Can making babies cry because they don’t want to sleep help them regulate themselves better?
Atlantico: In 2015, Wendy Hall, a Canada-based pediatric sleep researcher, conducted a study of 235 families with babies aged six to eight months. The goal was to see if the sleep training was working. According to this study, Wendy Hall and her team predicted that babies whose parents received sleep training instruction and counseling slept better at six weeks than those who were unsupervised, with “periods of sleeping significantly longer and much fewer nocturnal awakenings.” Can your baby’s crying affect his ability to go back to sleep on his own? Should you let your baby cry or teach him to sleep to become an independent sleeper?
Marie-Francoise Vecchierini: This study was conducted on healthy babies who were born at term and had no pathology. Many studies show that all babies wake up and cry at night. A team of researchers from Lyon had previously conducted similar studies by recording babies on outpatient polysomnography. This was a longitudinal study of the same children. In this age group of healthy children, between six and eight months, all children wake up during the night. The number of awakenings in this age group is approximately between six and eight per night. Sleep is not settled yet. They often wake up between sleep cycles and many cry. At this age it is a language and a means of communication for children. Crying is even more common in the first few months of life, before the sixth to eighth month.
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This was confirmed by a large observational study by Galland et al. published in 2012. The parents reported exactly the same and the same evolutionary curve of the number of awakenings was observed. They decrease with age.
Sleep is not yet healthy in this age group. There is a gradual consolidation of sleep. Between six and eight months, the child is able to sleep uninterrupted for about six hours without waking up due to physiological sleep maturity.
There is also an inter-individual difference between children with regard to the need for sleep and sleep maturity.
That’s why all the children wake up at night and many cry. Anything that can teach the child to become independent will soothe the child themselves. The goal of making a child cry is to allow them to find the means within themselves to soothe themselves.
Children can also cry in their sleep. When a child is crying, parents often rush too quickly and wake the infant. The way a child is put to sleep affects their behavior when they wake up. If a child is still breastfed, we try to put them to bed before they fall asleep. If a child goes to bed more independently when they start walking, it is important that they can go to bed independently. Then it is important to contribute to the sleep rhythm with sleep instructions so that the child can fall asleep on its own. Once that kid is in bed, we can devote some time to him. This routine can be done through actions like thinking about the stereotypical bedtime gestures like brushing your teeth or changing the baby’s diaper, depending on their age. Once the child is in bed, the sleep routine can consist of dedicating time to him, thus allowing for sharing. The more we do this while falling asleep, the less the child will call their parents at night.
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Can letting babies cry because they don’t want to sleep help them deal with stress better? Can this learning help babies self-regulate, calm down, and cry less, ultimately finding a better sleep pattern? This frequent waking up to babies crying can be difficult for parents, but how do they play an important role in babies’ safety, well-being, balance and health?
You should not rush if the child wakes up and cries.We know from experience that these tears will not last. We can make them permanent by going there immediately. Letting children cry a little is not traumatic. This will help the child go back to sleep without parental intervention. This is the non-awakening sleep period reported to parents. This period is much longer than intrinsic sleep consolidation. In their study, Wendy Hall and her collaborators state that the child can sleep spontaneously for ten hours without any signal waking up.
If, on the other hand, the child cries for a long time, one must first think about the possible causes of this crying. Waking up at night and crying is sometimes associated with pathologies. Consider if the crying is excessive. Pediatricians point out that babies crying for at least three hours a day is an overstatement. Babies of this age are usually healthy. Crying increases at around four months of age. Worry can arise when each crying bout is longer and more intense than normal crying. If babies seem heartbroken and these bouts of crying occur at the same time, these may be signs that should lead to alertness and allow the reasons for the crying to be questioned. We find pathological causes related to crying in only 5% of cases.
If the crying is excessive and all possible pathological causes such as pain or infection have been eliminated, care must be taken to ensure that this crying does not lead to harmful attitudes. The parents could be urged to feed the child at night. However, from the sixth month this is no longer necessary if the child is properly nourished during the day according to pediatric rules.
Sometimes the parents get upset and abuse the child. Therefore, this can lead to negative attitudes and views of parents towards their child.
The correlation between parents’ sleep and children’s sleep is a key element at this age. If the parents start sleeping very badly, the consequences will be negative. This increases the mother’s depression. Hence the need to intervene at this time.
A few studies are currently being published regarding the effects of crying and the possibility of stress in children and its long-term consequences, but it remains very difficult to assess. In particular, it is still difficult to assess the long-term consequences of attitudes at this age compared to later ages.
So awakening is physiological in the first months of life. They are often accompanied by tears. You don’t have to rush to see your baby. If parents are overwhelmed and ask for advice, it is possible to follow the recommendations of the American pediatrician Richard Ferber and gradually increase the time before we visit the child after it has cried. It works out.
Can this sleep training method and technique encourage babies to fall asleep without parental help, even if they wake up at night, as a kind of rite of passage or learning?
This allows babies to calm down, to soothe themselves. Jacqueline MTHenderson published a meta-analysis of several studies in Sleep Medicine Reviews in 2011. She had compiled all the studies on how long a child can sleep at night without waking their parents. By the age of six to eight months, we were already at nine hours of sleep without any noticeable awakening. The way we teach the child and how we are with the child when they fall asleep is something very important. This is repeated at night when the child wakes up.
We observe in consultations that children who have physical interactions with adults while falling asleep (I suck my mother’s finger) or who take walks to help them lull them to sleep have difficulty falling back asleep on their own during their nocturnal awakenings and try to recreate the habits of the falling asleep So they cry to get the adult to come and replicate the pleasure felt in falling asleep. When they get older, some parents take a stroll with the stroller. When the child wakes up in the night, they will want to do the same things again. Therefore, the way the child falls asleep is also very important.
In Wendy Hall’s study, prior to the experiment, there was extensive parent education about sleep, its benefits, and the consequences of insomnia in this age group. All of these parents were therefore very familiar with the mechanisms of sleep.
The day-night interrelationship is also an important key. At six to eight months, babies still take naps during the day. At six months, infants still have three periods of daytime sleep. In about a year, naps will disappear. The entire organization of daytime sleep has consequences for nighttime sleep. We cannot separate the quality of sleep, nighttime awakenings and crying from what happens during the day, daytime sleeping, activities, relationships with parents, food, the regularity of different schedules….
Can this method be the key to well-being for parents and mothers concerned about how best to respond to their baby’s crying?
This raises the fundamental question of the connection between life, parental sleep and child sleep. In particular, there were publications by M. Carskadon and MK Le Bourgeois in 2016 and 2018 that dealt extensively with child sleep in the United States. This work showed very well how the quality of the child’s sleep, the way he goes to bed and how he falls asleep has an influence on the maintenance of his sleep and, above all, is very strongly influenced by the behavior of the parents or caregivers for the child . This parental behavior is itself underpinned by their biological status, culture, and psychosocial environment.
That’s why everything that’s been done in the preceding weeks, whether it’s educating parents about health and the benefits of sleep, is critical in Wendy Hall’s article. This then has consequences and beneficial effects on parents’ attitudes towards their children’s sleep.
During the recent International Sleep Day on March 18th, the previous survey conducted by OpinionWay looked much more broadly at children’s sleep (not just between six and eight months). This survey showed very well this connection between the sleep of parents and children. The more enlightened the parents are, the more they know about sleep, the more likely the child will sleep well. And the better the child sleeps, the less stressed and depressed the parents are. Wendy Hall also shows the importance of this connection and confirms that mothers have better sleep quality and are less tired with this method. So it has a positive effect on the sleep of the parents.