The Burden of Proof
A common response I get to speaking out against CIO or withdrawal type sleep training methods is, “Show me proof that sleep training is harmful.” While I’m happy to share research that I stumble across, I feel like we sometimes think too simplistically about this issue, and I want to start a several part series explaining some of the problems I have with the current research and parenting paradigms. As a science-minded person, I have become increasingly aware of the complexities and limitations of western science. This series will not aim to share research, but rather discuss some of the problems with it, as well as the issues with the way many of us think about it. ⠀⠀
PART 1. ⠀⠀
It is important to understand that responsive parenting is the biological and evolutionary norm. Our babies are designed to signal their needs to us through crying, and as parents, we are intuitively driven to respond to their cries. Babies were also designed to sleep lightly, wake in the night, and sleep near us. You can see past posts of mine for more info about this. It is really not necessary to prove that responding to and connecting with our children is safe & effective- this is common sense (although, as a society, the view that this needs to be proven is increasingly more common).⠀⠀
The problem is that the “norm” has been skewed so that the majority now believe self soothing infants who sleep through the night to be what is normal. Parents who choose not to sleep train, who choose to respond to their babies’ cries at all hours, and who choose to hold and snuggle their babies to sleep are now being told to prove that these biologically normal practices are what is best for baby. They are bombarded with fear-based messages telling them they will spoil their children or otherwise ruin them somehow by responding to their needs. ⠀⠀
The truth is that the burden is on those that recommend practices which go against the biological norm to prove that they are both effective AND safe. This is an important distinction because just because a practice is effective does not mean that it is safe.
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