Maybe Not, But Science Says It's Dangerous

The controversial subject of letting babies cry it out has come to the forefront recently after Psychology Today blogged about the damaging, long-term effects of the practice. Some parents think this is a bunch of baloney, while others believe leaving a baby to cry is akin to abandonment. Read on and judge for yourself.

Crying it out

A recent blog post published by Psychology Today outlines the dangers of letting babies cry it out. The article dishes up a bevy of research that points toward psychological and even physical damage when babies are left to their own devices and has now gone viral, popping up on Facebook, message boards and blogs around the web.

The dangers

The author of the article, Dr. Darcia Narvaez, briefly goes over the origin of the cry-it-out movement, which began with a heightened awareness of germs in the late 1800s that led to the idea that babies should be handled as little as possible. It took off even more with behaviorist John Watson, in the 1920s, who thought too much mother's love would result in a "whiney, dependent, failed human being."

Dr. Narvaez goes on to cite research that has shown that babies left to cry alone in their cribs suffer from extreme distress and the practice creates longterm effects, such as impaired growth and an inability to trust. Disturbingly, the neurons in the brain also wither away.

The studies were unsurprisingly met with mixed feelings. Jolene, mother of three, said, "I believe the studies are real science. I parent by instinct. When my baby cries my instincts tell me she needs me. I don't let my babies cry it out." However, Jessica from Minnesota bluntly told us, "The article was a load of crap. I agreed with absolutely none of it."

Coming out of the CIO closet

Some blogs are weighing in on the debate, such as the popular mommy blog, Baby Rabies. Jill writes, "My one year old? She cries. Sometimes for long stretches. Sometimes while I lay in my bed, wide awake." Her post set off a series of comments from moms offering encouragement and support because they do (or did) the same.

Charlene, mother of two, used the cry-it-out method with her older daughter. "You don't just put them in their crib to cry all night," she explained. "You go back in there after a few minutes and you keep reassuring them that you are there. It teaches them how to put themselves back to sleep. People think it's terrible to let your child cry, [but] I think it's terrible to not teach your child how to put themselves to sleep."

Jessica agrees. "I don't agree with letting your babies cry it out, but you can't always meet their needs the second they need them," she said. "Letting them cry to go so sleep is meeting their needs! To coddle them and not teach them to sleep on their own is sad."


Crystal, mother of six, has experience helping her kids establish a routine without crying it out. "They're all great sleepers," she related. "Crying it out is archaic and absurd. It's selfish. It's unrealistic and unkind. Children can learn to sleep on their own in a peaceful and humane way." Rebecca from Oregon agrees. "Don't have kids if you're going to abandon them in your own home!" she said.

Amy from Nebraska puts a personal spin on the subject. "I'm thankful my hubby doesn't make me cry it out or sleep alone," she shared. "Why should we treat the children any different?" And Debbie, mom of one, stated, "Don't be lazy. Rock your kid to sleep, sing them songs, read to them."

While the controversy rages on, moms do agree that we all strive to act in our child's best interests. Crystal shared, "I believe parents who practice CIO are doing what they know, what those around them know, and possibly what their doctor advises. I believe they're doing their best but there are other ways."

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Tags: crying

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Comments on "Does letting your baby cry it out make you a bad parent?"

Beck May 05, 2013 | 5:03 PM

As a mummy of a newborn (11 weeks old) i'll tentatively put my 2 cents in - I cannot even imagine letting my bubba cry like that - the best advice on sleep I read/was given was to put bubs down AWAKE - sleepy but awake. I have never tried to train her to sleep or ignored her during the night yet she has for a full week been sleeping 9:30pm until 7:00am. Before that she started waking for only one feed at night. When shes tired during the day she will put herself to sleep when put in in her cot - if not she will carry on until I get her back up and that's ok with me - she needs awake time to learn things and when shes getting that amount of sleep at night a few hours sleep during the day is all she really needs. I'm her mum and that's my job - to take care of her needs - it wont be forever :-)

Joan August 18, 2012 | 11:29 AM

Lisa i totally agree. I have two boys and i would sit up until midnight or one oclock trying to rock them to sleep because if they are in my arms they wont go to sleep. If my youngest is screaming something is wrong but if he is crying he is crying wether he is in his crib or not because he is tired. The only way to get him to sleep because he is tired is put him in his crib where he will wind down. I will go in and comfort him but not pick him up. People are just so extreme with everything these days. We all grew up old school and we are fine. You can try to act like the perfect parent and do every little thing that is claimed to be perfect and your kid may still grow up with issues. You can not be the so called perfect parent and your child could grow up to be one amazing child. I do not think that letting your child cry a little is going to ruin them for life. we have much bigger issues to deal with as far as our children are concerned in this society today.

