Baby stress and controlled crying
By Penny Johnston (
No matter how hard it is being the parent of a new baby, the last thing any of us want to do is cause our child unnecessary pain. It's hard-wired in us not to. So for those of us who have tried a technique known as 'Controlled Crying' or it's nicer sounding 'Controlled Comforting' we believed that we were doing the right thing. Helping our new babies 'learn' how to soothe themselves to sleep... but what if we were wrong... what if science could prove that our babies weren't 'learning' to fall asleep, they were just discovering that there was no point in crying and that they had just as much stress hormone in their little bodies as a crying baby.
Cortisol is the hormone researchers can best use to measure stress. In the last twenty years or so scientists have developed a technique that measures the body's cortisol levels using saliva. Suddenly it's possible to measure stress without techniques that are terribly invasive (like injections) or don't require extensive questioning. So the stress levels of children and babies can now be measured quickly and accurately by scientists.
So when research from Acting Professor Wendy Middlemiss turned up testing the cortisol levels of babies undergoing controlled crying therapy suddenly a lot of people started to take notice.
What was commonly believed was that babies who were taught to self settle, eventually learned how to put themselves to sleep and stopped fussing but did they do it without stress?
Acting Professor Middlemiss tested babies and their mothers at a sleep clinic in New Zealand and her control group were mothers with their babies in their own homes. What she discovered in a nutshell was astounding. The mothers who attended the clinic had high cortisol levels, after all they had babies who were not sleeping! As the training started to work and the babies stopped crying at night the mother's cortisol levels dropped and they became much calmer...but what about the babies and their levels of stress hormones?
The babies had high cortisol levels when they arrived at the sleep clinic, after all they were having a hard time getting to sleep but while testing their cortisol levels after undergoing the sleep training their stress hormone levels didn't decrease like their mothers, even though they appeared to go quietly to sleep without comforting from their carer.
The study called "Assay of Salivary Responses of Mothers and Infants engaged in Sleep Training Program" is groundbreaking on a number of levels because it shows for the first time babies are able to appear calm when they are not. It was always believed that if a baby was stressed it would be crying, this study appears to show something different.
This story made headlines around the world including this article in The Telegraph and although more research needs to be done this is the first time that research has shown that babies can be stressed without crying.
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01-09-2012 00:02 #1-
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01-09-2012 00:25 #2
01-09-2012 07:23 #3Senior Member
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Well there is no point in crying if no one is responding. Fits quite well with research on attachment/child development. Thanks for posting this!
01-09-2012 07:33 #4
Spot on. It's the reason (I believe 100%) that my eldest child is highly sensitive, anxious and stressed. He finds it hard to deal with stress.
I believe it all relates back to the horrendous CC I put him through as a baby/toddler. I was young, depressed and single and at my wits end.
If only I knew then what I know now.
Anyway! I digress....!
01-09-2012 07:42 #5
What the article doesn't mention is the long term implications of high levels of cortisol (stress).
Great article though
01-09-2012 08:59 #6
Even as a mother that uses some kind of CC most of the time I found this very helpful ( I don't leave him bawling and screaming, just whining and sooking. )
It definitely makes you review your ideas
01-09-2012 09:42 #7Senior Member
- Join Date
- Dec 2008
Re: great article!
Very interesting. Now to show my mother in law!
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10-09-2012 21:36 #8
So does that mean that when a baby is not crying at other times, say when it's sitting in its bouncer or laying on the floor with its toys that it could still be stressed?
10-09-2012 22:08 #9Senior Member
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
And if they measured the saliva wouldn't you be stressed if something was dangling from your mouth that wasn't meant to be there. Or if someone was hovering about testing you. It still is a good article though lol just posing some thought bubbles
11-09-2012 14:12 #10
I've used CC, and am not here trying to judge, but did the testing only happen at the sleep clinic for the babies being sleep trained? Did they follow the babies home back to their usual environment and keep up the observations I wonder?
I know that DD finds it very difficult to settle to sleep if not in her environment but take her home and she relaxes walking through the door...
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