It's Okay to Let Babies Cry It Out if You're a Cold-Hearted Scientist

by Michele Zipp September 11, 2012 at 3:07 PM

baby crying in cribWhen I became a mother, I knew that being selfish wasn't an option. I had twins, two little beings with needs I had to fulfill. Each day I learned more and more what not being selfish was, what it was like to put my own needs aside to care for babies who depended on me. It's not easy, but it's beautiful ... what we do as parents.

If my babies didn't fall asleep when I hoped they would, I didn't leave them in their room to cry it out, hoping their little lungs would get tired as they worked themselves up to a cortisol frenzy, stressing out their tiny little bodies while their minds think, Mama isn't coming for me. Why am I alone? My life -- the TV show I wanted to watch, the meal I wanted to eat, the phone call I wanted to make -- was easy to put on hold. I didn't become a mother to let my kids cry their faces off. I didn't become a parent to ignore their needs. But some callous researchers are trying to tell parents that it's fine to let babies cry.

Just like the Australian researchers responsible for this questionable conclusion want you to ignore your child's cries, I want parents to ignore these researchers. What they are saying is damaging because I truly believe it's in every mother's instinct to go to their child if they cry. A mother's instinct should be respected. And the very facts these scientists present are problematic.

More from The Stir: 10 Ridiculous Things I've Done to Not Wake My Newborn

There were only 225 children tracked in this study, and only half went through sleep training, most popularly called crying it out. Yet not all of them cried it out; some parents did the "camping out" method where they stayed in the room to soothe baby often by putting a soft hand on baby's belly to let her know mama is still there if she cried. Here, the parent didn't leave until baby fell asleep. Camping out is not the same as crying it out. I don't think that's enough to make a bold statement that crying it out is okay for babies. Because shouldn't it be a parent's job to make sure baby isn't crying every night at bedtime? When a child cries when he hurts himself, should we ignore those cries, too? If we go with this kind of CIO logic, ignoring a child's cries when he's hurt will help him learn that he will get hurt in life, get over it, move on, shut up because no one cares, no one is going to kiss your boo-boo and make it better.

So how do we deal with our kids' bedtime as parents? What about our lack of sleep, eating food and actually being able to have a moment to chew and enjoy it, having a moment to watch Real Housewives? I think we all deserve that, but when we sign up to become a parent, we often have to put our kids first. I'd rather be the one who cries myself to sleep because I'm overtired than have my child be upset at bedtime. I'd rather bear the burden. I'm bigger, older, stronger. My early life has already been shaped by the decisions my parents made. Now it's my turn to do the best for my children. And to me, letting my kids cry it out isn't the best I can do. It's selfish. Letting my kids cry it out is essentially telling them, Sorry, mommy's not in the mood for this bedtime routine. I have better things to do. Sleep training doesn't seem worth it when there is a risk of damaging my child's brain development.

We also cannot forget that they have linked crying it out with hyperactivity in kids. The study also says that while sleep trained kids turned out fine, the benefits were often short-term. Very often just when a parent thinks their child successfully graduated from crying it out to a good night's sleep, they regress and more "training" needs to happen. That's a sad cycle of too many tears. And the researchers also warn that there are some kids who will not benefit at all from sleep training, and that it may do more harm than good.

Sounds to me that there are too many variables. And when it comes to my kids' health and well-being, that's not something I want to risk. I'll just have another cup of coffee and put my DVR to good use -- and I'll remember it's just a phase. These early years fly by and soon enough your kid will be all grown up and you'll spend mornings wishing she'll wake up and join you for breakfast.

Does this change your mind about crying it out? What do you think of sleep training?


Image via tamakisono/Flickr

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Michele Zipp

loves vintage and will defend skinny jeans to the death though she is highly superstitious and "death" is probably a bad word choice. She has a touch of the hoarding disease and enjoys sleuthing, the worst reality shows, and wearing high heels, even at the playground. She's an AP mom of twins, slightly crunchy but with a pedicure.


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Comments 200

September 11, 2012 at 3:14 PM

Will you change your mind if your child had colic AND you had a full time job that you HAD to have to support your family?  Its easy to say "i will never do this" when you have never really "had" to....but being on teh other side of the fence you have to make choices you'd rather not make....and they end up better for all parties in the end.

Doesn't make me "selfish" in any way. Me being on top of my game at work and at home after a good's night sleep is A LOT better than me staying up with a colicky baby and barely being able to do much of anything.

