My first and last reply to the witch-hunt instigated against me by those so-called experts from their Ivory Tower
”We chuckle and shake our heads in disbelief at the media tsunami – don’t they ever give up?! – and hope that you are surrounded by people (big and small) who spread sunshine instead of nonsense… The latter we will leave to the navel-gazing experts who no one listens to anyway,” writes one couple.
However, it’s easy to resist the urge to laugh if one has been the target of the appalling allegations and venomous reports that I have been subjected to over the last few months. No one would be able to dismiss with a good-humoured shrug the accusations of child abuse that have flooded the media.
It is also not that hard to react with surprise and dismay over the fact that ”prominent pediatricians”, to whom the media are forever quoting in their gleefully vicious attacks, are not averse to listening to the mob – the mob that has persistently bombarded them with the spite-filled basis for their anonymous cyber-hate.
”Isamom”, an infiltrator from the great unwashed, supposedly speaking for the ordinary parents, writes on Amazon.com about A Good Night’s Sleep (Internationella Sova Hela Natten):
”This book is outrageous and should be banned… It’s not surprising that doctors in Sweden are looking to take action against her!”
At this point, allow me to respond with a Belgian father’s reply to this:
”There is no way ”Isamom” read and tried Ms. Wahlgren´s method… My wife and I DID try it with our daughter, who was sleeping short nights and would wake up several times a night. Now she sleeps 12 hours per night without a peep, has much more energy and appetite, and is much more social and happy! Thank you, Ms. Wahlgren. The method is in NO WAY harming the baby; it’s a soft and sweet way of making her understand the safety of her own bed and the trust she can place in her parents.”
I was more than a little naïve when I thought I could show a video clip on my home page, annawahlgren.com, demonstrating the ”fanning” technique as an example of how to calm a screaming infant. It never occurred to me that the mob would edit out the (successful) result of this calming technique, as well as the introduction, (to make it look as though I was the one who was causing the child to scream) and then (quite illegally) upload the doctored video onto YouTube.
And Mr. P – as in patriarch – was only too willing to do the mob’s bidding. Indignantly citing ”medical ethics”, he managed to get the Association of Swedish Paediatricians to go along with him. All without going to the source, i.e. me. I would have been more than happy to show him real life! I would have been more than happy to let a little baby show him! I would have been more than happy to encourage him to LOOK AT THE CHILD instead of listening to the mob.
I was originally blacklisted by the Association of Swedish Pediatricians in 2004 when A Good Night’s Sleep was first published. The Association issued dire warnings about Shaken Baby Syndrome and branded me a baby killer (!) in Sweden’s leading medical journal. I responded then as I do now: by inviting Mr. P to a three-night intervention in Gastsjön. In a public reply, I suggested that we could each help a little baby suffering from sleep problems to find some much-needed rest. Mr. P could employ the two ”methods” recommended by Swedish children’s clinics: 1) The Five-Minute Method (also known as ’Cry It Out’ and ’The Controlled Crying Method’), which means that the baby has to cry themselves to sleep, or 2) medication (neuroleptics/antihistamines), which means that the baby is drugged into oblivion. I would avail myself of the strategies outlined in A Good Night’s Sleep, which I have evolved over the last thirty years under the tutelage of the approximately 800 infants that I have looked after personally. Which of us would best help these children sleep well over the long haul?
I never received a response, never mind any volunteers. My invitation was passed over in silence.
Mr. P does not deign to communicate with me directly.
I, however, do communicate directly with young children. And, because of this direct communication, I am able to help not only these children but also their parents, who come to me after having ”tried everything”- shorthand for listening to Mr. P and following his utterly ineffective instructions.
How am I to interpret this latest round of attacks, slander, and horrendous allegations, which (with international implications) have reached the newspapers, radio, and TV with the net result that the entire population of Sweden now associates me with child abuse? Is it an expression of the cyber mob’s highly effective venom? Is it a manifestation of good old Swedish jealousy, the ”tall poppy syndrome”, perhaps given a little push by Mr. P himself? Is it a conviction for the crime of being ”uppity”? Or is it ”only” a parting shot from Mr. P designed to shut me up and save what’s left of his tattered prestige because I have committed the nefarious sin of undermining his patriarchal authority?
I’m afraid Mr. P is out of luck. He hasn’t shut me up before and he’s not going to shut me up now.
In any case, it’s too late. As I write this, For the Love of Children is on its way out into the English-speaking world and A Good Night’s Sleep has already begun its inevitable triumphal march.
