Friday, December 9, 2011

So, are you sure you want to do "cry it out"?

I wrote this post because I wanted to share my perspective on crying it out. As a student of Psychology and Neuroscience, a Life Coach, a supporter of Attachment Parenting, but most importantly as a Mama...this is what I want to share with you about this topic...

When you were pregnant...

You didn't eat sushi
You didn't smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke
You avoided sliced deli meat
And you even suffered through that darn allergic reaction to your Aunt's cat, just because you didn't want to take an allergy pill.


Because you wanted your little fetus to thrive.
Because you didn't want to risk exposing your baby to harmful didn't want to risk negatively affecting your baby's health and development...even if that risk was close to zero. After all it's your beautiful baby.

Now that your baby is born {Yay! Did you ever imagine you would be so in love!?}...

You don't smoke or expose your baby to second-hand smoke...
You make sure soothers and bottles and anything else that might end up in baby's mouth is clean...
You make sure your baby is properly fed, warm and comfy...
You talk, sing and read to your baby...
You make sure your baby gets lots of kisses, cuddles and toe-tickling-raspberries...
And you made sure all sharp and dangerous objects are out of reach...


Because you want your baby to thrive.
Because you want your baby to develop and grow and be happy and healthy. You wouldn't dream of doing anything to negatively affect your sweet baby, would you?

Then why are you letting your baby "cry it out"?


Did you investigate this method thoroughly before you decided to go ahead? Did you consider what, if any, effects this could have on your baby...and on you? Did you consider this decision through your baby's eyes? Did you know that exposure to stress affects an infant's brain development?

And what causes a baby stress?

Well I can tell you one thing that does: being left alone to "cry it out".


Because a baby feels scared, abandoned, tired, and that their needs are not being met. This would be stressful to any adult, let alone a new little human who can't speak or be reasoned with.

But it's only a few minutes you say?

Well those few minutes add up.

And be careful. Don't be fooled into thinking that this is a one-time deal. If you do "cry it out", you are encouraged to "keep at it" "not give in"...

And just when you think it's over and you will all be sleeping well...your baby gets a cold, or starts teething or goes through a growth spurt--and it all goes out the window--and you have to start from square one.

But it's worth it if it makes them be a good sleeper you say?

Oh really, is it? For who?

For you? I don't think so. You feel awful, listening to your baby cry and cry and ignoring the urge to go in there and scoop them up. Eventually, you just can't bear it, so you turn off the monitor. Sometimes, you even turn on music. Ouch. That's got to leave a mark. A deep, parenting-guilt mark. It sure did for me...with my first baby, when I was a novice mama, who thought I had to do it. And I only did it once. And I sat there right outside the door, trying not to cry myself. After four {long} minutes I caved. I just didn't have the stomach for it. And I know deep down neither do you...and this totally doesn't mean you loose points. Ignoring your baby's cry for a prolonged amount of time has got to also affect you. Perhaps this will affect the way you bond with your baby. Perhaps it will make you less responsive to your baby in the future. Perhaps this will mean that the way you discipline and interact with your child as they grow will be tainted with that slight, seemingly invisible mark. Perhaps.

Is it worth it for your baby? Definitely not. Any amount of stress, especially prolonged, is damaging. We know stress is damaging for adults. Doesn't your doctor always tell you to reduce stress. So why wouldn't it be damaging to a baby? Well it is. It's damaging to your little baby's developing brain. Why? Because it's so amazingly busy making all those intricate and important neural pathways that will be the groundwork--the foundation-- for all future learning, behaviour, likes and dislikes...all the things that will make the future little kid and adult your baby will be one day. Stress affects that. Is it worth to mess with something so fundamental? Even if it was a minimal effect, would it be worth it? And even if we ignore the potential brain-damaging effects, what about the way your baby will feel about it's caregivers? What will the baby who is left alone to cry it out to sleep learn about those that are supposed to be meeting their most basic needs? What will that do to the bond and relationship between baby and mama {papa, perhaps}? At the very least, it will make baby confused...perhaps apprehensive...definitely cranky and clingy.

