“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