Since Mr. P has done his level best to discredit me, I thought I would return the favor and use his own tactics against him. What follows are some out-of-context quotes, some canons of conventional wisdom, and advice from some of the heads of the Hydra that is Mr. P, and then my comments on them.
”Children never slept at night.”(Gustafsson 2009)
I would very much like to see the scientific evidence for this assertion.
”It is safer for infants to sleep on their back than on their side since infants can roll over from their side onto their stomach.” (Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome booklet 2006)
Infants who are put down on their side roll over onto their back if they roll anywhere. If you want them to roll from side to stomach, you first have to pull their little arm out from underneath them and place it behind their back. It’s a rather uncomfortable arrangement and one that would hardly strike even Mr. P as natural (in the unlikely event that he was actually present to see for himself).
”One assumption about the cause of SIDS is that the baby stops breathing possibly because of a blockage in the windpipe when it is lying face down.” (Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome booklet 2006)
Newborns who are placed on their stomachs as they are when they are placed on their mother’s abdomen immediately after delivery, can both lift and turn their heads. Mr. P might also want to consider taking a look at a neonatal unit, where infants are placed on their stomachs as soon as they are capable of oxygenating themselves since the stomach position facilitates breathing.
”Mothers have observed, and research has confirmed, that infants sleep more deeply on their tummies. Yet, sleeping more deeply does not mean sleeping more safely.” (SIDS: How Backsleeping Helps 2006)
So then it must be the safest thing to never let babies sleep at all? (Ever heard of apnoea alarms?)
”When three-month-old babies wake up, you should try to get them to go on sleeping. Stroke them gently over the back and tuck them in again so that they know you are there.” (Borg 2009/2010)
Since you are so dead set against babies sleeping on their stomachs, can you please explain, Mr. P, how you stroke babies gently over their back when they are lying on their back in the first place?
”Children are not trying to teach us anything.” (Juul 1997)
Well, I suppose this is true if you do not want to learn anything. Children have managed to teach me everything I know.
”I have days when I wish I didn’t have a family. I so want to be alone, unless the house starts to burn down of course.” (Juul 1997)
Having a family is more enjoyable if the house is on fire?
”I don’t want you on my knee. Get off.” (Juul 1997)
Sounds a tad abusive to my kiddie ears.
”It doesn’t matter if a child feels rejected.” (Juul 1997)
Is there scientific evidence for this?
”Our research shows that all parents go through periods when their kids can’t stop crying.” (Van De Rijt & Plooij 2005)
As far as I am concerned, babies shouldn’t cry at all. Why not calm them?
”It’s often hard to figure out why they are crying. It can be anything. No wonder all the crying and screaming sometimes drive parents insane!” (Van De Rijt & Plooij 2005)
Lucky we have antidepressants! And lucky that young children’s colic and milk allergies now enjoy the fashionable company of reflux so that Mr. P can put babies as young as two months on LOSEC! Was it a successful bribe campaign, Mr. P? (Thunberg 2009)
”Rebel against all these fascist sleep requirements!” (Janouch 2008)
I suppose it’s fascist to feed babies too.
”As for children’s development, this is how it works: it’s two steps forward, and three steps back.” (Hallin 2009)
Taking this to its logical conclusion all children will end up back as a twinkle in their father’s eye?!?
”He also dislikes all these manuals and methods that are out there on the market – and which are also in demand among many parents. As example, he lists a number of new methods to get children to sleep at night.” (Gustafsson 2009)
The Good Night’s Sleep Cure is a cure – a remedy – for young children who need help to sleep soundly, well, and continuously all night long. The cure works on all children with sleep problems because young children, just like all other beings of flesh and blood, want and need to sleep at night. We all want to sleep peacefully. Kids are no exception. These young children would never accept my Good Night’s Sleep Cure as readily and as gratefully as they do as soon as they get satisfactory answers to their anxious questions – and from a stranger no less – if they didn’t want to stop fearing for their lives and be enabled to sleep well more than anything else in the world.
”Don’t listen to Anna Wahlgren whatever you do, ha ha!” (Alfvén 2009)
On the strength of more or less corrupt research, which he tailored with apparent impunity to the market, Mr. P spews whatever he likes, as in the quotations above. Slamming his authoritarian fist on the table, he stipulates THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE. With the entire apparatus of institutionalized Western child neglect at his back, he has taken it upon himself to present out-and-out lies as gospel truth – such as the claims that babies have never slept through the night, that up to the Korean War (!) babies always slept on their backs, and that babies who sleep on their stomachs are in mortal danger, while those who sleep on their backs are safe, all of which are contemptible falsehoods. No one puts Mr. P up against the wall and screams PROVE IT. No one demands that he produce any facts. (How were the babies who died of SIDS actually lying for example? How many of them had a functioning apnoea alarm in the bed?)
