The Consequences of the Estivill Method

25 April, 2020
The Estivill method became known for its good sleep results in babies. However, there are many cases of adults who suffer its consequences, even today. Before applying it to your baby, read this article.

As babies don’t come with instruction manuals, parents sometimes need to resort to expert opinions. However, some of them aren’t as beneficial as they seem. In this article, we’re going to address the consequences of the Estivill method, one of the most controversial infant sleep training methods.

What’s the Estivill method?

Dr. Eduard Estivill’s method consists of a set of guidelines for teaching babies the habit of sleeping. The goal is for sleep to become a routine and mechanical activity in babies. Its basic recommendations include:

  • Associating light with day and darkness with night. For this, during the day, the child must sleep with light and without it at night.
  • Differentiate between the noise of the day and the silence of the night. The baby has to get used to sleeping with sound during the day and make sure that silence reigns at night.
  • Establish a routine and schedule. In addition, the baby must sleep in their crib, in the same room as their parents but never in the same bed. After the baby turns three months old, the parents should move them to their own room.
The Consequences of the Estivill Method

  • To put the baby to sleep, you shouldn’t hold, sing to, rock, or caress them. Simply put the baby to sleep without touching them, say goodbye to them with a few words, and turn off the light when you leave the room.

The key guideline is to let the baby cry

However, the best-known and most controversial guideline for this method is the one the doctor proposes for cases in which the above recommendations aren’t enough and the baby cries.

When the baby is crying, parents have to stay away from their room and not come console them until after an allotted time. At first, it’ll be a one-minute wait, then three, then five, and even 15 minutes.

The efficacy of the Estivill method

This sleep training system, which people have practiced for more than 15 years, has yielded relatively good results. Many parents noticed that their babies stopped crying at night and remained silent without demanding their attention.

However, sadly, these babies remain silent not because they learned to sleep peacefully but because they learned that no one is going to help them when they ask for their help.

The consequences of the Estivill method

Yes, we know that what parents want is for their baby to fall asleep and remain calm until morning. Nobody likes to spend the night awake with a baby when they have to get up early the next day. Thus, this method seems to offer the magic solution.

However, you have to put yourself in babies’ shoes. Babies rely on instincts, as their brains aren’t developed enough to manipulate or deceive. If your baby cries at night, they aren’t a tyrant, rude, nor want to mess with you. Instead, they really feel that their life is in danger.

The Consequences of the Estivill Method

Crying is a natural function that has helped our species survive for many years. A baby can’t understand that they’re safe in their crib or that you have to work tomorrow. They only know that they depend on you for everything and that, at that moment, they’re absolutely alone in the darkness of the night.

In this situation, the baby begins to produce cortisol, due to their high stress and anguish levels. The feeling of helplessness greatly increases the possibility of future consequences. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or inability to defend themselves are just some of the consequences of the Estivill method.

Your baby has the right to be cared for and protected by their parents. If you let them cry alone in the dark for increasingly longer periods of time, you aren’t teaching them to fall asleep, you’re teaching them that they’re alone in the world. This goes against all natural instincts.

Therefore, it’s essential not to ignore that inner voice that tells you to hold your distressed baby in your arms, above any external recommendation.

If you’ve applied or been a recipient of this method, you can participate in a study that’s currently being conducted on its effects.

  • Bernabé, J. R. Y., & Malmierca, J. L. M. (1992). Indefensión aprendida en sujetos humanos y su inmunización. Influencia del estilo atribucional y de los programas de reforzamiento. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología24(3), 301-321.
  • Reguera Nieto, E. A. (2014). Apego, cortisol y estrés, en infantes: una revisión narrativa. Revista de la Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría34(124), 753-772.