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Saturday
Jul052008

Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us

Intuitively and instinctively, the cry it out (CIO) method (also known as sleep training or ferberizing or controlled crying) of getting a baby to sleep is not something I ever felt comfortable with. And as I did research on infant sleep, I learned about what normal infant sleep is and I also learned more about the reasons why the CIO method is harmful. There are numerous scientific and emotional reasons why we have chosen not to let our babies cry it out, which I have summarized below.

1. Cry it out can cause harmful changes to babies' brains


Babies cry. They cry to let us know that they need something. And when we don't respond to those cries, it causes them undue amounts of stress. Science has shown that stress in infancy can result in enduring negative impacts on the brain. Prolonged cries in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. Excessive crying results in an oversensitive stress system (likened to a faulty burglar alarm in one book) that can lead to a fear of being alone, separation anxiety, panic attacks and addictions. Harvard researchers found that it makes them more susceptible to stress as adults and changes the nervous system so that they are overly sensitive to future trauma. Chronic stress in infancy can also lead to an over-active adrenaline system, which results in the child using increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence. Another study showed that persistent crying episodes in infancy is linked with a 10 times greater chance of the child having ADHD, resulting in poor school performance and antisocial behaviour. However, if you consistently soothe your child's distress and take any anguished crying seriously, highly effective stress response systems are established in the brain that allow your child to cope with stress later in life.

2. Cry it out can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development


At an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings demonstrating that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.” More specifically, other studies have found that babies whose cries are ignored do not develop healthy intellectual and social skills, that they have an average IQ 9 points lower at age 5, they show poor fine motor development, show more difficulty controlling their emotions, and take longer to become independent as children (stay clingy for longer).

3. Cry it out can result in a detached baby


Researchers have shown that although leaving a baby to cry it out does often lead to the cries eventually stopping, the cries do not stop because the child is content or the problem has been alleviated. Rather, they stop because the baby has given up hope that a caregiver will respond and provide comfort. This results in a detached baby. Detached children are less responsive, appear to be depressed or "not there" and often lack empathy.

4. Cry it out is harmful to the parent-child relationship


A child that is left to cry it out is less likely to turn to the parents in times of need. Being attended to as a baby is the most basic of needs and if a child learns at that point that she can count on her parents to respond to her needs, then she will also turn to them later in life when she needs their support. But I worry that if I leave my children to cry it out, then they will not see the point in reaching out to us if they have problems later in life and could try to deal with serious issues like bullying, drug addictions, teenage pregnancy, gambling problems, or flunking out of school on their own or turn to peers. Unfortunately, those problems are often too big for a teenager to be left to deal with alone or with peers and it can have disastrous results ranging from making poor decisions all the way to committing suicide out of a feeling of hopelessness.

5. Cry it out can make children insecure


Children whose caregivers are not consistently responsive and sensitive, often become insecure. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals are likely to be comfortable depending on others, can 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). Parents that use the cry it out method often do so because they are afraid that their children are becoming 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.

6. Cry it out often doesn't work at all


Some babies will not give in. They are resilient or stubborn enough that they refuse to believe that their parents could be so cruel as to leave them to cry to sleep. So instead of whimpering a bit and then drifting off to sleep as some supposed sleep experts would have you believe happens, they end up sobbing and sobbing and sobbing for hours on end. Some end up vomiting. Many end up shaking so hard and become so distraught that once their parents realize that CIO is not going to work, the baby is shaking uncontrollably and hiccuping, too distressed to sleep and too distraught to be calmed down even by a loving parent.

7. Even if cry it out does "work", parents often have to do it over and over again


I can't imagine putting my child through one or several nights of inconsolable crying to get her to go to sleep and I certainly can't imagine having to do it over and over again. However, that is the reality for many parents. I hear people tell me that they always let their child cry for thirty minutes to go to sleep. Or that they have to start the CIO sleep training process all over again after each round of teething, each growth spurt, each developmental milestone.

8. Cry it out is disrespectful of my child's needs


So-called sleep trainers will tell you that after a certain age, babies do not have any more needs at night. Some claim this is after a few short weeks, others after a few months, others after a year. Regardless of the age that is assigned to that message, to me it seems wrong. I'm an adult and yet there are days when I need someone else to comfort me. If I've had a really stressful week at work, if I've had a fight with someone that is important to me, if I've lost a loved one, then I need to be comforted. But how would I feel and what would it do to our relationship if my husband closed the door and walked out of the room and let me "cry it out" myself? I'm an adult and yet there are nights when I am so parched that I need a glass of water or I am so hungry that I need a snack. I'm not going to die if those needs are not met, but I am going to physically uncomfortable and unable to sleep soundly. If I were to let my child CIO, it would be like saying that his needs are not important and that to me is disrespectful. To quote Dr. William Sears on the sleep trainers, "Parents let me caution you. Difficult problems in child rearing do not have easy answers. Children are too valuable and their needs too important to be made victims of cheap, shallow advice".

