It’s been a bit of a week.
I’ve been accused of harassment and judgement by some very confused people.
I contacted a Sleep Trainer this week after their ‘advice’ around sleep was negatively affecting my clients. Clients that I care about and have a duty to protect from poor information. This at times includes very vulnerable mothers. Sometimes very young mothers, those suffering with depression or just plain exhausted. In fact, all mothers are vulnerable.
The advice affecting my clients includes poor information around breastfeeding babies to sleep, crying it out (dressed up as ‘self soothing’ – please note if your child is not developmentally capable of skills such as relinquishing their own thirst or adjusting their own PJ’s, they are incapable of ‘self soothing’) and various sleep strategies.
This service releases an elusive ‘list’ every so often, preying on exhausted families who quickly fill their quota and line their pockets, before closing this ‘list’ again.
This sleep trainer uploads lots of videos to social media, including information around medical conditions such as GERD (reflux) and autism and the subsequent affects on sleep. I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s quite a specialised area to be discussing. I’m sure you’ll also agree, that if you are to take advice on such specialist issues, you deserve to know the credentials of who is giving you this. You wouldn’t see a health professional about this and not expect them to be trained. In fact, many GP’s would refer you to a specialist service if they didn’t have this specialism themselves.
I emailed this sleep trainer asking for details of their qualification and where the evidence is for the information they give.
I received no response.
So I took to Social Media. This appears to be the only way to make contact with them as they have no website or any information about their services, qualifications or pricing available online.
I received no reply.
I asked again; What is your qualification? Where did you train and for how long? Where is the evidence base for the information you are giving? I wanted to know as my clients are being affected. Also if this information is more up to date than the information I have, I really need to know, as I pride myself on giving up to date evidence based information to all my clients, including information around sleep, as this often goes hand in hand with the breastfeeding support I offer women. So much so that I have taken additional training in this area myself (you can find out all the details of my qualifications and training on my website).
I even offered this particular service free training, as I am qualified to offer Baby Friendly training to UNICEF standards. I could also signpost them to some great training around sleep.
I received no reply.
I made four requests for this information before they would respond. During this time, I was publicly accused of harassment, bullying and judgement. Perhaps the hope was that making such accusations and threats (both I and others who asked for this information were threatened with lawyers) would deter parents from noticing the main concern, that they would not answer the question about their qualification.
Let’s be clear. Requesting the details of the qualifications of a service who offer advice to families is not harassment. I did enough training in law in my previous life in the legal profession to know this.
Services offering such ‘advice’ (I use that term VERY loosely) and information to families should and must be transparent about their qualification to give this.
This service is not alone. There are many many programmes out there, taking advantage of exhausted parents, and offering them solutions, without giving them all the facts.
I was finally told, publicly (this service not once contacted me privately as I requested) that this sleep trainer has an OCN Level 3 qualification which was completed over 2 days. They have no other related qualifications.
That’s 2 days of training, at a learning standard equivalent to an A-level. That’s less than a week of training to advise you on what is best for your child’s health.
I have no issue with this qualification, if the service is upfront with this. What I do have an issue with is families being mis-sold something that affects the health of their child.
I very much doubt any parent, school or public health organisation would pay the astonishing fees for this service affecting the long term health of a child, knowing how little training was involved. We are talking hundreds of pounds.
Hundreds of pounds that I have seen mothers who can’t afford worry about how they are going to save for it. Mothers who don’t need this. Mothers who were doing just fine before they watched these videos.
If you are going to give information around child health, you must know your research and you absolutely MUST work from an evidence base. Personal experience and anecdotal information is not an evidence base. You must also be honest and upfront about your qualification to deliver this.
Some of the ‘advice’ is potentially very dangerous. This is not about judgement. If a family choose to adopt a Cry It Out method, that is absolutely their choice. But it must be an informed one. That’s not judgement, that’s about being fair to the parents. You have a duty to tell them the research around this and what we know about the impacts this has on a child’s emotional health and brain development. It is simply not fair to offer this as a solution, without giving all the facts.
It is not fair, because you know it will work. Yes it will work, because the child will eventually shut down and no longer call out to their caregiver, simply because no one responds. This physically changes the way the brain grows and has a negative impact on the long term emotional health of the child. If given all the information around this topic, I’m very doubtful that so many families would adopt this strategy or employ a service that supports it. I would also question the morals and values of any service who supports this strategy.
The needs of the child must be respected and the needs of a family also. An exhausted mother should be supported with ways to help her get more sleep and be given a full picture of this. She should not be mis-sold a service, who won’t be upfront about what they are truly qualified to do.
To say ‘the proof is in the pudding’ around a service is quite shocking.
Yes, your proof is you get babies to sleep.
But you just won’t prove to us how.
If you have watched such videos as mentioned in this post, or read something that concerns you about your baby’s sleep, feeding patterns and behaviour, then I would thoroughly suggest watching THIS . If you still have concerns, please get in touch, and I will signpost you to good quality and evidenced based support.
Since the first publication of this post I have received many messages from families telling me that this sleep trainer (and others!) encouraged them to pursue ‘cry it out’ techniques with their child and this is the basis of their practice. Please always seek specialist support when it comes to the health of your child and trust your instincts when it comes to responding to them. It is NEVER wrong to go to your child when they call. It feels wrong to leave them crying alone for a reason.