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Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry

Among parents of infants these days, there is constant debate about how to respond to a baby’s cries. On one hand, there are proponents of the “cry it out” method, where the baby is left alone to cry in the hopes that he or she will eventually stop. On the other hand, there are the “attachment parents” who respond immediately to their crying babies and attempt to soothe them using various methods including holding and cuddling. While the cry-it-out method (CIO) has been popular in previous years, attachment parenting (AP) is gaining a foothold among new parents today. Results of studies in psychology indicate the AP approach to crying is most likely to result in an emotionally and physically healthy child.

Attachment theory originated in the late 1960s when psychologist John Bowlby postulated that a warm, intimate relationship between caregiver and infant is necessary for optimal health as well as for basic survival. As such, each individual is born well-equipped with reflexes and instincts for interacting with their primary caregiver, which is often times the mother. For example, infants quickly learn to recognize and prefer both their mother’s voice and smell. As babies develop some locomotor control they display their desire to be close to their caregivers by reaching toward their mother or father to be picked up or by crawling toward them. From an evolutionary perspective, these behaviours have survival value. Babies who lack such attachment behaviours will stray from their caregivers and are more likely to get lost, attacked, and perish. An infant’s cry is also intended to increase the likelihood of its survival, as a mother’s instinct is usually to go to her child at the first sign of distress.

We live in an age where we can know that the baby is safe in another room, despite the loudness of his cries. Does this mean we should leave babies to cry on their own? CIO proponents often advise that babies left to cry will eventually stop, and the duration of future crying bouts will decrease. What are the emotional consequences of crying for the infant when she is left unattended? Bowlby and colleagues initiated a series of studies where children between the ages of one and two who had good relationships with their mothers were separated from them and left to cry it out. Results showed a predictable sequence of behaviours: The first phase, labeled “protest”, consists of loud crying and extreme restlessness. The second phase, labeled “despair”, consists of monotonous crying, inactivity, and steady withdrawal. The third phase, labeled “detachment”, consists of a renewed interest in surroundings, albeit a remote, distant kind of interest. Thus, it appears that while leaving babies to cry it out can lead to the eventual dissipation of those cries, it also appears that this occurs due to the gradual development of apathy in the child. The child stops crying because she learns that she can no longer hope for the caregiver to provide comfort, not because her distress has been alleviated.

Do babies cry more when they are attended to? A 1986 study concluded just the opposite: the more a mother holds and carries her baby, the less the baby will cry and fuss. Cross-cultural studies also show that parents in non-Western societies are quicker than parents in Western societies to respond to their crying babies, and babies in non-Western societies cry for shorter spans of time. Caregivers in 78% of the world’s cultures respond quickly to an infant’s cries. For instance, Efe caregivers in Africa respond to a baby’s cries within ten seconds at least 85% of the time when the baby is between three and seven weeks, and 75% of the time when the baby is seventeen weeks. !Kung caregivers respond within ten seconds over 90% of the time during the baby’s first three months, and over 80% of the time at one year. In contrast, American and Dutch caregivers have been found to be deliberately unresponsive to an infant’s cries almost 50% of the time during the baby’s first three months. Infants in non-Western societies have been found to fuss just as frequently as those in Western societies, but due to the prompt response of caregivers in non-Western societies, the overall cumulative duration of crying is less than what occurs in Western societies.

According to attachment theory, many babies are born without the ability to self-regulate emotions. That is, they find the world to be confusing and disorganized, but do not have the coping abilities required to soothe themselves. Thus, during times of distress, they seek out their caregivers because the physical closeness of the caregiver helps to soothe the infant and to re-establish equilibrium. When the caregiver is consistently responsive and sensitive, the child gradually learns and believes that she is worthy of love, and that other people can be trusted to provide it. She learns that the caregiver is a secure base from which she can explore the world, and if she encounters adversity she can return to her base for support and comfort. This trust in the caregiver results in what is known as a secure individual.

Children who do not have consistently responsive and sensitive caregivers often develop into insecure individuals, characterized by anxious, avoidant, and/or ambivalent interactions. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals, compared to insecure individuals, are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals tend to be comfortable depending on others, readily develop close attachments, and trust their partners. Insecure individuals, on the other hand, tend to be unsettled in their relationships, displaying anxiety (manifesting as possessiveness, jealousy, and clinginess) or avoidance (manifesting as mistrust and a reluctance to depend on others). North American parenting practices, including CIO, are often influenced by fears that children will grow up too dependent. However, an abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships.

It has been suggested in the past that CIO is healthy for infants’ physical development, particularly the lungs. A recent study looking at the immediate and long-term physiologic consequences of infant crying suggests otherwise. The following changes due to infant crying have been documented: increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced oxygen level, elevated cerebral blood pressure, depleted energy reserves and oxygen, interrupted mother-infant interaction, brain injury, and cardiac dysfunction. The study’s researchers suggested that caregivers should answer infant cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively, recommendations which are in line with AP principles.

CIO supporters tend to view their infants’ cries as attempts to manipulate caregivers into providing more attention. Holding this view can be detrimental to the immediate and long-term health of the baby. In the field of cognitive psychology there exists the premise that our thoughts underlie our behaviour. Thus, if we think positively about an individual, our behaviours toward them tend to be positive as well. Conversely, if we think negatively about an individual, we will behave correspondingly. Consider people in your own life whom you consider manipulative – how does that perception influence your behaviour toward them? It is unlikely that the interpretation of a manipulative personality will result in the compassionate, empathetic, and loving care of that individual. Infants, quite helpless without the aid of their caregivers, may suffer both emotional and physical consequences of this type of attitude.

