Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
181
Help or Harm: Australia versus USA
March 18, 2024

Found in age groups

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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Introduction

A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

Blog Posts 15, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!

Blog 181Help or Harm: Australia versus USA

Q: Is it safe to allow your baby to cry at night in order to encourage the development of healthy sleep habits (Blog Post 25)?  

A: Yes, it is safe. Many research studies have shown that when a child is allowed to cry at night in order to sleep better, the child is not harmed (Blog Posts 24, 67, and 71). 

But, as a pediatric sleep researcher wrote, “The “‘cry it out’ method has long divided parenting experts, theorists, researchers, and parents; there are strongly held views by parents.”  This is a dramatic understatement that inadequately describes the passionate beliefs of many professionals and parents.  Entire countries have promoted opposite viewpoints.  For example:

The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health. Position Paper 1 (November 2002; reviewed October 2013) describes in detail how behavioral sleep interventions that use ‘crying it out’ might interfere with parent-child ‘attachment’ and harms the child.  No specific research on this exact question is cited to support their position. Instead, their position is based on studies from a variety of related topics.

In Australia, extinction and graduated extinction is actively discouraged.  

In contrast, in the United States, in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ book ‘Caring For Your Baby And Young Child-Birth To Age 5’ editions five through seven (2009-2019 ), the chapter on Sleep contains the sentence:  “It’s important to keep in mind that there are times when you may need to let your baby cry himself to sleep; it won’t cause any harm and there’s no need to worry about the possible messages behind those tears.  Remember, you have all day to show your infant how much you love him and care for him.  At night, he’ll get the message that nighttime is for sleeping and on those nights when you let him cry, you’re helping him learn to soothe himself.  He won’t be thinking that you’re abandoning him or that you don’t love him anymore; he knows by your daytime behaviors that this isn’t the case at all.  In other words, there’s no need to worry.”  Full Disclosure: I authored the chapter on Sleep in the AAP book. 

In the US, many mothers have successfully used extinction and graduated extinction in very young children (Blog Posts 105107) and in older children (Blog Posts 102104). 

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