by Jillon January 06,2012 in Baby_WearingChild DevelopmentNatural Parenting StyleResearch

“Crying it out.” Just reading the words makes me shudder. The belief that babies can be spoiled by being given too much attention and care is just plain wrong. Babies do not need to be left to their own devices in order to learn how to sleep. There is a lot of information about why sleep training is not necessary and severely damaging to babies, but this article by Darcia Navaraez on psychologytoday.com is one of the best I’ve come across. Navaraez tells us the background behind the behaviorist belief that babies need to “expect [their] needs NOT to be met on demand, whether feeding or comforting.” Somehow people stopped listening to mothers’ instincts and trusted instead male doctors with no real research on which their theories were based. Fast forward many years; our current doctors and psychologists have done some research. “Rats are often used to study how mammalian brains work and many effects are similar in human brains. In studies of rats with high or low nurturing mothers, there is a critical period for turning on genes that control anxiety for the rest of life. If in the first 10 days of life you have a low nurturing rat mother (the equivalent of the first 6 months of life in a human), the gene never gets turned on and the rat is anxious towards new situations for the rest of its life, unless drugs are administered to alleviate the anxiety. These researchers say that there are hundreds of genes affected by nurturance. Similar mechanisms are found in human brains…” It’s a fact that a baby’s cry means something. Every time. Letting a baby cry at night time or any time for that matter is stressful and detrimental for the child. It changes the child’s body and brain in ways that will effect him it her for the rest of their life. Navaraez states that ignoring a baby’s request for help damages nerve function, kills neurons in the brain, undermines self regulation, and destroys trust and self confidence in the child. It also effects the sensitivity of the caregiver when they ignore their human instinct to care for their young. This article, The Con of Controlled Crying, tells more about why crying it out is not good for babies. Responding efficiently to a baby’s needs on the other hand builds brain cells, helps the body grow, and creates trust and feelings of self-worth and love. Babies are born expecting the same attention that they received in the womb; comfort, closeness, warmth, and love. Breastfeeding, using a baby carrier or wrap (i.e., “babywearing”), and responding to a baby’s cry gives a secure feeling to the baby like they had in utero. Simply listening to your baby and listening to your heart makes for a happy, healthy baby and parent. Here is a video by parenting expert, Dr. William Sears with tips for putting your baby to bed gently and peacefully. Dr. Sears’s Top Baby Sleep Tips
3 comments
grmama26
grmama26

I agree that a baby's cry means "something" every time, but it is misleading to use that statement as an argument to NEVER allow a baby to cry.  Sometimes a baby needs to cry or fuss in order to expend energy and tire themselves out a little bit.  I'm not advocating letting a baby cry for an indefinite period of time in a heartless manner that ignores the type of crying that is happening, but every mother learns to listen to her baby's different cries.  Sometimes they cry because of hunger, sometimes because of sleepiness, sometimes because of a dirty diaper, sometimes because they want to be held, but I am completely convinced that sometimes they just need and WANT to cry.  Just because.  A few minutes of crying in the crib before conking out for the night is not psychologically damaging to a baby.  I would even argue that rushing to your baby's aid EVERY time they make a sound is more detrimental because they never learn to problem-solve or self-soothe, becoming dependent on you instead of learning to settle themselves on their own.  I'm not making this argument for newborns, but it becomes obvious as your baby grows and learns that they can and will settle themselves down if they are gently, lovingly guided into an ability to self-soothe.  Please don't make a blanket judgement over the cry it out method as though it were child abuse, when in fact the same argument could be made for never allowing your child to develop their sense of independence and self-awareness because you can't bear to hear them fuss.   

greenmumma
greenmumma

Why does a baby need to learn to self soothe? This article is focusing on infants 6 months old and younger. If they are crying there is a reason for it. As they lack language and are completely helpless and dependent and their parents, crying is the only way they can communicate something isv"wrong" with them. Whether they are trying to tell you they are tired, hungry, wet, hot, cold, frustrated, constipated, in pain, etc, they cry to say "pick me up, I need you, something is wrong". What if they are simply over-tired, a soothing embrace by my husband or a hug from my child makes me feel good when I am upset? Wouldn't this work even better for an infant used to thevwarm, calming embrace of the womb? Indeed! Self- soothing is nothing more than a baby learning it is hopeless to expect his/her needs to be fulfilled by a parent and so a secondary and often lifelong annoying habit then develops as a coping mechanism to deal with this stress.

Amama
Amama

@greenmumma Babies already know how to self soothe, the problem occurs when a new mother, like myself, believes that the only way a baby will fall asleep is to rock, bounce, pat, shush, etc. So in a month, I introduced all these wonderful new ways to put my LO to sleep. And it was fun. Except, after a few days rocking didn't work anymore, so we added another movement. Then that didn't work, so I combined three motions. Can you see where this is going? And when the movement stops, the baby wakes up, because she wasn't in a true sleep cycle, only soothed by the movement. Which is why my baby sleeps while the car is moving, but does not get a restful sleep. More like a catnap. 

From recent experience with another newborn, you can simply put the baby down awake, and they will go right to sleep. What would your suggestion be to the mamas who are doing everything possible to help soothe their child to sleep and it stops working? Just say too bad, exhaustion is part of parenting? It might be at first, but an exhausted parents is not an effective one. When it's time for the baby to sleep, it's time to sleep! Fussing for a few minutes is not going to make your baby fall out of love with you. It makes them sleep. 

Yes, crying communicates. However, it's the responsibility of the parents to assess the cry and figure out an appropriate response. 

I let my little girlie fuss for a few naps, and now she goes right to sleep when I put her down for naps and bedtime. She still is the little loveable bug she was before, and MUCH better rested than before, plus much more alert because she's getting a full rest every time. 

Just because one method is not something you would choose, does not make it acceptable to badger others who think differently than you. Be at peace with how you parent, and let others do the same.