When faced with a crying baby, it may be prudent to ask yourself the following questions: Why am I choosing this response? Do I want my baby to stop crying because he feels comforted and safe, or do I want my baby to stop crying for the sake of stopping crying? What is my baby learning about me and the world when I respond in this manner? If I were a baby and was upset, how would I want my caregivers to respond?


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Craig, G., Kermis, M., & Digdon, N. (1998). Children Today. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall.

Dacey, J. & Travers, J. (1996). Human Development Across The Lifespan (4th Ed). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

DeCasper, A., & Fifer, W. (1980). Of human bonding: Newborns prefer their mothers’ voices. Science, 208: 1174-76.

Gleitman, H. (1996). Basic Psychology (4th Ed). New York: W.W. Norton.

Hunziker, U. & Barr, R. (1986). Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 77(5): 641-8.

Luddington, Hoe, S. Cong, X., & Hashemi, F. (2002). Infant crying: Nature, physiologic consequences, and select interventions. Neonatal Network, 21(2): 29-36.

Macfarlane, A. (1975). Olfaction in the development of social preferences in the human neonate. Parent-Infant Interaction. Amsterdam: CIBA Foundation Symposium.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. (2001). Attachment theory and intergroup bias: evidence that priming the secure base schema attenuates negative reactions to out-groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1): 97-115.

Miller, R. (2000). Dysfunctional relationships. In R. Kowalski & M. Leary (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Interfaces of Social and Clinical Psychology. Washington, DC: APA.

Waters, E., Wippman, J., & Sroufe, L. (1979). Attachment, positive affect, and competence in the peer group: Two studies in construct validation. Child Development, 50: 821-829.


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I'm a mother to an eight month old girl. She is my first child. I haven't had much experience with minding children before I had her, but thankfully it all came naturally to me.
I have to be honest and say that I find the Cry it out technique absolutely disgusting!! I cannot understand why people would do that, I am nearly in tears just thinking about all those poor babies crying and no one coming to comfort them. It makes me so sad. Don't they realise that crying is a baby and toddler's way of communicating. My first instinct when my daughter cries is "What's wrong with her, is she ok?" and I pick her up and cuddle her and kiss her. A parent knows their childrens cries, not all cries are the same.
It can be said though that some toddlers do cry for attention but if they got the proper kind of attention for doing positive things then they wouldn't have to look for it by crying.
My partner has often said to me that his mother has said that crying is good for our daughters lungs but I have always refused to believe it, my response has been "How can her crying, growing agitated and anxious be good for her lungs?"
My mother always comforted me when I needed it, and I have to say that I am a lot more secure in life than my partner. I am 22 now, and we still have a very close relationship. It hurts me to say that when we first got together my was insecure and he said that he always has been insecure, and I think it has stemmed from lack of affection from his mother, because he has said in the past that she wasn't very affectionate growing up. Plus, given the fact that she has said in the past that crying will strengthen our daughters lungs just proves my point.
My first instinct with my daughter is to nurture and protect. I would never ever leave her to cry, and I think that is why she is growing up to be such a happy and contented child. I have had so many people say to me how they cannot believe how quiet she is and how happy she is. She rarely cries, only if there is something wrong and she is always smiling. Sometimes she even gets a fit of the giggles, which is so cute!
Finally, if there are any parents out there who practice the CIO technique, please don't, just think of your child, put yourself in there shoes.

I was a child of the CIO method. PPPLLLeasse dont do that to your kids. I can't say it enough. I understand every word of this article...the negative affects. They are real and lasting.

I also was a infant of the CIO method. I am lucky that my maternal instincts could not allow me to leave my babies crying. In fact the sound of a crying child only reminds me of a very frightening place, loneliness and heartache. My mother broke my heart leaving me to cry I believe almost to death. I have a bad relationship with her, I am so angry with her. This method of parenting is almost criminal. Because the pain of rejection lasts forever and causes such inner confusion.

I guess I agree with the article - but I have a nine month old and he doesnt sleep through the night. Wakes up about 4 times a night , and trust me he is not hungry wet or teething. He just needs to be held- its very frustrating b/c i work and with out sleep I'm a pretty mean person lol!!! I am tore apart by ppl who tell me CIO is the way to go but my motherly instincts do not allow me to leave my child crying for hours. But I do believe that babies need to learn to self-soothe. But its so confusing when u read articles like this one with references and great info and then I search for CIO methods and I can find a just as good article with references on why CIO is good and instills good sleeping habits. Anyway I can't - I can't let him CIO. He is only a baby once if he needs me, I'll b there for him.

I have been insecure and anxious my whole life. As a child, I can't ever remember being either as a whole: happy or sad. As most of you, I'm sure... I can't remember being an infant, so I am not sure if I was a CIO child. But I know now, being a mother... I do NOT want my daughter growing up with the same fears that have been instilled within me. I do not want her being afraid of people, places and social situations.

My 9 month old daughter is such a happy girl. She only cries when she is teething. And if she cries otherwise.. I am right there by her side. If she is crying, it's for a reason. I will never ignore her cries!!

I agree with a previous poster when they said that the CIO method should be criminal! It's horrible.