Susan August 14, 2012 | 5:48 PM

My baby will cry until she's sweaty and pukes if we're not more proactive. I wouldn't want to be left crying in a dark room by myself, so I don't expect my baby to either. I don't get the logic that babies will grow up expecting you to jump to their demands because you don't let them cry. That's like saying we should only feed them according to an adult schedule because otherwise they'll expect to eat every 3 hours. Or that we shouldn't change their diapers after they're dirtied because it will teach them they don't need self-control. Babies have immediate needs. It sounds like a lot of people here are in complete denial to that fact.

Chris DiNunno June 29, 2012 | 4:29 PM

My son Teddy was waking up every 2 to 3 hours and we were attending to him all night long, every night. We let him cry it out for about 15, maybe 20 minutes for a few nights in a row before bed time once he got to about 5 1/2 months, he now, and has since slept 8-9 hours through the night. He is more well rested and in a better mood throughout the day, and so are my Wife and I. If my baby getting a good nights sleep like a normal human being is bad, then consider me a bad parent, and me and my Wife and our baby are all very bad, very well rested, very happy people. Thank you!

Rolando June 28, 2012 | 5:11 AM

I bet you Debbie doesn't got a job and many others have been raise like this. Left in the crib and became more responsible and they we all became alright.

Donna May 17, 2012 | 4:33 PM

This whole thing is such a myth. Children will simply think they can get whatever they want if you give it to them after they bawl for only a second. You are NOT a bad parent at all for using the CIO method. IT WORKS! It is even better for the child at times because they'll get it all out and fall to sleep feeling weightless. EVERY BABY CRIES. I cringe at the parents that fall to their kid's command after a second of crying. No, I'm not a bad parent, and no, I don't insist torture for children, and no, the CIO treatment is NOT bad. People nowadays... Believing everything they hear. Phony Baloney.

Laurenn March 26, 2012 | 8:50 PM

Well my almost ten month old cries if I even look away from him LOL hes in love so sometimes during the day I'll let him holler for ten minutes hates the bouncer highchair etc. he doesnt evn want to be held but anyway you should have tried a warm bath and bottle aroubd 830 pm keeping the lights completely off at night and not playing with your baby just getting them into a pattern of falling back asleep at,night no playing! And daytime open the blinds and teach your lo the diffrrence might take a couple weeks but by 3 & a half months bray sleptpletely through the,night n still does : )

Charlotte March 06, 2012 | 10:45 AM

There is no kinda about allowing your child to cry for an hour or more it makes you a bad parent. If your baby doesn't sleep get someone to watch him or her 1 night a week, take turns with your husband. Or keep them busy during the day so they want to sleep at night. How many parents let their kids sleep all day so they don't have to bother with them. It is cruel and that person must not have bonded with their babies, because I would die if I heard my baby screaming for more than 5 minutes without taking care of his needs. Infact he doesn't even scream he is happy when he wakes he knows all he has to do is start babbling and I will be there to babble back. That is a mothers only job to make sure her baby is safe and happy, screaming means they do not feel safe or they need you. Hope you feel good about yourself ignoring a helpless baby.

Allison January 31, 2012 | 1:08 AM

" I believe they're doing their best but there are other ways." Please share what these other ways are. I've been dealing with a child who will not sleep at night for a year. A whole year. I've rocked her to sleep, nursed her to sleep. She still wakes and wants to be held. What else is there and how long does one endure this lack of sleep?!

Samantha January 23, 2012 | 4:32 PM

CIO is as bad as time outs. Teaching your child to cry to calm themselves to sleep is like telling them get up when they get hurt. Baby's cry because that is their form of communication. Imagine being in this world a whole 30 days after being inside your mothers womb and then dumped in a crib to cry yourself to sleep? Ok, for those a year old crying do you really believe that having someone their for you all day and then leaving you when you need comfort the most (night/sleep time) soothes them and really teaches them to sleep themselves ? Or perhaps does it teach them no one is really there for them?

Michelle January 16, 2012 | 10:16 AM

Letting a tiny baby cry? Does make you kind of a bad parent. What did you think babies did when you decided to have one? Crying is their only form of communication and they NEED their parents.

Jasmine January 13, 2012 | 11:43 PM

Agreed Lisa!

Lisa January 11, 2012 | 11:35 PM

This is such bologna. If it were dangerous all kids would be doomed they cry when they can't get a snack, they cry if a sibling takes their toy, they cry when they're poopy, cry when their dry- they cry. They are OK. I used the CIO for my daughter I'm a first time mom,. She cried for a solid hour. I kept telling her it's ok mommy is here and patting her but I NEVER picked her up- Next night 10 minutes of crying then passed right out. Every night since then...Peace! No one will ever make me believe it's dangerous that is ridiculous. What's dangerous is being exhausted and having a poor little baby so exhausted they just scream because they don't know what else to do.- It works.

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