Why our Desire for a Full Night’s Sleep is Risky Business for Babies.
Jolted from an already fractious sleep by the cries of your baby, you sigh as your heart sinks a little, it’s only been 3 hours since you managed to fall asleep after the last wake up. Your eyes are bloodshot and heavy, your head as fuzzy as cotton wool, it’s hard to even think you’re so tired. You feed and comfort your little one before collapsing back into bed, sinking your head into the pillow just as the sun begins to rise and pray that he or she will give you another couple of hours before waking ready to start the day.
Parenting is hard.
Parenting is exhausting.
Babies cry, lots.
Babies wake in the night, lots.
These are all universal parenting truths that don’t really mean anything to us until we are parents ourselves. Non-parents really don’t have any idea how bone shatteringly tiring it is parenting a baby, they might think they know what to expect, but they don’t. They don’t really know how exhausting it will be, so they start their journey ill prepared and reality inevitably hits them with a horrible shock. They love their little one with all their heart, they want to do right by them, to be the best parent they can be but oh my goodness they NEED to sleep.
Enter the ‘baby sleep expert’. An entirely unregulated occupation that requires no qualifications, no experience and no code of ethics. In any other field we would run a mile, but we’re tired – oh so very tired – so tired we can’t think with our usual logic and reason, they dangle the golden carrot of ‘sleeping through the night’ in such a way that we repress any doubts we do have and naively believe their claims and trust their respectability and thus blindly trust their instructions.
Our naivety is trebled when we not only trust their advice, we pay for it. Sleepless babies are big business and many have become rich from it. We would spend literally anything to have a full night’s sleep again.
Consider this – your little bundle is now four years old and showing signs of illness, you go to your GP, you naturally would expect him to be highly qualified and insured, you know he has taken a hipocratic oath., You trust him with your child’s life and trust that the remedy he prescribes for you is not only effective, but safe. Now imagine the same scenario, but imagine this time that the ‘expert’ you take your little one too, entrust their life in you might say, has no qualifications, the sum of their experience is working with 50 other families, they have no insurance, nor do they follow any codes of ethics. Would you happily dispense the medication they prescribe (which incidentally has no safety profile, it hasn’t been categorically proven as safe, but neither has it been proven to be dangerous – in short nobody really knows what damage it may or may not do) knowing this? Of course you wouldn’t! but why oh why do we act so naively, throwing any caution to the wind, with baby experts? Why do we trust them so much?
Take for instance the Ezzos, authors of one of America’s bestselling baby books ‘Babywise’. Neither Gary or Anne-Marie have any formal qualifications and their suggestions in their book have been suggested by many to be dangerous, indeed even the American Academy of Pediatrics states that their advice is dangerous – yet it is STILL a best seller and hundreds of thousands of new parents follow this dangerous advice every single day. Why? Because of the promise of sleep…………..
Babies are not meant to ‘sleep through the night’ at a young age, the fact that these books are so popular tells us how many parents consider their child’s sleep a problem, only the problem is, their babies are sleeping perfectly normally, it is our expectations that are the problem and it is these expectations that are dangerous for they lead us to abandon our usual healthy sense of caution.
The promise of sleep is a highly profitable but highly risky business. It is a business with no ethics.
What price will we pay for it? Time will tell…………..but make no mistake – we *will* pay a price – and it will be much more than the financial price paid to these ‘experts’.
Sarah (Mum to Four, Parenting Author and Founder of BabyCalm Ltd)
You can read more of Sarah’s articles HERE.