Consider the term "self soothe" In otherwords, self comforting. When you need to be comforted do you do it yourself? I hope not. We need eachother in this world. Poeple need people! Friends and close relationships are partly for comfort and encouragement but our culture is all about independance and isolation. The community lifestyle is rare here which is sad. I dont believe in comforting yourself. It is a rediculous concept if you think about it. Maybe there is a link there to things like comfort foods
and shoppping addictions.

I think "self soothing" is very important. It's the ability to be secure and independent. To be emotionally stable regardless of the turmoil around you. Depending on others of your emotional well being sounds much closer to an addiction, needing to be comforted and praised and always measuring yourself in the eyes of others.
While I don't like CIO, I'm still looking for evidence that AP leads to children that are secure in their own person and not just children who are always dependent on their parents for their emotional well being.

I am coming from 2 perspectives, having raised 2 children and now working in foster care and studying attachment issues. I responded to my children when they cried, always. They slept in our bed, I didn't use strollers, I held them a great deal and was a stay at home mom. My children are now 16 and 20 and both are extremely independent. They want to travel and see the world and are not afraid of anything. Both have strong leadership skills as well. In my work, I see the negative effects of not responding to the needs of babies. Most in otherwise healthy homes won't have attachment disorders, but brain scans show how insecure attachment negatively affects brain development. A child needs to learn to trust their caregiver the first year of life, not self soothe, Think of the images of children self soothing in orphanages! Not a pretty sight.If they can learn to trust, then they learn to obey and follow, then to lead. If they learn to self soothe, they learn to trust themselves and want to be in control because being in control is then the only way they know to be safe. Study attachment to become convinced. I am so glad I followed my instincts and not popular opinion. Follow your mother's heart!! It is right!

I Think this is a great and well thought out answer. Thank you.

Loved your reply and came in the exact right time when I needed it! Thank you. Plus if I just hear my heart I KNOW what you stated it exactly the truth, as I myself have been raised a pretty secure child, not coz i was left to self soothe but more coz I was allowed to trust my closest people. And to whoever says we need to be so independent that we don't even require our closed ones, then we are waving paths to a narcissist! Thanks again for letting me hear my own inner voice...

It is ridiculous to no be able to self comfort. Do you still sleep with your parents? Do you continue crying uncontrollably after you cut your finger until someone holds you? Do you see a sad movie and cannot go on with your life for weeks? That's what inability to self soothe does.

No one is saying self soothing is not important but rather that self soothing can be learned *later* after the child, who has no life experience yet, has learned that he/she can trust and receive love and care. In the earliest stage of life the only verbal communication from the child is through crying, the child doesn't even understand what the parent is saying yet. Clear communication is limited and a parent not responding is sending a certain message: I'm not important to my parent, I can't trust my parent, I can't get what I need from my parent, I'm alone, I'm scared, I have no one as an advocate. There will be plenty of time later in life to learn self soothing. Perhaps the best time to learn self soothing is later on, after it can be explained to the child and the child can understand. Then the child can begin to use the mental and emotional tools the parents are giving him/her to self sooth.

Really well said ... :-)

For Patty, I realize her baby is much older now, but I imagine others might be reading this now and wonder "If I don't let my baby CIO, then what DOOO I do?" There is a fabulous book by Elizabeth Pantley called "The No Cry Sleep Solution" that I highly recommend. It has MANY options to try to help your child enjoy sleep including predictable soothing bedtime routines, avoiding overtiredness, falling asleep without the breast in baby's mouth, etc. In addition, there are excellent books for working moms including "Working Mother Nursing Mother", if you also happen to breastfeed. Sometimes if a parent works, the children still have such an unmet daily need for them, that safely co-sleeping with them can help to meet their physical affection needs while you sleep. Co-sleeping has gotten such a bad rep, but recent research from Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett from the Univ of New Hampshire shows that mosts parents do it anyway, and because docs/western culture says "don't do it!" no one is learning the safe way to do it. Check into safe co-sleeping... it might mean a world of difference as you juggle working with parenting! Sweet dreams to you and your little ones!

This is a great book, but does not work for all babies. I have been committed to the techniques in this book for 2 months and I have got know where. I believe CIO is a last resort, but I believe their is nothing wrong w/parents who let their babies CIO.

The no cry solution did not work for us. We actually used CIO (gasp!!). I don't believe any of the stuff in this article. I'll dig further into the actually research she quoted and see if any of it is related to this topic.
No cry solution may work for some, but it was a waste of money even buying that book for me.

I was sooooo against CIO. We held our son and tended to him at first cry. But my son at 9 months old would wake up many times a night. We would rock him, put him in bed with us, it was taking a toll on both my husband and I. I am a full time working mom, my husband is working part time and is a full time MFT student. We had an overly tired baby and parents. Finally someone told me, “What would be more traumatizing for your child, Parents who have used up all their resources and now not as attuned to their child or having your son CIO GRADUALLY and see what happens.”

I know there are methods out there in regards to minutes of crying and not rocking your baby, blah blah blah. But my husband and I thought about our child’s temperament and the fact he has been use to us soothing him practically all night long.

We decided to keep our bedtime routine ending inn the rocking chair with a bottle. We rocked him until he was falling asleep, NOT COMPLETELY asleep as before. We put him down in the crib. He was surprise at first and started crying but we gently and confidently told him its ok, it’s night night time. Gave him a kiss and closed the door.

Two minutes of crying. Went back inside. He was standing on his crib so we picked him up and gently put him back down while repeating the same soothing words. Left the room.

Three minutes of crying. Did step two again.

