Controlled crying has a negative impact on the child's development
In educational science, scholars have been arguing for years which way is better to enable children to sleep through the night. What was obsolete 30 years ago should be correct today: let babies cry at night. The "controlled crying" of babies is criticized by a large number of psychotherapists and psychologists as "outdated and harmful".
"Our child does not sleep through the night and often screams". Almost all parents experience this in the first years of their children's lives. Because of the risk of sudden infant death in newborns, nighttime interruptions and sleeping close to the parents are taken for granted. While the science in newborns is largely in agreement and no one expects babies to be able to sleep through the night, the situation is very different for infants who skip the sixth month of life.
Babies don't sleep through
Babies cannot sleep through the night, they wake up constantly at night. They have not yet developed object representation and therefore do not know whether they are themselves. The closer the first year of life comes, the more parents have to deal with the question of when the right time has come to banish their child from the parents' bedroom. Parents also hear well-intentioned "advice" from relatives or friends from the outside, which often results in the child being trained in sleep behavior in which the child is made to cry out. Some parents feel (rightly) uncomfortable with this thought. A child that cries, just let it cry? "No", many parents feel.
Controlled screaming as conditioning
In recent years, there has been renewed belief that babies have to learn to sleep through from the sixth month. In order for them to learn it, one has to guide them on this. The often used sleep method is the so-called Ferber method. It is about controlled “letting the cry” so that the child supposedly learns that no mother or father comes at night to calm him down. If this is internalized by the child, the child learns to sleep through, according to the theory.
In fact, this method is “successful” because the child resigns at some point and no longer calls for his parents. In fact, the child does not sleep through the night, as some new studies have now shown. In reality, children wake up at night as often as children who are reassured by their parents. "But since they have been conditioned so that no one reacts to their screaming at night, they no longer make themselves noticeable." (Lüpold, 2009).
Resignation is not a night's sleep
However, resignation is not a night's sleep and from a psychological point of view at least questionable. In addition to the bad feeling of the parents, “letting them scream at night” can sometimes have serious psychological consequences. Recent studies have shown how important it is for parents to react to the child's crying at night (Lüpold, 2009). Especially against the background of a "safe mother-child bond" and the creation of basic trust in the child, "letting cry" is harmful to the child at night.
If object persistence is not yet sufficiently developed, the child believes that if there is no reaction to the “crying by crying”, the parents have disappeared and they are now alone. The baby has no chance to develop a trust that mother and father are there to meet the needs. Lüpold assumes that this will at least make it more difficult, if not disrupted, to develop a bond with the parents.
Sleep through at 12 months?
When the child is one year old, many parents try to "let it cry". Although the child can now crawl or even run, it would be fatal at that age to let the child cry because the child is particularly fearful of loss during this period. In addition, there appear to be negative consequences for the development of later self-confidence, since self-confidence develops from basic trust. Accordingly, it is beneficial for the child if there is patience and care at night on the part of the parents until the child shows that he or she is able to sleep through the night.
Infants check their safety at night
Other studies have shown that the child's sleeping behavior differs from that of an adult. Infants and young children have a very active sleep and, according to Tarullo, show a "fragmented sleep pattern" with numerous transitions. This knowledge is of no use, many parents will think when reading the article. Because the nightly sleep interruptions are very tiring and often drain the last energy. However, the child's sleep pattern has a purpose.
Evolutionarily, children check at night when they wake up that they are still safe and that a known caregiver is nearby. If there was no one nearby, they would be helplessly exposed to danger in the sense of the original nature. Waking up at night continues into adulthood to check the surroundings. Except that in most cases adults don't remember waking up the next morning.
The child's sleep behavior also has an important reason in terms of learning psychology. Evidence suggests that the typical sleep pattern of young children makes learning easier (see also Tarullo et al., 2011). In the first year of life, children learn at a fast pace. The newly gained experiences have to be sorted, processed and saved. Development studies show that sleep has a high value in memory consolidation. What the child has learned during the day is saved during sleep. The brain also experiences sensory stimulation during sleep and continues to learn during sleep.
When do children learn to sleep through?
But when can children “sleep through”? Most psychologists see sleep as a kind of maturation process. If the child's brain is mature, sleep through will happen on its own. However, it is difficult to quantify an exact time because each child grows at its own pace. There are children who sleep through the age of 15 months, others only in the fourth year of life.
Due to increased benefits, children in Germany in particular are expected to be able to sleep through after 12 months. This is not the case in numerous other countries, including western ones. There parents, psychologists or educationalists tend to assume an age between 3 and 5 years. Children in southern countries almost naturally sleep in their parents' bed or at least in the same room until the children themselves want to sleep in the nursery.
Those who know about this put less pressure on themselves and are better able to defend themselves from external pressure. It can help to consider your inner restlessness and also tiredness more relaxed. To make falling asleep easier, rituals help.
Rituals to fall asleep
It is important that the time of bedtime occurs at fixed times if possible. However, it is crucial here to correctly interpret the child's signals. When it gets dark earlier in winter, children are usually tired earlier than in bright seasons. Then it can be helpful to adjust the sleep time slightly to the seasons. Before going to bed, processes such as changing clothes, washing and changing diapers should happen in a warm, calm and relaxed environment. Instead of raging or joking around, a book in your pajamas / baby sleeping bag should be viewed before going to bed. This ritual should be permanently installed so that the child knows that bedtime is heralded.
If the child does not fall asleep, external circumstances could prevent it. Questions are: "Is the diaper wet", "is it too cold or warm", does the child have a cold, cough or fever? Especially when the latter is the case, children need more attention and security than usual. Lingering next to the child until he falls asleep makes sense to signal safety. If the child wants to romp, it should be put back in its original position. Here too it is important to have a calming effect and not to scold or talk. In the past, parents sang a "good night song" to their children. That also works real miracles. It is not text security that is important, but the sleepy monotonous tone. (sb)
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