9. Deep sleep from cry it out is often a result of trauma


Babies who are left to cry it out do sometimes fall into a deep sleep after they finally drop off. And their parents and sleep trainers will hail this as a success of the CIO method. However, babies and young children often sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. Therefore, the deep sleep that follows CIO shouldn't be seen as proof that it works. Rather, it should be seen as a disturbing shortcoming.

10. Our World Needs More Love


Rates of depression are skyrocketing. Violent and senseless crimes are on the rise. As human beings, we need to spend more time being there for each other, showing compassion, nurturing our children. Learning that you can't count on your parents to be there when you need them is a tough lesson to learn that early in life and can be a root of many of the social problems we are facing today. I want to give my kids every chance possible of escaping depression and staying away from violence. And I'm convinced that nurturing them and responding to their needs at night, as I do during the day, is the first step in the right direction.

Those are our reasons for not using the cry it out method. What are yours?

Do you need some gentle sleep tips? See Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips

Sources:

The following sources were used in the development of this post:

Note: Please note that not all of these sources look specifically at crying it out. Some of them look at the risks of excessive crying in general. It is my opinion that excessive crying is excessive crying, whether it happens at night or not. Also, as I discussed in my follow-up post Cry it Out (CIO): Is it harmful or helpful? and Another Academic Weighs in on CIO there is no evidence that cry it out is safe, despite what its supporters will tell you.

Image credit: Anna Szozda on flickr

 

 

   

« We need bilingual schools | Main | Infant feeding choices and obesity »

Reader Comments (474)

[...] à laisser l’enfant hurler jusqu’à ce qu’il s’endorme, vous trouverez ici 10 bonnes raisons de vous conforter dans votre décision. Et vous trouverez ici des solutions en douceur pour que [...]

Even reading about the CIO method makes me upset -- I couldn't imagine putting it into practice with my own daughter.

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdesiree fawn

Glad I stumbled upon this. It's nice to know I'm not alone in this world that says "let them cry!" I haven't done it, and I won't do it. As my sister with a teenager reminded me, she did not have him cry it out as a baby, and she doesn't have a teenager who can't sleep! These precious months with my little girl are too valuable for me to fret over waking up now and again in the night to comfort her!
Thanks for your blog.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergreta

thank you for this post. i'm having a dispute about AP w/DH and his views on CIO and I just needed to be reminded of why I do what I do. My DH is all about the clinical. If our doctor or a 'known' doctor says something, it must be. I'm two steps from throwing a Dr. Sears book at him.
Thanks again.

April 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpantrygirl

This is the best concise article I have seen on this. This is one of those posts you want to print and keep a copy of on your fridge for the times your dh disagrees with your methods or a friend calls to tell you she's thinking about cio.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

In reality....I don't believe there is one right answer. We are all different and our babies are all different. What works for you and your child, might be completely wrong for me and my child and vice versa. But I would like to share anyway.....

My wife and I have a little girl who just turned 4 months. We've been talking about AP vs CIO recently because our daughter wakes up 4-6 times per night. We both work (different shifts) and it is super hard for us to get up every hour to console her.

We are inclined to give the CIO method a shot because our daughter is very happy during the day and we both have a very loving and engaging relationship with her. She just struggles to sleep at night. When we go in there to console her, it doesn't take too long to get her back to sleep. But we've been doing that now for a few weeks and I am 100% convinced that she has learned that she can cry and we will respond. This does not seem to help in developing her independence and ability to console herself in anyway.

As I was thinking about what we should do, I started talking to several friends of ours who have infants. I wanted to hear about their thoughts and, more specifically, how their own parents handled this when they were babies themselves.

After talking to about 10 people, one thing was clear: the people I perceive to be more self-centered, lower self-esteem and not very independent were the people who told me that their parents co-slept them and/or were big proponents of the AP method.

So, for us, we are choosing to try the CIO method for a couple reasons. First, because I believe that if you have a great loving relationship and respond appropriately to your childs needs during the day.....it won't have a traumatic effect when you don't respond the same way at night. I'm sure some may think it will confuse them, but don't insult their intelligence. Second, I think that she needs to develop a strong sense of independence and figure out how to console herself and get herself back to sleep. She will have to learn this eventually. I'd rather work on it now than when she is 4 and her ability to be defiant is even more finely tuned.