This time we decided to wait 5 minutes.

He was asleep for the WHOLE NIGHT before the 5 minutes were up. The next morning he woke up happy and even took LONG NAPS.

Our son had the ability to sooth himself. We just never gave him the chance to show us. He is a confident happy baby.

I personally would never let a baby 6 months or younger CIO but you know your baby more than anyone. My suggestion is, if you have the opportunity to sooth your baby as much as he needs it by all means do it. But unfortunately because of today’s times there are many working moms and dads who can’t do it all.

I think people take CIO as put your baby in a dark room all by himself and close the door until he passes out in exhaustion and despair. Truth is, you can make the CIO method ADAPT to your child. We never ABANDONED our baby; we just helped him through in one of the many life transitions to come, sleeping through the night.

i agree completely with how you've demonstrated the ONLY way CIO should be utilized.
any other way IS criminal. i was in the same position as you. my daughter was 9 months old too and just wanted me to soothe her all night long. this is different from a newborn not understanding anything and needing loving care. my 9 month old KNEW i loved her i showed her everyday all day long and then would spend 2 hours putting her down, clean, with a full tummy and having had a full day--only to have her wake up 15 minutes later realizing she wasn't in my arms. i would repeat the same process of getting her down to sleep and she would repeat waking up until it was time for ME to go to bed and by then i was tired AND frustrated AND had gotten no personal time/down time.
not only that, most nights she would continue to wake up and cry until i held her.

finally, i realized this was not healthy for mom or baby, and i began to do what you did. i stayed right outside her room and she knew i was there and that i loved her and that it was okay to be in her bed, falling asleep on her own. now she is 3 and is healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted and happy. there is nothing wrong with showing your baby what he/she is capable of. has anyone ever thought that the child may not yet understand that he/she is now old enough to do this or that on their own?

there is a stark difference between this type of parenting and simply leaving leaving your child alone with the door shut in a dark room, before they're ready and there is NO reason whatsoever to help your child learn this in a harsh or sudden manner.
i'm sorry, but the CIO method is NOT all or nothing. there is a way to do it and a way to not do it.

You probably won't read this seeing the date you posted this, but I did literally the EXACT same thing with my son! I had the same problem. I tended to his cries INSTANTLY from birth hoping for this trust and comfort he was supposed to get. Instead, it was the opposite. He was crying more and more. He wanted to be held all the time and seemed extremely insecure with anyone else.

My issue with the notion that you need to tend to the baby's needs is that the baby isn't always crying for a need and you can't always alleviate a problem for the baby...for example, teething will bother the baby even if you are trying to help. And I was exhausted finding that the idea that he would cry less and less not being true for us at all. He was crying more and more.

When I did things this way, my son also started sleeping through the night and taking nice longs naps during the day. He'd wake up cooing and babbling instead of crying and greet me with a big smile. He started exploring his world more. And I saw a MUCH more well rested, contented, and well-adjusted baby than before.

Hi there - I am against CIO, but this is a variation of taking care of both mom and baby' needs. There is no reason that parents s/b totally exhausted. You did a gentle sleep method. There are no studies that show that babies who are gently taught to sleep are less securely attached than babies who sleep with their parents, I dont believe they have been done, There are only five long term studies that study attachment. Good safe parenting comes in a range.

Most important advice I give new parents: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!!! Everything and anything else is merely a suggestion.

Im a mother of six. I breastfed and slept with all my infants and never left them to cry on their own. Does your baby sleep in your room. This will only work if you are willing to do it. You can put a cot right next to your bed at around the same height.
At nine months there are ways that you can teach your baby to sleep longer. It is ok for babies to prefer being held, why wouldn't they ? and your baby has had nine months of this so far. We cant expect a baby to change just because it's convenient for us.
What you need to do is stay attached through the process of your baby getting used to new sleeping habits. The mistake people make is to abandon their baby to cope on its own and hope they'll get the message that they're not going to get responded to. Teaching your baby to sleep will be tiring. Does your baby sleep with you in your bed or in a cot near your bed? If you lean over and pat your baby and speak soothingly to him it is not abandonment. You will have to do it every time he wakes for a while. It will take time because it's not what hes used to but if you need to sleep because of work then this is the most compassionate way to do it and there is no abandonment involved. Your baby will still feel loved because you are right there with him. If he cries persistently because it's different to what he prefers and he is used to being cradled by you then you'll have to hang in there for a bit and just keep doing it. The time will come when he will go back to sleep just by hearing your voice soothing him.

If you r not already... have you considered bed-sharing...I cannot understand the point of putting a baby or toddler in a cage, particularly in a different room at night, only to then have to get up in the middle of the night to take care of said child. Our now 16 month old has slept with us every night of his life since birth... Wet/Dirty Bum? Diapering supplies are kept within reach of the bed (or on the bed if big enough). Hungry? Pull LO closer for some middle of the night breastfeeding... If bottle feeding , Suggest buying a bar fridge for bottles made up ahead of time and a bottle warmer on top. Lonely? Well that doesn't happen!! Uncomfortable? Easily addressed!

16 months is a really long time to co-sleep (not your judging your choice, just genuinely surprised and have some questions)!

1.) How did this work for you when you transitioned your toddler to their own bed? I can imagine it would be confusing for your child at that age to understand why they're no longer allowed to sleep in mommy and daddy's bed. I would worry that my toddler would feel "kicked out" of our bed if she spent their whole life sleeping with us and then the rules changed.

