‘Crying It Out’ Is a Favor to Your Kids and Your Sanity

Mom Moment 106

Crying babyNo mama worth her salt likes or enjoys seeing her baby cry, no matter if that baby is still cutting teeth or old enough to borrow $20 (and “forget” to give it back). It’s why, in a playground crowded with dozens of kids, we’re able to pick out that one distinct wail and run to the rescue of our child in distress.

Maternal instinct propels us to fix whatever’s upsetting them, to soothe them, console them, make everything alright, even at the sacrifice of our own safety and comfort. That’s what we sign up for when those nine months turn into delivery room showtime, and we commit to raising the little people we produce. But that doesn’t mean it’s not OK to let a child cry it out. 

It’s actually better to sometimes let them sob than to run to them for every little whimper or whine. That’s not just me saying that. A research team at the University of Melbourne, who find that parents who wait a while before tending to their crying child, do too, citing that moms and dads who create a pattern of allowing their child to comfort themselves at night actually sleep better—and the baby does, too. 

More from The Stir: The Best Way to Soothe Your Crying Infant

We’re not talking just tossing your kid into a crib at bedtime, cranking on a mobile, and letting them cry themselves into a shrieking frenzy for hours on end. There’s a technique and a strategy involved that ultimately helps babies and children learn to comfort themselves instead of hollering (literally) for mom and dad to do it.

I let my baby cry it out, back when she was actually a baby and not a big, strapping 13-year-old. But I didn’t do it at night, since I never really had a problem putting her down for bedtime. My challenge was in the day, when my daughter was about a year old and was going through a period where she would fuss for no reason except she absolutely refused to take a nap. Despite rubbing her eyes and clawing at her hair, she wouldn’t submit to Mr. Sandman quietly. She resisted like a rock star trashing a hotel room and, much to my chagrin, she wanted to be held and the center of my attention. All. Of. The. Time. Even putting her down to use the restroom caused a whole heap of chaos. My poor, embattled bladder suffered greatly during that time.

Of course I wanted to hold her and cuddle her. Of course I wanted to kiss and coddle her. But a baby who insisted on being cordial only when she was dangling from her mama’s hip made it not only difficult for said mother to cook or clean or do her college papers—that was my own personal problem—but to find babysitters and leave her with anyone but that self-appointed queen of comforting otherwise known as Mommy. I had to break her of it. Crying it out worked.

Whenever she started that old familiar fussiness, I’d put her in the crib to let her know it was time to sleep and then, when she cranked up for rafter-breaking protests, I’d rock her, rub her back, and then, if that didn't work, let her cry herself to sleep. And cry she did—for a while. But it didn’t take long for those tumultuous periods of melodrama to get shorter and shorter and naptime to get easier and more organized. We, like so many others who’ve chosen to pull out this tactic, are a living testimony. And she doesn’t hate me and we don’t struggle to communicate and our bond was not severed.

It sucked to hear her cry and not run to her, but I had to resolve that this was for her own good, even that young. After that phase, when she cried, I knew she really needed me and wasn’t just yodeling because she liked to see me come running.

Have you ever let your child cry it out? 


Image via missD90/Flickr

colic & crying, mom secrets, nursery

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nonmember avatar Brigette

Yes! Thank you! I couldn't agree more.

nonmember avatar jmomma

Nice to see you writing something that has nothing to do with race. I completely agree.

sofia... sofia0587

Idk my dd is a year and I've only had to let her CIO twice at night but it really was no more than 5 mins til she knocked out! I don't believe in CIO longer than 5 or 10 mins.

wamom223 wamom223

Wasn't there just a blog about how awful the mother's that let their children cry it out are a couple weeks ago by Michelle Zapp?  I love it when the Stir provides us with different perspectives on issues. I don't believe in one size fits all parenting.  I have let my son cry it out and I don't regret it.  It was right for us but I understand its not right for everyone.  I think the biggest misconception is that crying it out means you ignore your kids which just isn't true.  My son is now four and every once in a while we hear him crying in the middle of the night.  We didn't know it but he was crying in his sleep and got pissed when we woke him up.  Now we go in and try to figure out if he's awake or not before we do anything.  It never lasts longer than two minutes but it is totally heartbreaking.


sofia-I think the preferred methods don't advise you to leave them that long.  We went away about every five minutes.  We'd let him know we were there and tell him we'd be right back and he worked through. 

xxshe... xxshelbyxxx

Crying is out IS HORRIBLE FOR A BABY AND IT'S PROVEN OVER AND OVER. LOOK IT I

UP ON ATTACHMENT PARENTING INTERNATIONAL. causes social problems, anxiety, fear and distrust in ones parents. Don't do it. Your kid needs you every single cry no matter what YOU have to do!!!

wamom223 wamom223

Shelby you have no right to put what you think is right on to other parents.  For every study that shows what you listed there is a study proving the opposite.  Everyone should do what they think is right for their children. 

MamaD... MamaDV1012

We do the Ferber method, more appropriately coined progressive waiting.  I hate the term "cry it out".  It gives people the wrong idea.  My first kid took 2 weeks, the first night was 1 hour of screaming.  My second kid got it in 3 nights with no more than 5 minutes of crying each night.  I sleep train asap around 6 months as long as no teething or illness.  LOVE the method!  Try it or at least read the book, it makes sense.

nonmember avatar zizzler

Well our youngest still sleeps in our bed (always has, always will? lol) She's 18 months. My partner pats and shushes her at every single wimper or whine. This leaves her whimpering and whining every 3 minutes or so, just to get the constant reassurance of good old dad. When I'm sitting in bed with her, she whines, fusses, and I ignore her. I mean, I'm right there, so it seems ridiculous to hush and pat her. She'll look over and see me reading or whatever, and simply go back to sleep, not making another peep. I would consider telling my partner to lay off the coddling but he likes it and doesn't mind tending to her every fuss. So long as she doesn't start expecting ME to tend to her fusses then I'll let it be. You can have attachment and detached parents in the same family, lmao. And if you have more than one kid (we currently have 11) then you probably already know that it really depends on the kid anyways XD

nonmember avatar xenia

There are studies showing that it can have real psychological on kids, not all kids, some kids, and it really depends on their resiliance. Thing is, when they are babies, you don't know how resilient they are. Now, place your bets.

tyrel... tyrelsmom

I do not like the term "cry it out". It totally gives the wrong idea. I will give mine a couple of minutes (depending on age), to settle themselves down. It's worked for me so far. And for them, too. CIO gives the impression of just leaving them to scream until they conk out from exhaustion (NOT OK at all).

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