I cringe when using the word ‘experts' in relation to babies, because I think babies are the experts in what they need, and parents are the experts of their own unique baby.
No one could possibly write a book about YOUR baby. The Wonder Weeks book is one of very few books that comes pretty close, where parents can learn about predictable developmental ‘leaps' which result in specific behavioural changes. However, every baby has a unique personality.
It's common these days for parents to experience a lack of confidence and self-esteem when it comes to parenting their babies and children. Many of us have wounds from how we were parented, which clouds the waters.
Many parents feel like they just don't know what to do, so they desperately seek out information, techniques and routines — anything to help ‘fix' their baby's sleeping and/or crying situation. With medical reasons ruled out, it's likely that these babies are normal, and parents just don't have good support, a nurturing community or the confidence to trust their instincts.
The ‘experts' listed below are well researched in their field, in an area relevant to a baby's emotional and physical wellbeing — they aren't just nannies with a magic touch, who have seen lots of babies crying around the world. The experts are trained professionals who understand the physiological responses that occur in a crying baby. They also understanding the anxiety and stress parents go through, trying to cope with it all.
Baby sleep training methods come from old thinking when we didn't know all that we do now.
In a previous article on baby sleep, I discussed how controlled crying and other cry it out methods actually originated from 1913 and earlier. These methods are from a very old way of thinking, way back when we had no idea that leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep, flooded their little brains with the stress hormone, cortisol. Not only that, the cortisol levels remained high, even after they'd stopped this prolonged crying. All during a time when a baby’s brain is paving some critical brain pathways for life. They may be little, but their brains develop at a super impressive rate in the first few years.
No one likes to cry themselves to sleep, especially when there is a real fear of being abandoned. Babies don't understand that you're teaching them to sleep — they genuinely fear that no one is coming to get them because they can't understand the concept of being separated from their mother.
It takes as long as four to six months after the birth before babies begin to realise that they are a separate individual (from their mother) altogether.
Rest assured, the following absolutely amazing experts are committed to keeping abreast with ongoing, recent research, based on good science that's evidence based. Something important to bear in mind is that some other ‘experts' or baby sleep trainers/tamers/whisperers (who don't sell magic fairy sleeping dust at all) will say that crying it out ‘works'. Sadly, what has really happened is the baby has given up asking for help — that's what they are selling. There is no secret or magic about it.
What happens after childbirth has lasting impacts – impacts that tend to stay with us into adulthood.
You may have heard about Romanian orphanages full of babies, yet the orphanages were silent. Those babies were quiet because they quickly learned to give up asking for help, not because they had great sleep training. There was not enough love to go around and they weren't picked up often. Sadly, it affected those babies for life.
Do you know an adult like that? Someone who believes that there's no point in asking for help, because no one will help anyway? Do you know someone with narcissistic or codependent tendencies? Perhaps intimately? You may also know of adults who are stuck dealing with abandonment issues, depression and anxiety.
All of these things can be influenced by our upbringing. The ages of 0-7 are especially vulnerable to the messages and care parents give to them. They may spend the rest of their lives working out why things keep going wrong and why they feel ‘broken' and can't find true happiness.
Imagine what all of these things would do to a person's social life, career and relationships.
Baby sleep trainers don't tell you about these things, because they aren't interested in the research nor what infant mental health organisations are telling us — because sleep deprived parents (aren't we all) keep paying them good money. They also aren't educated enough to understand psychological impacts on newborns. It's not something you can learn from observing.
Creating secure attachments offers major payoffs for the long term — right through to your grandkids and beyond. It can truly change a generation.
6 Awesome, Educated Baby Sleep Experts
Here are 6 fabulous baby sleep experts and researchers that you should add to your bookmarks list, read their books and articles, and learn from them. Because if you ever asked for it, here's the good stuff. Also, don't forget to check out our recommended baby sleep book reading list, which includes lots of great books from these experts and more.
#1: Professor James McKenna
Professor James McKenna is the world's leading pioneer in infant/mother sleeping.