2.) Also, how does this affect intimacy in your marriage?

3.) What was the plan for if/when a newborn sibling enters the mix? It would be nearly impossible to have both in the bed with you at night. How would you address the infant's crying at night waking up your toddler?

I would love to know how you made this work for you!

I've never been happier since using the cry it out method! It takes an incredibly strong person to resist the crying, but you cannot be weak! His mother can't handle his crying and it has led to higher stress on her and therefore me. Be strong it works. My mother said she used it on me and lo & behold I turned out fine.

. . . someone who calls everyone who doesn't use CIO "weak" is not a secure person . . . are you sure you turned out fine?

You have never been happier? What about your baby? Why is it that CIO advocates/users never mention how it worked out for their babies? I think that it takes an incredibly strong person to put their babies needs before their own in today's me centered world, and an incredibly selfish one to listen to there babies cry their hearts out so they don't have to do what is natural and be a loving night time parent for the short period of time that your baby needs you.

Patty, being a mum is hard work!sounds like you are making a good start :-) You are right to want to comfort your baby, he needs you - he is worth it. Good luck.

While I believe there are valid points here, I don't think the author has done a good job presenting the other side to their argument. I think there is something to be said about sleep-training (at an appropriate age). There are loads of studies which suggest that maximizing a child's sleep (especially at night) is developmentally beneficial cognitively as well as emotionally. I've even read that sleep as an infant/toddler can influence IQ- not to mention the added benefit of having a well-rested care giver. While I would NEVER advocate to leave a child in distress for hours, an older infant or toddler can, with patience and assurance, learn to self-soothe at night and thus sleep through the night.

I am now an elderly woman, I have been depressed all my life, my relationship with my parents was awful, I felt shame and worse, definitely no bond. Luckily I had a grandmother who paid attention to me and I loved her very much. When I was in my 50s my mother told me that she wanted to feed me when I was an infant, but "the doctor wouldn't let her feed me more than every four hours, and I would cry and cry". This answered a lot of questions and also broke my heart. I have lived a lifetime of sadness and perverse insecurity, never believing that anyone has ever cared for me.

I did as much reading as I could on both sides and I have to say that "cry it out" is grossly misrepresented. You are not neglecting your child, you are helping them learn to soothe themselves. Its different. Yes, its true, crying is a way of communicating. But the message they're often screaming is "Im so very tired and I can't fall back asleep!" If you know nothing is wrong- they are not hungry, aching, soiled, etc, then they're likely crying because they woke from a sleep cycle and don't have the skills to move on to the next cycle seamlessly as we (hopefully) do as adults. Thats what the training teaches them, and it is a great tool. For those people who say the stress hormones that result from crying are detrimental to a baby's development, you may be right. But it took 3 crying bouts for my baby to be trained. They weren't heaving bouts, they were whining bouts. And now he sleeps more, better, wakes up happy and cries much LESS during the day as a result of his ability to sleep well at night. So its easy to do the math and think daily crying from being over tired is worse than 3 episodes of crying to learn how to sleep well. Lastly, if you are a loving, devoted parent the baby is getting their fill of affection, support, and positive attachment during their waking hours. WIth regards to the last comment- putting yourself in the child's shoes- there are plenty of adults who would benefit from going thru sleep training- who associate falling asleep too closely with television, sleeping pills, even reading, and wake up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep without resuming those behaviors. Its the same thing. If we could all soothe ourselves we'd all sleep as well as these well-trained, very happy, very cuddly and well-adjusted babies.

I've had some success with thebabysleepsite or babysleepsite (?) where they customize a plan for you based on how you generally parent. though she agrees with and practices attachment parenting, the founder Nicole seems to agree with the Weissbluth (and others) theory that the baby or toddler does well when he learns how to take control of his sleep.

i was amazed at how my boy took to using that method of sleeping at night -- even to the extent that i realized co-sleeping was changing for us, making it so neither of us slept well. he did great sleeping on his own in his crib. you make sure to put them down (next to you or in crib) while they're still awake. it seems to have empowered him. (whereas i cried and cried over the new evolution to not co-sleeping!)

usually, all this is fine. occasionally, he refuses to nap in the daytime, and even more occasionally, i get really, really angry. this didn't happen when he was younger. i think my hormones have gone back to normal :-) and while i'm still very protective, i am supportive when he wants to be independent --- which they DO as they grow! it's natural! right now, he is CIO not because it's the ideal thing, but because i have a migraine and i cannot deal with it. most experts and regular ol' parents agree it's OK to have anger sometimes, but also important not to take it out on your kids. nor should we constantly suppress all normal emotions around our kids; that is hardly a good lesson for them.

so i think that if CIO helps them sleep now and then, why not do it? we did full-bore Attachment Parenting since Day One. the fact is, many babies and toddlers change a lot as they grow. what worked at six months may not be effective or healthy at 15 months.