But they say crying it out isn't harmful you say? That there is no real evidence that it's bad?

Who's they?

Is it the wolf-in-sheep-skin author of that book you just read?

Is it your pediatrician who went to medschool and residency to learn about how to make sick kids better, and who probably knows little-to-nothing about actually raising kiddos? Or if he or she does have kids, perhaps they did cry it out and know of no other ways to get babies to sleep, so that's all they've got?

Trust me, the advice to do "cry it out" is not some amazing, remarkable or even groundbreaking medical discovery. Though the proponents of this method would sure like you to believe it is.

You are the mother. You know your baby best.

If you tell me your deep-age-old-mama-wisdom tells you it's OK to let your baby "cry it out", then I will say no more.

But I doubt it will.

You may think that voice in your head telling you to sleep train your baby is yours--your instinct...your mama wisdom. But I'm willing to bet good money that it it's not. It's society's voice. It's that "expert" who you read about. It's your mom or mother in law or a well-meaning parent at the playground. And the voice in their head is not their inner wisdom voice either.

Because who actually wants to leave an innocent, little baby to cry unattended? The whole design of crying is to make caregivers want to pick the crying baby up!!! It totally goes against mother-nature's wisdom.

And as for the argument that some babies need to be left to cry because it's the only way they will go to sleep...well that might be the case for some {few} babies. But those babies probably don't actually cry. They may fuss for all of 15 seconds. And if that's what they need, they need not do it alone. They can cry to relieve their stress in the arms of a caring parent or caregiver. After all, doesn't the expression go: "a shoulder to cry on"? We humans are extremely social beings and so we need the support of others in good times and not-so-good times. When was the last time you wanted to be alone when you had something to celebrate or you received some bad news?

Just because some babies respond well to falling asleep on their own {and who may fuss or slightly cry for a very short amount of time}, should we be made to believe that all babies should be or can be that way? And that minutes and minutes of crying are the same {or no worse} than fussing for a short amount of time?


Heck, babies have personalities to and they respond to and like different things. But darn, it would be nice for us exhausted parents if all babies just slept great and with minimal effort from day one!

But the reality is that most babies aren't even developmentally ready to fall asleep on their own, let alone sleep through the night, until they are much older. What does "developmentally ready" mean? It means that their brain isn't quite ready to allow for this function to happen naturally and at the normal time it should for that particular baby.

So don't worry if your baby needs your help to fall asleep at 3 months or {gasp} even at 10 months..or whatever age. It's OK. This also doesn't mean that you can't help your baby start to like sleeping, to fall asleep easily on their own, or to associate sleep with good-happy feelings {yes baby! bedtime is gooood!}. I promise your baby will one day sleep through the night and you will remember these tiring days with a fondness you wouldn't think would be there. But if you want to encourage things along, there are ways to do this without all the heart-wrenching and tears, without splintering the bond between mama and babe...and without potentially damaging that amazing little growing brain.

Cause all we want for our babies is for them to thrive...right?

I promise there are ways. So just look for them in a book {ha, it rhymes!} that uses gentle, bond-enhancing ways to get little ones to sleep. All you have to do is open your heart. And don't be afraid to seek out and ask like-minded parents about them. We are out there and we are more than willing to share what worked for us.

But most importantly, hold your little one close. And never believe that by holding your baby close you are doing any harm. Because all too soon, you will have to let go. Because all too soon your little one will be no more--so hold on to your little one because the big kid {and adult} your baby will turn out to be is in the making in the here and now.


  1. I loved this post. I was going to write a post about CIO and now I won't because after reading this well written piece I feel I could never do it justice like you just did. Thank you!

  2. Thank You Nadia!

    It spilled out from the heart, and I find those are where some of my best ideas and writing come from :-)

  3. The thought of CIO makes ME want to cry. :) Thank you for this.



Thanks for letting me know you stopped by!