Mr. P it seems is not accountable. With patriarchal self-righteousness, he expects – and gets – the obsequious deference of a people schooled in obedience with a terrified little hiccup from the oppressed female contingent, little Ms. Echo, thrown in for good measure.
And so it will continue – at least for now. Mr. P is still on a roll, but it won’t last forever. In the long run, he can’t frighten people into obedience. Mr. P probably doesn’t see it coming, but he is slowly and surely forfeiting trust, the trust of ordinary people who want so desperately to believe that he wants what’s best for their children and that he can deliver. But the day will come when they begin to wonder about his intentions and question his competence. Is his competence really based on experience and anchored in the real world?
Real-world competence is a far cry from the Ivory Tower variety, Mr. P, and the real world itself is a long way from that incestuous, back-slapping mutual admiration society that generates all those wonderful profits for the pharmaceutical industry!
This is the last time I will enter into a public debate. So that I can release a little anger, lacerated and wearied by slander as I am, I want to state once and for all that Mr. P’s allegations that my simple, effective methods for calming an infant who has ”gotten stuck” in a rut of constant screaming could result in Shaken Baby Syndrome are utterly absurd.
Fact one: I can calm the most hysterically shrieking infant in less than two minutes, and I can teach others how to do it. Mr. P can do neither.
Fact two: If a baby is lying on their stomach, securely ”parked”, head immobilized facing either left or right, causing Shaken Baby Syndrome by steadily and firmly pushing the carriage back and forth is a physical impossibility. Shaken Baby Syndrome is caused by grabbing a baby – a baby lying on its back, please note! – gripping them on both sides and shaking so violently that the heavy head flies wildly in all directions.
To the best of my knowledge, this appalling and potentially fatal form of child abuse is committed predominantly by men. The perpetrators are seldom if ever charged and so go unpunished. They are – or at least were at the time they killed or permanently injured the child – utterly devoid of the maternal ability to calm the screaming infant that has been temporarily left in their charge.
According to unconfirmed (!) reports, 600 infants a year are the victims of SBS every year in Sweden, abuse that can result in brain damage and, not infrequently, death. SIDS, on the other hand, claims 20 to 30 victims a year. Linking Shaken Baby Syndrome with my name constitutes a slander so degrading, so vicious, so repulsive and so contemptible that I have trouble finding the words to express what I feel.
Mr. P found the words though. And went public with them. He carved his monstrous accusations in stone. He branded me. In true patriarchal fashion, he appointed himself supreme arbiter and spun a web of lies without, as usual, feeling the least obligation to provide even a shred of proof.
Stockholm, Sweden, August 2009
Alfvén, M – psychologist, [Report on how to be a terrible parent] 2009 [television program], Aktuellt (current affairs program), Channel ?, 28 May.
Gustafsson, LH – pediatrician, quoted in: Rehnberg, HS 2009, ’Barnens bästa kan alltid bli bätre’ (’Children’s best interests can always be better’), Svenska Dagbladet (newspaper), 7 August.
Hallin, L – psychotherapist and parents’ advisor, [Discussion about child development] 2009 [television program], SVT Good Morning Sweden, Channel ?, 27 August.
Janouch, K – relationship expert and writer, 2008, ’Vi sover bäst tillsammans’ (’We sleep better together’), Expressen (newspaper) 31 May.
Juul, J – family therapist, 1997, Ditt kompetenta barn (Your competent child), Wahlström & Widstrand, Stockholm.
Thunberg, I 2009, ’Läkare festar för miljoner som skulle gå till forskning’ (’Doctors party for millions that should go to research’), Expressen (newspaper), 6 August.
Minska risken för plötslig spädbarnsdöd (Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome) 2006, Socialstyrelsen: The National Board of Health and Welfare, 6 page public information booklet, Item no: 2006-114-40, Stockholm.
SIDS: How Backsleeping Helps 2006, Ask Dr. Sears, viewed 31 August 2009, http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t102100.asp
Borg, A – consulting physician, Föräldranytt (Parents News), 2009/2010, Karlskoga Municipality, Children and Education Department, Stockholm.
Van De Rijt, H & Plooij, FX 2005, Växa och upptäcka världen (Grow and discover the world) [Original title: Why they cry], Wahlström & Widstrand, Stockholm.