I agree with you. And while I know that some parents think for some reason that it is wrong to give too much attention to their children, or to respond to their demands and eventually cries, for attention, I can't imagine why? We all need the attention of our loved ones on a daily basis, I mean how would we feel if we tried to have a conversation with our husbands and they ignored us, or said, "Not now, I'm busy." We would be outraged. Similarly, if your mother, husband, sister or friend were to become a quadriplegic, and called you from another room in the night simply to tell you that he or she was lonely and feeling isolated, what would you do, tell them to stop being so silly and go back to sleep??? Yet this is what we expect of small babies who have spent their entire existence not just close to us but INSIDE us. We expect them to be immediately comfortable with lying flat on their backs, immobile and alone, for hours on end. It makes no sense at all. If your toddler cries for your attention and you can see nothing wrong, does that mean the cries should be ignored? Maybe she has a pain or a feeling of discomfort. Maybe he has seen something on television that disturbed him, a death scene, a violent scene? Maybe she is struggling with feeling independent and confident one moment and scared and insecure the next? I mean, I have days like that! Some days I love my job and am on top of the world, and some days I want to hide in bed and call in sick because I just don't feel like I can cope. On days like these I ring my mom and she showers me with motherly love and encouragement, reminding me how far I've come, and suddenly I have the power to get up and start the day. What if she told me, "Oh stop being so pathetic, you have a good job, you should be grateful. I can't talk now, bye." Or worse, ignored my call!

...your comments are excellent. I loved reading every word. We all have needs for basically the same things, but babies can't verbalize it like adults do.

I want to say one more thing: the attachment parenting philosophy is not some kind of miraculous technique that definitely results in a joyous, healthy, well-adjusted life for the recipient. Yet this is the message I get from some of the hard core "the parents have to be perfect" folk. There are too many other factors. The AP method merely removes a certain amount of stress from a baby's life. And while that is a mighty good thing, other, worse, stresses will appear later, throughout life. How they could be handled is a whole different kettle of fish.

If people disagree with the way you raised and treated your babies and young children, and if these children of yours have any challenge, flaw or difficulty even 20 or 30 or 40 years later, I can assure you that the parents - usually Mother - will be blamed because she did something "wrong" to the baby. That is Life, and it is not fair, but we have to be prepared for that. May God help us all.

You are right it is disgusting! It is horrible to let you baby CIO. Those of you who say you were and turned out fine really weren't. Your parents may have let you cry it out a lot of the time but were there at least some of the times. It is a horrible trauma when your parents neglect you in this way. I still remember being left to cry and felt like my heart broke inside.I think I almost died of sadness. I am 40 years old and still can not connect emotionally with people and will probably never be married due to this abuse by my parents. Leaving a baby to CIO is as bad as physical abuse. In this case you're breaking the heart of a defenseless baby.

I actually would have to disagree, because if you do it properly,
Like go in every couple of mins to begin with go in an run there forehead.
Then after a week if they are still crying 5 mins checking on them, running there head an letting them know your still here an that there ok.
It took my older daughter about a week. An for you to say stuff like, it makes people agitated an anxious is not true. I know people who have done exactly what you are doing an there kid is 9 still following mummy an daddy around like a lost puppy. You need to show your child love an tough love. I have 2 both very different. But love bed time. An they still know there lived an they get a lot of ATTENTION.
My mum did cio with all 5 of my siblings and were all close with my mother.
If you know your child is fed, doesn't have wind, an is generally fine what is the harm in.letting them grow independence??? The 9 year old I was talking about before still has to be put to bed. An be tucked in or he won't sleep..... They wish they tried cio from.a young age..
Yeah everyone is different an everyone has a different outlook on it.
An its a but like breastfeeding... Touchy subject!!

i just can agree with that. my son is 9 months now, and everybody asks me what i do to have like the happiest and quietest baby they have ever seen.

if he cries, we comfort him immediately. when he cries due to exahaustion in the evening, we also swaddle him. we always swaddled him in the beginning, but now that he is bigger he doesn't need it all the time anymore. it was always like a miracle for us. a desperately crying baby gets wrapped uo like a sausage, and suddenly has the biggest smile on his face!! seriously??!!
now that he also cries sometimes due to not getting what he wants, i d joke with him about it and imitate him playfully, and he ends up laughing about it.

for me it is a form of child abuse to let babies cry.

i am myself a victim of letting me cry as a baby, and it affects me util now in a very negative way.

i would appreciate if doctors would inform parents about swaddling and comforting babies and not letting them cry,plus about the horrible effects it has on their fragile system. plus you educate crybabies if u let them cry.

The cry it out method, along with anything else, has pros and cons. If you are a completely negligent parent and leave your child in their bed for 2 hours without checking on them, then yes that could have an effect. But putting a child down to go to sleep and letting them fall asleep on their own without coddling them or rocking them to sleep is beneficial for the child. I used the CIO method with my child once he was a little older, but always made a point to check on him and make sure that he knew I was still there and i have no had any problems with him emotionally. He plays well on his own, he is very mellow and well adjusted.

I was very open minded about the cry it out method, tried it a few times and tried it again today for the last time. It's a horrible horrible thing to hear your nine month old cry and I finally picked her up after an hour hugged her, allowed her to fall asleep on my chest and when she was in deep sleep I put her down IN MY BED not in the crib. I feel awful guilt and hope she will forget about it when she wakes up. I'm European and in Europe we "spoil" our kids, we rock them, give them way too much attention and let them sleep with us. I was raised like that and I turned out wonderful. I tried CIO bc I was torn btwn the American way of sleep training and the European way. I consulted my mother just now and she said that I was NEVER allowed to cry and that babies are not in the army why should they be trained? All we have to do is love them and teach them how to love. CIO is definitely not a loving method in my opinion. My baby was happier and better sleeper without it. I regret I tried it.

I am going to use that argument - babies are not in the army and don't need to be trained. Love it!!

I don't know how anyone can argue FOR CIO. To the best of my knowledge there aren't any studies that show it is safe. Not to mention how horrendous it feels to hear your little one cry.

