Is the “Cry it Out” Method Healthy or Unhealthy for Babies?

cry it out, attachment parenting, crying, baby crying, shaken baby syndrome, abusive head trauma, baby tears, colic, crying babies, frustrated parents, co-sleeping

Crying babies… all parents have been there and all parents have their own ways of dealing with the sometimes seemingly ongoing onslaught of tears and wailing. Still, as a parent, you may be wondering if there is one right way to deal with baby crying. What do the experts say about baby tears and is ‘crying it out‘ really a useful method, especially if you’ve tried everything else? This was a recent topic of discussion posted on Shine, and if the 3,000+ comments are any indication, this is a topic near and dear to most parents.

Do you believe in letting babies cry it out?

  • 191 Votes Nope - if my baby cries I try to attend to his needs most of the time.
  • 31 Votes Yes - going to a baby every time he cries just spoils him.
  • 69 Votes Sometimes.

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cry it out, attachment parenting, crying, baby crying, shaken baby syndrome, abusive head trauma, baby tears, colic, crying babies, frustrated parents, co-sleeping

Image by Shune via sxc.

What the Experts Say

Crying it out has long been a debate among parents (or maybe between parents and babies), but babies win this debate, as most studies show that crying it out is not all it’s cracked up to be. A brand new article at Psychology Today, points to many studies that show ignoring a baby when he cries is harmful both for the short and long-term. These studies show that allowing a baby to cry it out may result in:

  • Babies who are less independent.
  • Children who are more detached from their parents and others.
  • Neuron destruction due to unmet needs and thus, a super-stressed baby.
  • Children with higher incidence of ADHD, poor academic performance and anti-social tendencies.

The Psychology Today piece also points out that when parents program themselves to ignore baby crying they’re also programming themselves to ignore other subtle behavioral clues a child emits, thus becoming a less valuable parent in general. One study, presented at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting featured research showing that the number one most important influence on a baby’s intellectual development is ability of a mother to respond properly to her baby’s cues. Lastly, research has found that parents, mamas in particular, who can deal with crying are healthier and more well-adjusted. In fact, this research showed that many mamas experience a natural high when they hear their baby cry. It sounds weird, but according Dr. Lane Strathearn, a PhD candidate at University of Queensland, “For mothers with a secure attachment, we found that both happy and sad infant faces produced a reward signal in their brain, or a ‘natural high’… However, mothers with an insecure attachment pattern didn’t show the same brain response … their own infant’s crying face activated the insula, a brain region associated with unfairness, pain or disgust.

All-in-all what the Strathearn study, among other studies, shows us is that it’s healthy and normal for parents to be okay with a baby crying and to deal with it. To turn that around, there’s likely an actual bonding problem going on if you can’t deal with your baby’s crying most of the time and it may be time to speak with your doctor.

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