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.

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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

Facebook comment from Kania Krisnanto
September 11, 2012 at 4:44 PM
this writer sounds very angry, an exact description of a depressed overtired sleep-deprived perplexed mother
September 11, 2012 at 4:47 PM

I know Venae.  Extinction CIO was actually the norm not too long ago.  I know my mom did it with me.  Per the "studies" most adults in the US should be brain damaged with ADD/ADHD.


Facebook comment from Joleen Marie Crosta
September 11, 2012 at 4:47 PM

I feel any parent that uses the "CIO" method is selfish and maybe should have thought about the commitment to parenting before they had children. That is my opinion and I am entitled to it. I would never allow my baby to cry it out that is ridiculous!  A baby cries for a reason, whether is be for food, a change, pain or JUST LOVE FROM THIER PARENT, they have a need that should be filled. Being a parent is a FULL TIME JOB, 24/7. I have three beautiful children and one on the way and I will never allow them to "cry it out". 

Facebook comment from Jason Garrett
September 11, 2012 at 4:48 PM
I say, to each parent, his or her own approach. My husband and I used CIO because by 6 months, we were so exhausted from our own lack of sleep, that we could not function properly in our daily lives. hence we were sacrificing our own health so that we didn't have to let our baby cry, Well, we were over it by 6 months and spent a week sleep training our daughter. Yes, the first night was the absolute worst, but the crying cut in half the second night and continued to diminish until she started sleeping through the night on her own. She has been a great sleeper ever since. I think that each parent has to decide how much sleep depravation they can handle and how to approach sleep time for their child.
Facebook comment from Jessica Garcia
September 11, 2012 at 4:51 PM

I dont understand how some of you can say those  of us who do CIO bad parents and  selfish. I saw this study and decided to do things differently with my last son (my 5th child) I let my twins, and their 2 sisters to CIO doing the ferber method 5 min of crying, calming, 10 min of crying , calming and they all slept through the night and after a week NEVER cried to put themselves to sleep. Even knowing this worked for my others I wanted him to be different and wanted to cuddle, and rock him to sleep. Well he would fight me, push , kick me screaming exhausted ! I would be crying rocking my exhausted baby who was fighting sleep for 4+ hours a day. Finally I put him in his crib let him cry for 5 min (yes i stare at my watch its horrible) and go in and sit next to his crib and place my hand on his chest till he falls asleep ! He is a different baby now ! he is happy, independently plays ( before he wanted to sit on me exhausted all day) well rested and is taking 3 naps and having 5 hour intervals of sleep at night (before were 2-3 hours while co sleeping) . His fighting and kicking me were telling me he neded to fall asleep on his own. I dont understand how other moms can bash us for OUR decisions. All kids are different yet all of us moms are supossed to be uniformly parenting. It doesnt make sense nor does it make someone a better parent 

Facebook comment from April Joines
September 11, 2012 at 4:54 PM
It's nice of you to write this and to have a link to some of the research about their development, and the comments of parents are worth reading too. So many perspectives..thanks!
September 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM

"Children can learn to self-soothe without crying. They can learn to go to sleep on their own without crying or deliberate "training." Both of mine have."

Andrea, it may be true for YOUR children but it's not true for all children.  My daughter never learned to fall asleep on her own or self-soothe until we did the Ferber method. 

Facebook comment from Kelly Schnars-Pittorf
September 11, 2012 at 5:01 PM
I let both my girls cry it out. It wasnt so I could catch a tv show or take a shower, it was so they learned to go to sleep on their own and learned to self soothe. Doing this in no way means that you ignore their cries when they are hurt or hungry or sad. I have two healthy, non-hyperactive children who go to sleep at bedtime and sleep through the night because for a few nights I let them figure out how to go to sleep on their own!
Facebook comment from Deborah Stephaine Wojtowicz
September 11, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Who ever said let a baby cry it out,does not have a baby.I never let my baby's cry a out alot. maybe  a mini or two.But I would never let my baby cry there self  to sleep .To me that would have been mean. I let all my baby's know how much I love them.I was always hugging and holding my babys and that didn't spoil them  I wanted my babys to know I love them.It needs to be up to the mom how they want to rase there child.

September 11, 2012 at 5:29 PM

I tried the CIO method, but in a less strict form. I never let her cry for more than 10 minutes. 
The thing I never understand in all these comments is, I could pretty much tell by the kind of cry what was wrong. So, for example, if my daughter got her foot stuck between her crib bars (which happened more than a few times) I knew what thay cry was like and would go in immediately.

Personally, I was told that I was a colicky baby. My mom said I would cry so much that she would occasionaly got outside just to get a break from the cries. To my knowledge I so not have ADHD/ADD 

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