleep can help to improve their capacity to interact in a way that fosters lower cortisol levels in their infant.
Let’s talk sleep training methods:
Extinction Cry it Out (Weissbluth) consists of putting your baby to bed, and leaving the room until wakeup time in the morning. The theory here is that they will learn to fall asleep on their own.
Graduated Cry it Out (Ferber) consists of putting your baby to bed and checking in with them at set intervals. The physical presence of a loved one is intermittently used with this method. If you have a baby who is “high-needs” or a “cry-until-they-throw-up baby”, you may want to try a softer approach.
Gentle Sleep Coaching involves your physical presence (oxytocin!!!) and physical touch (more oxytocin!!!) for the first phase of the coaching process, encouraging your baby to learn to sleep in a supported and loving manner. Your child’s temperament, age, and developmental stage are all taken into consideration as well as your personal family sleep goals.
Stress is an inevitable part of life, and it is not possible to shield your child from stress completely, nor should you strive to. With your support, your child can learn to positively cope with stress and sleep at the same time. Did I mention why sleep is important?
Whether you sleep train at all AND the method you choose is entirely up to you. Always trust your intuition and that YOU know what is best for your child. I hope this gave you some information to assist you in making that decision.
Would you like to start sleeping now?
I would love to help!
Certified Gentle Sleep Coach
© Copyright 2015-2019 – Blissful Nights™ – All right reserved