There aren't any good studies, only polls on CIO. Unfortunatelly CIO babies displayed easy adjustments to being left to CIO so often it is taken as success. If you learned about the mental health of tribal women and the results it produced compared to US babies you would be shocked. The women never leave their new borns and nurse as often and as long as the infant likes. The outcome is less colic and other health issues that come with infants and toddles in our Country.

Dont CIO. It's only a few months of motherhood. You carried and took care of yourself for 9 months, keep it up and you will have a healthy child.

I certainly don't disagree with attachment parenting, I did it with my son, but he is almost three and I am barely surviving because he needs so much. Is there no end to attachment parenting? We're sleeping through the night, but I'm in constant pain from all the carrying and I can't work because he needs me all the time. What do you do if your child is special needs? Isn't it a valid lesson that mom is human and can't do it?

I let my baby cry it out, too. Too many times, I would get frustrated, and just be thinking, "OMG would you SLEEP! I'M SO TIRED, I CAN'T DO IT ANYMORE! I just need a few minutes to myself!" Pathetic. :( And now I feel guilty. I did sleep-train him, and he's such a sensitive baby. He's almost 8 months old now, and usually, he sleeps through the night. I sleep-trained him to make bedtimes/naptimes easier. But're right, babies are not in the army, they do not need to be "trained". I wish I'd been more open-minded before I started sleep training him. But when you're exhausted, fed-up, and sleep-deprived, it's hard to hear anything you don't want to hear. I felt the same, the last time I let my LO cry. It was afternoon, he hadn't napped much, he was really tired & cranky. He kept waking up, crying, drifting off, waking up, crying. Idk how long it was til I decided he wasn't going to sleep & went and got him. I felt awful...he was all whimpery and pitiful, too. I think it's terrible that this cry-it-out method has been drilled into our heads for generations, in this part of the world. It's a sin.

I absolutely agree with you! My "child" is now 20 but I remember his crying out for me before he was to take a nap - "Mama! Mama!" Just Sobbing!! I couldn't stand it and went back into the room and lifted him out of the crib and I , too, put him in my bed. Never tried it again. I think the idea of letting babies "cry it out" is barbaric and so, so cold. They are BABIES, for God's sake and don't need to be pushed into a position of having to fend for themselves any sooner than they have to.

Dr. Kim, I love this post.. it is so important to be compassionate, wise and sensible in rearing our children from birth on.. I believe the betterment of the world depends on it.

"The Continuum Concept" by Jean Liedloff is excellent on this topic.. you can read it for the below link.

<a href="">HERE</a>

My mother made me "cry it out" and now I still do this behavior and am almost 30 years old. I am single and can't find a girlfriend due to has ruined my life. Don't do this to your children!

I have four marvelously well-adjusted cildren who are adults and 3 are now parenting their own children. Children may not be in the army but the truth is, everybody is being "trained" all the time in family life situations. You have a an important, even God given, IMO, responsibility to train your children. You train them to respond appropriately to their environment. And in the sleeping time environment, you train them to have some tools to use to help themselves fall to sleep. You can help calm and comfort them as part of the bedtime routine, perhaps with rocking and a lullaby, reassuring them of your love and attention, and making sure there is nothing like a dirty diaper that would keep them from sleep. Then put them down, say goodnight, turn out the light, and leave. I did this for all of them. That way they were good sleepers and they had a pleasant loving mother the rest of the day. I didn't have the health or stamina to get up repeatedly during the night. As the proof is in the pudding, and they are all remarkably well-adjusted, loving individuals, who are not under the assumption that they are the center of the universe. That knowledge has served them well. I'm sticking with my advice for young mothers. Give your children the tools they need to become good sleepers! You will both be happy. (This "training" took 3 or 4 days at most if done at the right time. As I recall that was about 5 or 6 months. Why on earth the silly link between the army and training? Is it just to color the word "training" with the negative wash that attends anything militaristic in our current culture. Hogwash! What is education if not training!)

Excellent comment Wilsclanmom! I am so inspired by your post! I am an infant caregiver in a small, drop-off childcare center. Infants have ALWAYS been my passion, and I'm getting ready to pursue my Master's Degree in Child Development and Family Studied.

When I am at work, I am often lucky enough to be caring for two or three infants at the most, ranging from age 2 and 1/2 months up to 8 or so months. There are times, however, when I have 4 or 5 infants for a short period of time. Most of the time, these little folks are kind of tag teaming. What I mean is that it is rare that everybody is crying at the same time. When one little person is ready to be fed, another is ready to be put down for a nap. I rarely experience "chaos" in my little class.

HOWEVER, there is one 3-month-old that is the youngest of 3 boys. All of the boys were nursed and held whenever they demanded. The 7-year-old is now in school and as independent as he should be. The 2-year-old is in our care center but another class. He was in our infant room before I was employed there and was supposedly very "needy." He is fine now though. The youngest, the 3-month-old, who I care for is clearly held all weekend long (when our center is closed). While I understand he is still very tiny, when he is in our care, it is not humanly possible to hold this child all of the time (which is what he wants and expects). Unfortunately, particularly on Mondays, after being at home and held all weekend, this little guy goes through major withdrawals (i.e. crying fits) on Mondays. While I certainly do not enjoy letting him cry; but if he is clean and dry, full and otherwise physically "okay," I have no other choice than to let him cry. If I worried excessively about it, I would have a very rough day and stress would get the best of me. The other babies would also have a rough day.