Professor McKenna began his research in the 1970s. At the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, Department of Neurology, his research team pioneered the first studies of the physiology and behaviour of mothers and infant sleeping together and apart, using physiological and behavioural recording devices.
Professor McKenna has published over 139 refereed scientific articles in diverse medical and anthropological journals on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS. Each year he gives over 20 lectures globally, especially to paediatric groups and parents.
In the United States, he remains one of the primary spokespeople to the media on issues pertaining to sleeping arrangements, nighttime breast feeding and SIDS prevention, however he is very well known around the world for his incredible dedication to this topic.
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Visit the Website: http://cosleeping.nd.edu
#2: Pinky McKay
Pinky McKay is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and best-selling author, whose books are all endorsed by The Australian Breastfeeding Association, La Leche League International and The Australian Association of Infant Mental Health. She also has plenty of real-life experience as a mother of five, and grandmother to three little people.
Pinky’s fantastic books include:
#3: Dr. Bill Sears & Martha Sears
Dr Sears is the father of eight children as well as the author of over 30 books on childcare. Dr Sears is an Associate Clinical Professor of Paediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. Dr Sears received his paediatric training at Harvard Medical School's Children's Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto ” the largest children's hospital in the world, where he served as Associate Ward Chief of the newborn nursery and Associate Professor of Pediatrics. Dr Sears is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and a fellow of the Royal College of Pediatricians (RCP).
Dr Sears' wife Martha is a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. She is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest, drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter).
You can find a host of books from the Sears family here.
#4: Dr. Howard Chilton
Dr Howard Chilton has been a neonatologist (a baby's physician) for over 30 years. However he most enjoys spending time on his central passion: parent education and what he terms ‘reassurology'. He passionately believes that by helping parents understand their baby's needs, it can lead to an enhancement of parental attachment, and hence the optimisation of babies' emotional development.
He holds a talk and Q&A session at the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney (3rd floor main room, between the two postnatal wards) every Thursday at 10.15 to 11.30am — all are welcome. He also works clinically at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital, Royal Hospital for Women and Sydney Children's Hospital.
See Dr. Chilton’s book Baby On Board.
#5: Tracy Cassels PhD
Tracy Cassels obtained her B.A. in Cognitive Science from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, also at the University of British Columbia, where she studied how certain evolutionary factors affect children’s empathic behaviour and how our assessment of theory of mind influences our understanding of these processes. She also completed a minor in quantitative measurement (i.e., statistical methods for research), giving her a greater understanding of how to interpret the research.
Tracy currently runs Evolutionary Parenting and works as a consultant to parents, helping them gently navigate parenting struggles, typically sleep-related, with a focus on gentle parenting based on what is biologically normal. She also serves as an adviser to the Children’s Health & Human Rights Partnership and previously worked at the Canadian Council on Learning, a non-profit agency dedicated to researching myriad elements of learning across the lifespan. Tracy has written on the side with a group of researchers and gentle parenting advocates (including Dr Darcia Narvaez, Dr Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Dr Wendy Middlemiss, Sarah Ockwell-Smith, and Helen Stevens) with the aim to expand awareness of the science and importance of evolutionary parenting.
#6: Dr Helen Ball
Dr Helen Ball is a professor of anthropology at Durham University in the UK.
In the year of 2000, Helen began a programme of research on night-time infant care in a specially designed sleep lab. Broadly defined, her research examines sleep ecology, particularly of infants, young children and their parents. This encompasses attitudes and practices regarding infant sleep, behavioural and physiological monitoring of infants and their parents during sleep, infant sleep development, and the discordance between cultural sleep preferences and biological sleep needs. She has conducted research in hospitals and the community, and contributes to national and international policy and practice guidelines on infant care.
Her research interests include:
- Behaviour and physiology of infant sleep
- Child sleep and obesity
- Development of sleep patterns and circadian rhythms
- Evolutionary medicine
- Human behaviour: parenting, infant care, infant mortality, SIDS, infanticide
- Midwifery and postnatal care
- Infant feeding and sleeping