Sleep Training a Baby Doesn't 'Take Guts' - Being a Present Parent Does

crying babyI am the type of mom who believes in listening to my children, truly listening. And this means attempting to de-code cries and fussiness when my twins were newborns. And when I heard that a doctor is asking parents if they have the guts to let their child cry it out at 8 weeks old, I was appalled. This doctor is the founder of Tribeca Pediatrics, the collective practice with over 32,000 patients. My children are two of them.


Aimee Molloy's daughter is also a patient. In Molloy's The New York Times "Motherlode" piece Sleep Training at 8 Weeks: 'Do You Have the Guts?', she shared that her daughter's pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics told her and her husband about sleep training their two-month-old. The advice was to put the newborn in her room at 7 p.m., close the door, and do not go to her at all even if she cries until 7 a.m. When Molloy called the founder of the practice for more guidance on letting her baby cry it out without food or consolation for 12 hours, Dr. Michel Cohen, said:

It comes down to this. Do you have the guts to do what I’m suggesting? If so, you’ll see it works.

And if not? she asked. To which, Dr. Cohen reportedly replied:

Then I expect to see you back at six months, exhausted, asking why your kid is still getting up a few times a night.

My twins are now 5-years-old and have been patients at Tribeca Pediatrics since birth. We recently moved away from their area of practice and now have a different pediatrician. But while we were patients, we never saw Dr. Cohen, and it was never suggested to me to sleep train. Though there are several offices with dozens of different doctors. Doctors in different practices also suggest this. If sleep training was suggested to me, I would have simply said no thanks. If the doctor asked me why and suggested that I didn't have the guts to try, I would have thought about changing practices. I have the guts to say no. I had the guts to trust my instincts and knew that there was no way I was letting my twins cry it out. I had the guts to work through those sleepless nights and breastfeed every two or three hours so my twins would thrive and trust me as their mom that I was there for them when they needed me. I was going to listen to their cries and what they were trying to tell me. I'm hungry. I need a diaper change. I'm hot. I'm cold. I need to be held because I just spent nine months in the comfort of your womb and I'm not used to this big world stuff. I'm scared. I need you.

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Parenting takes guts. And Molloy noted that she didn't have the "guts" as Dr. Cohen suggested she have to let her daughter cry it out, but I think she is more gutsy to trust her own instincts. Parenting is a huge leap into an unknown no matter how many books or moms or doctors you listen to. All children are different. There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to every parenting question. We have to listen to our children, their cries, our instincts. It's a beautifully terrifying and miraculous adventure. To me, leaving your child in a room for 12 hours to cry it out at 8 weeks old isn't parenting, and it certainly doesn't take guts. Parenting is sacrifice. And that includes sacrificing some sleep when your newborn needs you. Kids certainly interfere with your life the way it was before you had kids, and if I was overly concerned about losing a little sleep in those newborn months then I wouldn't have had kids in the first place.

Those sleepless nights pass. I promise. Our babies grow up so fast that by the time they are 5-years-old like mine are, you long for those 3 a.m. wake-ups and gummy smiles when you comfort them and those sweet coos when they nuzzle themselves in your neck. You look at your kids when they've grown and remember when their tiny heads fit in the palm of your hands, so fragile and needing you for everything. When your baby grows up, and gains Independence and that first time you realize your child doesn't need you for everything anymore, that first time she says, I can do this by myself, Mom (that first time she calls you Mom and not Mommy), there will be a part of you that will feel a pang of sadness. But you go on, knowing you've done well, that this is all part of parenting. You have the guts not to lose it and cry a puddle of tears because your child is growing up. You just revisit that baby book and reminisce. You realize how fast the time goes. You want it to slow down.

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This is why sleep training is a sham. It's not helping baby sleep. It is instilling a belief in your child that you are not going to be there for her. It's preventing you from parenting, from being present in the now with your child when she needs you most. There are studies that show the negative effects of letting babies cry it out. It raises cortisol levels, stress (in parents, too), it can affect brain development, lead to behavioral issues, and isn't believed to foster independence -- it does the opposite.

I like to refer to an adult crying situation when talking about letting babies cry it out. What if you, as an adult, were crying over something that very much upset you. Let's say your significant other heard you crying in the other room. What would you want him to do? What would you need him to do? Come to you. Comfort you. Help you through it. Show compassion. What if instead he just closed the door and let you cry? Ignored you.

It's quite obvious how wrong that is. It should be as obvious when it comes to newborns as well.

What do you think of Dr. Cohen's suggestion that it takes guts to let baby cry it out? What is your stance on sleep training?


Image via Critical Moss/Flickr

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