I truly wish there were not times when I had to let this baby, as well as others at certain times, cry for up to 30 minutes at a time, but by mid-Tuesday, this 3-month-old joyfully settles into my routine. He'll look around and study the other children. He'll find contentment in sucking on his fingers or thumb, and he appears genuinely at peace with not being held all of the time. I truly believe this little guy is learning to self-soothe and not being "damaged" in the process. Even at age 3-months, babies do have "temper tantrums." When caring for young children full-time each week, one starts to recognize the subtle differences between cries of hunger, pain and just plain anger. In working with him to try and help him adjust to a different way of life at "school," I try and keep a very consistent schedule for him (as well as the rest of the babies). I find this benefits all of us! Of course our day is not as structured as the 2-year-olds' day; but it's pretty darn close. I feed certain babies at certain times, change them, provide tummy time, try and get them to nap and turn on a low-key DVD for 30 minutes at a time, etc.

There are times when everybody is crying at once, but I can count on one hand how many times that has occurred in the past 6 months. I think that is a fairly good track record for caring for up to 5 infants under the age of 1 year.

So, needless to say Wilsclanmom, I was thrilled to read that your children turned out to be happy, secure and independent people. Perhaps I won't have a vague sense of worry when I am forced to let an infant occasionally "cry it out," particularly the little people that are constantly held and catered to at home.

I will say that when I let a baby "cry it out," I always communicate with that child that he or she is safe and that I am "here" for him or her. I tell the child that it's okay to feel angry and to cry and that I do love him or her. I explain that I just cannot hold him/her at that moment. It might sound silly, especially when I am referring to babies that do not talk yet; but I feel that they grow to trust the voice. Eventually, they will understand my words. I believe that it's never too early to start communicating in this way.

Sorry to ramble on so.....

Merry Christmas!

Peace and Blessings,


I think it's disgusting that you let somebody else's baby CIO. Obviously I don't know the whole story but you mentioned this baby is held at home all the time. You should be locked up as should every other parent who use CIO o their babies. There is to many information and studies to show how bad this is. Go to the infant mental health website and read what they had to say. Do you know how many babies hve DIED from CIO?! SIDS don't recommend it at all. You're okay with risking your babies mental health and even life so YOU can get some sleep?! Don't become a parent in the first place if you plan on getting solid sleep. They aren't babies for long you should treasure it and embrace them after all they are BABIES.

Actually, Anonymous,
If you really READ the research that people cite when they make their argument against CIO you would see that there is not even ONE conclusive study that says that they know any longterm, negative effects of CIO. The studies that are cited make assumptions based on physiological effects seen in crying children or children who are older who cried as infants. However, the assumptions being made are that CIO means that infants will spend days or weeks crying, their parents are unreponsive to them, and that one variable has CAUSED the other -all of these assumptions are wrong and are simply ignorance on the part of those who make these claims. CIO can be done with love and respect, can actually REDUCE crying durations in infants from all day long from fatigue to a few short minutes before sleeping, and can actually be a way that caring parents can be shown to be responding to their child who needs to sleep and will not do so properly while being rocked, fed, or constantly handled.

Also, please find the link and reference where it states the number of children that have died from CIO... I think all of the readers would be interested to see this.

Babies are born with two fears; noise and falling. All other fears are learned behavior from their external environment. If I were a baby left to cry all alone, I would feel this "new and unfamiliar" world (compared to the safety and security of 9 months in the womb) had abandoned me. Since I am new to this new world of noise and spacious movement, perhaps I need to be GRADUALLY weaned, rather than left in my distress to cry. Babies are not born with "tempers".
Any maternal figure who allows their baby to cry endlessly should check their parenting privilege at the door and get a dog instead.

I'm not sure at what age my parents started letting me CIO. But I don't ever remember feeling lonely or unloved. They got a kick out of how long I would cry, and even tape recorded me crying for 45 minutes.
Obviously, I can't know if it would have been different if I had been raised another way. But I am pretty independent (married someone from another culture and live in a foreign country) and problem-solve on my own.

You admitted it yourself that you are 30yrs old and still throwing tantrums.. maybe the responsiblity lies with you now and not your mum who incidently only did what she knew best to do at the time.. you were a baby then, how could you possibly know her every circumstance as to why she had to let you CIO, and to blame her now to be the reason you still WANT to throw tantrums is a little unfair... You can not change the past, it is not in your control, however your future is in your control.. its up to you to get over yourself and grow up.. you are way too old to be CIO, after all, you are the one who now meets your own needs, surely you know what they are, maybe your mum was still trying to learn about yours when she had to let you CIO.... and if I was looking for someone to love I certainly wouldnt go for someone who throw tantrus...just saying

If your baby is bawling not out of hunger, wet diaper, sickness or pain, then likely he/she is just suffering from buildup of stress. Just hold the baby at these times but don't feed him or try to distract him through rocking, walking, singing, etc. Just hold him, let him get it all out of his system, and then you will have a happy, relaxed, sleepy child. It's true. You are killing 2 birds with one stone here: the baby's needs for discharge of tension are satisfied, and at the same time he feels your caring presence.

To ignore a bawling baby is criminal. But we have to have the wisdom to understand what the crying baby is trying to say. Is it a true need for something, or just a need to discharge tension. Tk. you.

I do accept as true with all of the concepts you have offered in your post. They're really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very brief for beginners. May you please extend them a little from next time? Thanks for the post. gkeededeceed