September 11, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Of course they aren't saying that you should ignore every cry your child makes.  They are saying that when it coems to bedtime, and you have a clingy child (you know that clingy cry...its NOTHING like a cry of hunger, diaper, or pain).  A good parent would know the difference.  And they aren't saying "cold turkey" either and allowing these children to cry for hours on end.  Its controlled, giving your child more and more time to adjust to soothing themselves.

Facebook comment from Sarah Ashley Becker
September 11, 2012 at 3:16 PM
Love, love, love this! I don't think it could have possibly been put any better.
September 11, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Of course it's "ok" so is prostitution, that doesn't mean we should do it.

Facebook comment from Kate Tietje
September 11, 2012 at 3:17 PM

We did the "camping out" in their rooms with both our boys.  My husband would simply lay on the floor next to their cribs and they would pop up a few times to check and make sure someone was still there with them, then they would just lay down and go to sleep.  No big deal, no crying.  After a few weeks we could just lay them down and leave and they would not cry.  It was a very gentle way to teach them to sleep because we first showed them that we WOULD be there and they could feel safe lying down to fall asleep.  And of course if they woke up and cried we went to them immediately.  They did not need to cry and they still learned quickly to sleep on their own, when they were over a year.

September 11, 2012 at 3:41 PM
Yes and no. When i need to pee or shower, you may just have to cry for 5 minutes. Thats just what happens. Not selfish just self preservation, kinda like on a plane, put the oxygen mask on adult first. Cant help you when I am depleted and falling over.
September 11, 2012 at 3:53 PM

This is probably the biggest piece of crap I've read on The Stir in a long time.  If someone wanted to see a shining example of "sanctimommy" I would point them to this blog post. 



September 11, 2012 at 4:00 PM

As Roxanne71 said, this is a bunch of crap.  Since when has crying it out been linked with hyperactivity?  I call BS on that one.  Sometimes crying it out is what works for different families, example, being mine, with my first.  Obviously people have different views, but to write a story with false information and making parents feel like they're doing their parenting wrong.  Crying it out doesn't mean to just completely ignore your child when they cry because they're hungry, need to be changed, etc.   It's a way to get them to sleep in their own bed and learn to self soothe so we are able to get our full nights sleep as well.  Just because one parent has this opinion doesn't mean to rip on others that don't.  While some things I've read on this site make me kind of want to walk away from it, I have to say that things like this are a big part of that.

September 11, 2012 at 4:05 PM

@corrinacs - I had a child who cried all the time and they called it "colic" (we now know, 7 years later, it was a kind of sensory disorder linked with autism) and both my husband and I worked full-time jobs to support us. Saying you *have* to let your child cry it out because you have a job and he/she is colicky is just an excuse. We chose to co-sleep until he was 3.5 - we all got sleep this way, even if he woke up frequently. When we transitioned him to his own bed it was rough, but he was older. We still would sleep with him in his bed (he had a double-sized bed at the bottom of a bunk bed) or at least lay with him until he fell asleep. If we left after he'd fallen asleep, he would wake up in the middle of the night and we trained him to come crawl into bed with us rather than start screaming/crying which woke our other child. He only crawled into our bed in the middle of the night maybe once or twice a week for about 4 months. He's now a great 7 year old kid with no abandonment issues around sleeping. When it's bedtime, he crawls up into his bunk (he's up on top now), snuggles under his covers, gets kisses from mom and dad, and goes to sleep - all the while knowing for sure that we are just down the hall if he wants/needs us.

I refused to cry it out with either child, but especially him. He cried enough as it was - why add to it if it wasn't necessary?

Facebook comment from Sysy Morales
September 11, 2012 at 4:06 PM
I agree as long as you can do it. I had twins and I didn't let them cry it out. I have a chronic illness that requires a lot of time so add twins to the mix and you've got a majorly tough first year as a parent. But, I toughed it out for my kids and they are so sweet and confident I know I did the right thing for our family. Though, if someone can't for some reason do this then sure, let your kids cry it out and don't feel guilty. Measure yourself against what you truly know about yourself and not anything else. Deep down I know I pushed myself to extremes putting my kids first and though I did take a beating, I'm fully recovered. Others have it harder and should not literally kill themselves to do everything they'd like to do. And in the same train of thought, DO NOT have kids if you aren't able to care for them. It's not fair to you or them.
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