June 2020. America is currently teetering on the edge. It’s not hyperbole to suggest that it could disintegrate into civil war. It’s day 9 of mass protests, and the national guard, FBI and riot police are all out in force. The race riots of the 60’s look like a warm up compared to protests across all 50 states, as well as many countries overseas. Here in Australia many of us are reckoning with our own wake up calls to the ongoing police brutality and persecution of Indigenous Australians.
The sheer scale of the outcry to George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police has sparked awareness of the need to speak up in many places, both likely and unlikely. Over at The Beyond Sleep Training Project, they’re one of many parenting pages sharing content related to anti-racism, white privilege, and the need to speak up. Predictably there’s been a few comments from people claiming that sharing such content isn’t relevant to the page. (Newsflash, what’s relevant to any page is what the page creators feel is relevant.) But here’s the thing, TBSTP isn’t just any parenting page; it’s an anti-sleep-training page. Why is that relevant? Because Sleep Training is a tool for racism.
(Cue outrage and denial)
Still with me? Here’s 4 ways Sleep Training is racist.
Whilst sleep training is the dominant paradigm in western parenting, and has been for quite some time. It is historically and culturally, an anomaly. A blip on the radar of human existence.
For good reason, since it goes against the biological norms of our species.
If you have ever wondered how we got here, how sleep training came to be "required" to be seen as a "good parent", read on:
When criticisms of sleep training circulate, there are always people who will say “but there are gentle ways to sleep train” and then give an anecdote describing how they implemented routines from birth, or offered comfort from next to the bed or whatever.
Sometimes, in an attempt to differentiate from Cry-it-Out/Controlled Crying, this is referred to as “sleep learning”.
So is sleep learning, really a thing, and is it any different to sleep training?
Well, yes and no.
Do you know the history of what is now called “sleep training” or “Cry it out?”
Because I do, and I’m going to let you in on a secret that all those “baby sleep experts”, doctors and child health nurses don’t want you to know.
It has absolutely no scientific basis.
There is no need for sleep training, there’s no proof that it is needed and there never was, because it was literally just made up.
For that line of thinking to work, logically, any new location has to be stressful for baby. Regardless of caregiver presence or responsiveness. Now even if they (sleep consultants) insist that this only applies to sleep, they are still making the claim that babies will automatically have higher cortisol levels if they are in an unfamillar location.
Which means that they would have raised cortisol; when you go to vist family, go camping, go to the beach for a weekend, go on vacation, move house, move them rooms, move them from a bassinette to a cot, if they are out and about in their stroller, or carrier, if you start them in daycare, and so on.
In other words: you are stuck in your house for every sleep for the entire first year at least.
In 2014 The Pregnancy Babies and Children's Expo decided to cut one of their scheduled exhibitors/speakers, Dr Bryan Symon from Adelaide. This decision was in response to parent backlash as he holds some extremely controversial views about newborn sleep and breastfeeding.
Later in the year they held a debate with "experts" from both the pro-sleep training camp and the anti-sleep training camp. The outcome of which was that they (PBC Expo) decided that there was no reason to prevent Dr Symon from speaking at the 2015 expo.
I attended his talk in Brisbane, which included some very interesting "facts", such as the claim that Red-Haired women can not breastfeed. A nurse who had never heard of him before and had been happily agreeing with everything he said, ending up standing up and asking how he could possibly spread such dangerous misinformation. This talk also saw Dr Pamela Douglas from The Possums Clinic being escorted out by security, after disagreeing with Dr Symon.
This was my letter to the PBC Expo coordinators in the aftermath of the Expo and the stir Dr Symon's attendance caused online in the lead up.
Hi I'm Nicole