Publications on the latest methods of the upbringing of children and infants are gaining popularity. Many of them concern innovative ways of putting to sleep which are supposed to help parents setting the appropriate patterns from the very first months of their children’s life. As it turns out some theories may in practice be detrimental or even dangerous to infants` health.
Permanent changes in the brain
Richard Ferber has proposed and popularised an approach where parents during putting their child to sleep are not supposed to take it in their arms even though it cries, and instead, patiently wait until it calms down. This method, used by many, has proven to be not only ineffective but also dangerous for the development of children`s brain. What is more, its effects can be irreversible and may cause dysfunctions during adolescence and even in adulthood. How is that? The baby has to be “carried” through its first months of life because in this way we make sure it has the required safety and survival chances – otherwise our species would risk extinction. This is the exact reason for infants calling their parents so loudly. They instinctively feel threatened when left alone. The mentioned method of no reaction actually starts working after a few days and the baby clams down. However, we should seriously consider whether it results from falling asleep training or maybe rather from the feeling of helplessness and physical exhaustion of a baby.
A blow to self-esteem
According to psychologists, teaching such causal links to a child has a huge impact on its self-esteem. For a healthy development the child must feel that there is a person that will cater for its needs and ensure its safety. Based on this experience, which is seemingly unnoticed during infancy, we create our own image for future years. Such relationships will be remembered and later on copied in our relationships with others in adult life. An ignored child, regardless of age, learns to live in loneliness and to count only on oneself. New situations may therefore cause fear and uncertainty, and a frequent and prolonged crying will most likely trigger certain antisocial behavior such as, e.g. the lack of empathy. According to researchers, children who often cry with no reaction from their parents have problems with emotions in their adult lives. They tend to be aggressive, suffer from depression and face various phobias.
Permanent changes in the brain
A newborn baby has 200 billion unconnected cells. The first five years are the most important time as even 90 percent of brain growth takes place then. Millions of neural connections are developed to enable its proper functioning. In the first years of life, human brain is extremely fragile and prone to stress. Long crying results in the production of significant amounts of cortisol which have serious effects when maintained at unnatural levels. Children who undergo sleep training have the increased levels of cortisol even for several days! As proven by research, even if the child stops crying and falls asleep in the crib, it does not feel safe at all. What is more, the brain of children undergoing long-lasting stress is similar to the brain of depressed adults. Such events in baby`s life also intensify the process of destroying cells in the hippocampus – that is the cells responsible for learning. Moreover, by training falling asleep with this method, we expose our child to the risk of occurrence of ADHD, heart diseases, asthma or eating disorders.
For a child it is not important why it cries – each need is equally important and has to be satisfied. Let us not be fooled by the “latest methods” of upbringing. Our parental intuition should be always taken into consideration.