An article in yesterday's New York Times, entitled Parents Shouldn't Feel Guilty About Training Babies to Sleep, refers to a study published in Pediatrics this week that researchers say confirms the safety and effectiveness of sleep training.
The study was conducted by eight researchers from Flinders University in Australia, and appears to support the findings from a 2012 study, led by Anna Price from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, which also appeared in Pediatrics.
So, with two independent teams of researchers confirming it, can we agree that sleep training is both effective and safe, or will the opponents of sleep training get in an uproar over the study size, slam the researchers, and cite other studies, (well, usually just the one) that they say proves otherwise?
Before you answer, let me offer up a wager.
I will bet you a million dollars that they will.
I'll bet a million dollars they'll argue that the sample size is too small, the follow-up period is too short, or that the researchers had ulterior motives and are tied to organizations that profit from their findings. It's the same old rhetoric, coming from the same people, and no amount of research, evidence, or scientific consensus is ever going to change their minds.
Which would be fine, if they could just accept that they have their methods and other mothers have theirs, but they don't all do that; not by a long shot.
Every day, I find someone commenting on my Facebook about how my program changed their lives; how they're so revived and capable now that their whole family is getting enough sleep, and about how they feel like better mothers now that they're not struggling with a chronically overtired, cranky baby.
And every day, I see someone shouting them down.
"What about the studies that show long-term psychological damage caused by leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep? Your baby needs you! You shouldn't have had a baby if you weren't ready to give up some sleep! I can't believe how selfish some mothers are!"
These arguments are ridiculous and unfounded, but I'm going to say that and no more on the subject, because I've come to the realization that we're just never going to agree.
So, if we can't agree, what's next? Well, maybe we could accept each other's parenting choices. Maybe we could even respect them. Better yet, maybe we could appreciate that we're all doing the best we can and nobody needs, appreciates, or benefits from hearing about how they're abusing their kids over something that's been proven, at least to the satisfaction of the scientific community, to be beneficial, safe and effective.
It's a lot to ask, I know. Every time another one of these studies comes out, I see a thousand armchair experts jumping onto the comment threads, ranting about the specifics, insinuating conflicting interests, and linking to various blog posts and opinion pieces that apparently carry the same credibility as double-blind peer-reviewed, scientific studies.
I think it's a great thing that we're able to share our opinions and insight with each other over social media and other online resources. I can only imagine how many new parents have obtained answers to vital questions without having to leave the house, or have found much-needed support from people they have never met.
Unfortunately, for all of the wonderful people who use these media to help each other out with encouragement and facts, there are plenty who take the opportunity to attack and insult people who don't agree with their opinions.
After all of the work I've done, all of the research I've poured over, and more importantly, all of the families I've helped, I sincerely, adamantly believe that sleep training isn't just safe and effective, it's incredibly beneficial.
Those who would argue, well, they're entitled to their opinion.
But I'm going to keep sharing, retweeting and reposting these studies as they continue to come out, because I know that somewhere out there is a new mother who's trying to decide what's right for her and her baby. She's exhausted, confused, and conflicted because she's trying to decide between what she sees as two potentially dangerous options.
- What if sleep training is harmful?
- What if not sleeping is harmful?
And maybe, just maybe, amidst the shouting and the scare tactics, she'll find a legitimate scientific study that convinces her that sleep training will help her and her child get to sleep, and there are no negative side effects. Maybe it's bolstered a little by the fact that it's in a respected medical journal, and maybe it gets a little bump from being in the New York Times as well.
And if that's what convinces her to take the plunge, put in the work, and get her and her baby sleeping through the night, then I tip my hat to everybody involved.
About Dana: Dana Obleman is the creator of The Sleep Sense Program, which has helped over 57,000 parents get their children sleeping through the night. You can get a free customized sleep plan for your child by clicking here, or you can find Dana online at www.sleepsense.net, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.