I’ve read the Gift of Sleep. Despite being told by Mia Freedman herself that I would change my mind about it if I read it, my opinion remains the same.
What a load of rot.
Let’s start with their evidence.
From a more formal perspective, it would be remiss of me not to mention that in 2004 the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health released a Position Paper stating its concern for the practice of controlled crying (where ‘crying’ meant a child in distress rather than the fussing sounds a child makes when settling or adjusting to different circumstances). They also state, ‘Although controlled crying can stop children from crying, it
may teach children not to seek or expect support when distressed.’
Again, I urge you to read the sentence I have highlighted in bold.
This comes from Australian Association of Infant Mental Health, they are experts on Infant Mental Health and they are very much against controlled crying. They warn that controlled crying may stop a child from seeking help when they are distressed.
According to Elizabeth Sloane this isn’t reason not to use the method.
No, she’s not joking. Apparently infant mental health is not important in sleep training.
What happens to these babies when they grow up and have learnt not to get help when they communicate their needs? I shudder at the thought.
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study on sleep interventions is mentioned a lot but is not delved into further then what is said on the website. Firstly, only 225 children were involved in the study, pretty small scope.
There is no mention of how the data was collected. How was their mental health studied? Was it by an extensive psychological review or simply by questionnaire?
The techniques “include” controlled crying but there is not mention of what else other then a positive bedtime routine. There is no mention of feeding methods, diet, whether or not they went to childcare, prematurity, birth factors etc. Controlled crying is just one factor, among many.
There seems to be a huge focus on maternal mental health, which while it is a factor, it seems to be that sleep is the only cure. It’s not.
Fact is that 5 hours IS sleeping through for an infant. And most babies have a big block of sleep at the start of the night. So the problem may not be with the baby at all, but the parent who still thinks its appropriate to stay up until 12am but then is tired because their baby wakes at 3 and then 5am. Baby had slept 7-3, a good 8 hour stretch, so what’s the problem? Go to bed at 8 and get a good nights sleep yourself.
Postnatal depression is a real and debilitating condition, I know, I’ve been there. But how about instead of setting up unrealistic expectations of our babies and causing them harm in order to “fix” them we do this instead -
Get good support from our partners and loved ones.
Sorry Dad but baby is here and it’s all hands on deck, we know you have to work tomorrow and we appreciate you bringing in an income but if the dishes need doing, washing needs folding or mum is struggling with a fussy bub it’s time to step up to the plate. Instead of throwing a tin of formula into the shopping trolley in hopes that baby will sleep better, how about you wear her around the house tonight so mum can catch up on some rest. How about instead of poker night just like you do every Friday night you stay home while mum goes to the movies for the first time in months, or gets a haircut, or sleeps. Or how about just asking the question every tired mum wants to hear, “is there anything you need me to do?”
It reduces the risk of PND because of the lovely hormonal cocktail it releases. And trust me, nothing sucks more then standing on cold tiles in winter at 2am waiting for a bottle to heat up. Yuck!
Get your nutrition right
I was barely functioning until I started supplementing with high quality supplements, which I’m more than happy to share about if you want more information. It wasn’t lack of sleep, I was simply lacking in vitamins and minerals, fixed that and I unlocked so much energy.
Don’t be in a rush to do it all
Parenting is a full time job. In the first months when you’re learning to parent, put it first. Other things can wait. So many mums try to pile their plates up with everything, playgroups before their baby can even lift their head, gymbaroo, swimming lessons, must lose weight, must keep up with friends, must go back to work ASAP, and every day is busy busy busy. Well busy days make for busy nights. Babies don’t need to always be doing something, my daughters early days were almost always spent at home with a walk around the block or to the corner shop for lunch (oh how I miss that little cafe) in the middle of the day when she was most alert. Once a week we went to mothers group, after she was 6 weeks old. Quiet, peaceful days spent reading to her, cuddling, playing with her little toys, snuggling, talking, she would lay in her bouncer in the morning sun while I hung out the washing and talked to her, and she would have nappy free time in the afternoon sun in the kitchen while I got dinner ready. This was how I battled PND. Not by “fixing” her sleep, because she has always been a relatively good sleeper even if she did wake through the night on and off until she was, shock horror, 18 months old, but by going at a pace that was appropriate for her age group. After she started crawling and sleeping during the day less I slowly added more and more activities to our schedule. When our second baby arrived and we moved, again I dropped right back to once a fortnight doing a planned activity and having play dates at the house for our daughter so DS could sleep. Then as he got older slowly building up what we did, now that he’s almost 18 months and she will be (sob, growing up too fast) 3 next month we are out most days of the week. What’s my point? Well Keep It Simple Silly. Have you ever had a very busy day and then, even though you are soooo tired, the minute your head hits the pillow you just can’t stop thinking and you can’t get to sleep? Same thing happens to babies.
PND is complex.
It’s not just about babies sleep. Babies sleep doesn’t ruin lives, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Poor sleep plus poor support plus poor advice that leave mums feeling inadequate, that’s what does it. If you have PND contact PANDA or Beyond Blue, see your GP or midwife. This ebook will not solve your issues, despite it’s claims.
The Gift of Sleep claims to be endorsed by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute but I see nothing on the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s to back that claim up.
Some other things in the book that concern me.
They recommend that from day one baby should be in their own room. This is contradictory to SIDS recommendations.
They use the old rod for your back line when talking about cosleeping and refer to responding immediately to your newborn as helicopter parenting.
They recommend introducing a “sleep friend” from 5 months, this contradicts the recommendation of no toys in the cot according to SIDS guidelines.
Elizabeth Sloane is set to have 20 years experience working will babies. Okay, as what, what are her qualifications? It’s never mentioned and I am none the wiser of what she is actually trained to do. Despite Mia Freedman assuring me that if I read the book I would know. I don’t. To me it’s just another “expert” giving the same controlled crying crap in a different wrapper.
And finally we come to Mia herself. She is incredibly invested in this venture. Professionally, it is published by her company but also personally. She has used this method with her children. She needs to defend it because she did it. That’s why she is so up in arms over any criticism, that’s why she can’t respond professionally and deletes all negative comments, because to her this is personal.
Now I will admit in an hour of pure frustration after being woken for what felt like the millionth time I did half-heartedly try controlled crying, but it felt so wrong I couldn’t continue. Small changes to my sons diet, warming up his room, and introducing some white noise and he’s sleeping a good 7 hours at a stretch and then resettling after a quick feed. And I’m going to bed a little earlier to take full advantage of that extra sleep.
I’m an adult, I made the choice to have children, they need me at night, I go to them. I’m not just their mum from 7am to 7pm, I am their mum around the clock, and wanting a cuddle at midnight is not going to ruin their cognitive development but leaving them to cry and cry and cry might damage their emotional development.
Mia’s first mistake was sleeping on a mattress in her babies room while her husband had the bed. Keep the baby with you and everyone gets more sleep.
In short, don’t buy the Gift of Sleep save the $20 and your baby the tears.