“My biggest fear is with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, that I will walk in there and I will find my son not breathing,” says Wendy, about her 4 ½-month-old son, Ethan. “SIDS does run in my family. I’ve had two cousins with young infant boys who have passed away.”
Robert, Ethan’s father, shows no such fear. “My wife, Wendy, is probably very paranoid over SIDS,” he says. “Wendy’s always at my throat about [how] I need to check on him more often.”
Wendy and Robert’s biggest arguments are over whether or not to let Ethan cry.
“I run into the nursery every time I hear the slightest noise from Ethan,” Wendy explains. “I am up between four and five times a night to check on Ethan whenever he makes the slightest noise, so he might not be waking up completely, or anything like that, but if I hear him just whimper, it wakes me up immediately for me to kind of run in and check him, just to make sure he’s OK. I feel like a bad mom when I let my baby cry. Which is better for Ethan, to let him cry it out or to comfort him when he’s crying?”
Dr. Phil asks Robert if he hears his son’s cries.
“Yeah,” he says, “vaguely, I do.”
“Because I know, moms do hear this,” says Dr. Phil. He gestures toward Robin. “When ours were little, I swear she was like a world-class hurdler.” Dr. Phil says Robin sleeps so soundly that some mornings it would take a blast from an EKG machine to wake her, but if the baby were to make a sound, “She’s out of there like a shot! I mean, there’s a receptor in there. So you realize that we’re just wired differently in that regard?”
“Yeah,” says Wendy, “I’ve been trying to re-wire him, so he can hear it.”
Dr. Phil turns to Dr. Bob Sears. “What about this?” he asks. “Do you let them cry or do you not?”
“No, I don’t think you should let a baby cry it out,” says Dr. Sears, “and the most important thing is, Robert, who’s getting up with the baby during the night, anyway? Wendy is. So what do you care what she does? Let her go in there. Wendy, I applaud you for listening to your instincts and your intuition and going to your baby.”
“Thank you,” says Wendy.
Dr. Phil asks Dr. William Sears if he agrees.
“If your baby could talk, Wendy and Robert, here’s what he would say. ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, this is not working. I’m in a dark, quiet room, alone, behind bars. I need to get close to you. I need to be in your bed, in a co-sleeper next to your bed, in your room somewhere,'” he says.
Dr. Phil differs on this point. “I think this co-sleeping issue ” I’ve read everything y’all have said about that, disagree with all of it ” but I just think earlier than probably y’all do that it’s good for the child to be in his or her own bed, even if it’s in the same room or whatever, instead of having the ” ”
“And you know, Dr. Phil, there’s no right or wrong sleeping arrangement,” Dr. William Sears chimes in. “Wherever you guys get the best night’s sleep is the right arrangement for your family.”
Dr. Phil points out that Wendy worries about SIDS because she has had two cases of it in her extended family. He asks Dr. William Sears if it’s hereditary.
“No. There is no inherited tendency to SIDS,” he says.
Dr. Bob Sears adds, “You guys can rest assured, literally, that your baby ” even though it happened to some distant relatives ” your baby is at no greater risk than any other baby. What every parent can do to lower the risk of SIDS is to put your baby to sleep on his or her back. You can not smoke, which I know you don’t, so that’s fantastic, so you’ve already lowered your baby’s risk. However, it’s very interesting. If you bring your baby to sleep in the same room with you, we just found out last year that that reduces the risk of SIDS as well. OK, and breastfeeding your baby is the fourth way you can reduce the risk of SIDS.” Taking these four measures reduces the risk of SIDS in half.
Next, Dr. Phil asks the Sears doctors to address a myth. “The myth is that if you let the child scream it out, it really develops their lungs,” he says.
“Absolutely wrong,” says Dr. William Sears.
“When a baby screams for 10, 20 minutes, or a half-hour night after night, what actually happens to the baby’s brain?” asks Dr. Bob Sears. “The blood pressure goes up. The pressure gets so high, new blood with oxygen can’t flow into the brain. So the brain can be deprived of oxygen, you guys. And that’s not all. It gets worse. The brain can be flooded with stress hormones, and we know that stress hormones can damage sensitive developing nerve tissue. So, night after night, weeks and weeks of crying can actually harm a baby’s brain. That’s why we encourage you both to respond to your maternal intuition. Robert, develop your fatherly intuition, so you can both really thrive as a family. Respond to your baby.
Dr. Phil addresses Robin, sitting in the audience. “Now, why are you giving me that, ‘I told you so’ look out there? You should see her! You should see her out there!”
“Thank you,” she says to the Sears doctors. “Thank you so much, because I never let my boys cry. I picked them up and I soothed them. And he kept saying, ‘You’re going to have to let them cry. You’re going to have to let them cry.’ I never did.”
“Robin, he was 12!” Dr. Phil quips.