Do you let your baby cry before you carry him or do you pick him up right away? Learn what experts have to say about the cry-it-out method here.
Along with spanking or no spanking, one of the issues or practices that most parents are torn between is the practice of letting a baby cry it out.
Some believe that letting a baby cry themselves to sleep is an inevitable step in sleep training, and babies should learn to soothe themselves, while others think that turning a blind eye (or a deaf ear, for that matter) to an infant’s cries is downright cruel and also harmful to them.
There are also contradicting studies that make a point for both sides.
But is there really anything good that comes with letting a baby cry it out?
title="Distinguishing Baby’s Cries
">Distinguishing Baby’s Cries
The Dangers of the Cry It Out Method
title="Cry It Out Method – What the Experts Think
">Cry It Out Method – What the Experts Think
Cry It Out Method
The cry it out (CIO) method, also known as controlled crying or graduated extinction method refers to a sleep training method wherein parents are instructed to leave their babies alone at sleep time.
They alternate between attending and not attending during crying spells, just let your baby cry it out at increasingly longer intervals.
There are different versions of the CIO method, but its theory is basically the same – babies must learn to soothe themselves so that they can learn to sleep on their own, without being held by their parent or caregiver.
Cry It Out Method – How Long Is Too Long?
Different CIO methods vary. Some experts think that it’s okay to let the baby cry for five minutes and then check on him, and then increase the interval between letting a baby cry it out and attending to him.
For example, on the first night, you can go in after hearing baby cry for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 12 minutes. The following day, you can check on the baby after 10 minutes, 15 minutes and 17 minutes.
Nicole Johnson, sleep expert and author of the popular blog the Baby Sleep Site, that parents need to decide together what’s “too long.” Instead of waiting for what feels “too long” at the moment, try to work out the details ahead of time.
But in line with this, you also have to be aware of situations where a baby’s long spells of crying may literally be a cry for help and you need to attend to him immediately.
Image source: iStock
Is the Cry It Out Method Harmful?
Can babies die from crying too long?
While it may seem very unsettling for parents to hear their babies’ cries and not pick them up, the latest CIO studies reveal that contrary to previous beliefs, leaving babies to cry does no harm.
“Assuming there are no medical issues, there is no harm in a baby’s excessive crying,” said Dr Ty Bristol, MPH, a pediatrician at UNC Health Care.
“They may get a hoarse voice, but they will eventually get tired and stop crying. Your baby may also get a little gassy from swallowing air while crying, but that’s okay,” he added.
Again, the operative word there is that there shouldn’t be any known medical issues. So if you think that your baby is extra fussy or not feeling well, you might want to hold off on the sleep training.
“If your baby’s crying is accompanied by fever, vomiting or diarrhea, or you feel like they might be injured, you should bring them to see a doctor,” said Dr. Bristol.
And should you decide to try the cry-it-out method, make sure that your baby is in a safe and secure environment, away from any possible harm or accidents.
Image source: iStock
Distinguishing Baby’s Cries
As you spend more time caring for your baby, you will be able to notice the different types of cries they have and decipher which is which. For instance, a baby’s cry for a wet diaper will be completely different from a cry that expresses how hungry they are.
Take the time to listen to each one of your baby’s cries, then find out what is wrong with them. Once you have let your baby cry a few times, you will recognise what message they are trying to convey.
When you have a newborn, it would be best to respond promptly during her first few months. Take note, you cannot spoil a young baby with attention, and if you answer her calls for help, she’ll cry less overall.
To do that efficiently, try to meet her most pressing need first. If she’s feeling cold, warm her up. If her diaper is wet, change it. And if she’s hungry, feed her. If she’s still crying, there may be something that’s making her uncomfortable, o maybe she’s sleepy.
If she’s showing signs of tiredness, it’s up to you if you will let your baby cry it out, or you will try a gentler way to put her to sleep such as changing the ambience and putting her to bed when she’s sleepy, not asleep.
The Dangers of the Cry It Out Method
While some parents and parenting experts believe that CIO is a challenging but necessary step in sleep training, other people and medical experts still think otherwise. For them, there are far too grave risks in letting your child cry himself to sleep.
For one, some studies say that letting babies cry it out causes brain damage.
Dr. Margot Sunderland, the Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health in London confirms this theory.
“I would be very surprised if any parent continued to use ‘cry it out’ if they knew the full extent of what’s happening to their infant’s brain. The infant’s brain is so vulnerable to stress. After birth, it’s not yet finished!
In the first year of life, cells are still moving to where they need to be. This a process known as migration, and it’s hugely influenced by uncomforted stress,” she pointed out.
Moreover, the level of stress caused to the baby’s brain by prolonged uncomforted distressed crying is so toxic, that it can result in:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated cerebral pressure
- Erratic fluctuations of heart rate, breathing, temperature
- Suppressed immune and digestive systems
- Suppressed growth hormone
- Extreme pressure on the heart, resulting in tachycardia
Professor Helen Ball, Head of the Anthropology Department, as well as the Director of Parent-Infant Sleep Lab at Durham University thinks that the cry-it-out method disrupts the natural instinct of mothers and their children.
“Crying is the infant’s only means of attracting their mother’s (carer’s) attention once separated, in order to ensure their own survival,” she explained.
“Responding to their infant’s cry is an instinctive behavior of human mothers. To resist the urge to approach her crying infant is emotionally and physiologically stressful for mothers. Leaving an infant to cry is therefore evolutionarily inappropriate and biologically detrimental to both mother and baby,” she added.
Finally, Tracy Cassels, a clinical psychologist believes that responsiveness is key in parenting. And the cry-it-out method, which urges parents to forego or delay their response to a crying baby may not be a good idea.
“Responding to our children is paramount in building a sense of security and later independence for our children,” she said.
“Parents also need to know that there are gentle methods to help guide our children’s sleep when changes are necessary, and, even more importantly, that most of the severe ‘sleep problems’ that children display are actually not sleep-related at all, but reflect feeding or underlying health problems.
When we ignore these facts, we are unable to truly help our children — and hopefully, that is the actual goal of all parents,” she said.
Image source: iStock
Cry It Out Method – What the Experts Think
Although there is nothing set in stone on this debate, there are some strong cases that support both sides. There have been a significant amount of studies done that show letting your baby cry can cause emotional damage.
Please keep in mind that these are theories, but all experts agree that you should not let your baby cry for long periods of time. These blood-curdling cries have been known to lead to throat problems for many babies.
“We neither recommend leaving an infant to cry out nor responding immediately,” said researchers from the University of Warwick.
Professor Dieter Wolke said the findings suggested parents intuitively know how best to respond to their infant, and both they and the child adapt over time.
“Crying is ‘the only way of communication of a baby, for example for feeding, safety and things,’” he said.
“So caregivers ‘should react to the crying, and automatically we do this. Letting the baby cry for a few minutes may be helpful though, particularly if it is not feeding time. Then they can learn how to self-soothe themselves,” he said.
Whether to let your baby cry it out or not is really a parents’ choice, within reason. Letting a baby cry sometimes can also be good for them physically. It allows them to exercise their lungs and clear things out.
But you should always make sure that your baby does not need anything before doing this. Check them when they start to cry to make sure they are not wet, hungry, too hot, or too cold, if all of these are taken care of, then your baby will be fine.
Updates from theAsianparent Philippines.
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