I'll end the same way I started.....there is no absolute method that works universally. I can tell you that my parents let me CIO and I am an independent, well-rounded, mature, intelligent and confident adult. That being said, I cannot personally be an opponent of the CIO method. It worked for me. If it doesn't work for my daughter, then we'll adjust until we find what works best for our family and the wholesome development of our baby girl.

Great information here, though. I appreciate the discussion.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEMD

@EMD

Thanks for your comment.

I don't see it as AP vs CIO. Sure, most people that do AP do not do CIO, but being AP is a lot more than just not doing CIO. AP is an overall approach to your relationship with your child. I wrote about it here: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/11/16/what-is-attachment-parenting/

If you are looking for evidence beyond your 10 friends, you might want to check out this meta review of research on attachment: http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/ep05102183.pdf

I also quote some research (from that study and others) on the effects of co-sleeping in my post on the benefits of co-sleeping: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/01/09/cosleeping-benefits/

You can certainly make whatever decision you think is right for your family, but I think it is worth going beyond the personalities of 10 friends when assessing the benefits or drawbacks of an approach.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@EMD

Just one final thought with regards to your comment that you would rather do this now (at 4 months) than wait until she is 4 and her ability to be defiant is even more finely tuned. That is one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it would be to say that now she doesn't have the language abilities or intelligence to understand when you tell her why you aren't coming back at night. When she is 4, she may not be happy if you say that you are not going to console her at night, but at that age you can expect her to understand what you are saying.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have a very active infant who used to wake up like 8-10 times on average at night. for the first 6 months, i tried the no cry sleep solution methods but he was still not sleeping through the night. After much sleep deprivation and advice from books and my sister who implemented CIO on her son with success, I decided to let my lttiel one CIO. For the first 2-3 wks , it worked well and my baby did sleep through the night and naps were longer and more quality. However I noticed that after he reached his milestone of crawling and sitting up , not to mention teething, everything changed. He no longer slept through the night. I was told that I had to " retrain" again, which I did for 2-3 weeks. It was really tough and a sheer TORTURE hearing him cry and i realised that he seemed to know what was coming when I put him down to bed after nursing. His cries will get louder and sometimes violent. He would twist and turn his little body in bed and at one time, he got himself caught under the crib bumper,almost suffocating himself. My husband and I were really alarmed by this and distressed and I feel totally GUILTY for putting my little one through this as he ends up sobbing terribly and unconsolable.

My conclusion is that CIO doesnt work necesarily for all babies. It didnt work for mine and I have put aside all my sleep training books. I am just going to LISTEN to my baby and RESPOND to his needs. NO MORE crying. He now sleeps with us and he sleeps through and at times gets up for a quick night nursing. He is going on to 8 months and he wakes up in the morning fresh and smiling at us.

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

Okay, i agree with comforting my baby to sleep, i cant have the heart to see her or hear her cry, i had seperation anxity when i was yonger and that caused me panic attacks when i got a little older, my mum didn't use the cio method with me but i cant imagin how much worse it would have been if she did..any ways, i find myself torn because my daughter is 4months old friday and she HATES the carseat with a passion, i've tried toys, pacifier,bottle, i mean everything and she just ins't happy till i take her out, hold her till she falls asleep andthan i can put her back in, she will otherwise scream and cry till she is caughing and bright red and shaking, i cannot see her that way, however a peditrican told me its a temper tantrum and if i continue to pull off and get her out it will only make it worse not to mention an inconvinece so im trying to find someone who can give me some sort of advice, i dont want to do the cio method but i cant pull over every 5 min. and its half temping to let her cio a couple times just to get over it and be able to go places!..pls help i really dont want to use this im hoping that someone can shed some light that will work for me!! thanks!

May 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterashley

Thank you! I am a new mom, and an older mom, and CIO seems so counter intuitive. The thought of trying it makes my stomach hurt. Thank you for backing up that feeling with evidence.

May 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thanks for posting this and all of the articles. It's so important to take care of a babies needs. The more people that realize this and post articles such as this the better off society as a whole will be.

May 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeith DeJarnet

[...] too. It is not appropriate to force  a baby to sleep using methods like the extinction method of cry it out. It also isn’t particularly respectful to say you have to sleep now and I’m going to [...]

[...] the past couple of weeks, I've read a number of Twitter and blog posts (like this one) claiming that the "cry it out" (or Ferber) method of getting babies to go to sleep can [...]

Very interesting post Annie. I wonder if there has been any research done on babies that "CIO" while being "soothed" to sleep. My youngest would scream and cry while being put to sleep. I tried everything I could think of, and yet she persisted. What is the prevailing wisdom about this? FWIW, my oldest was the worst sleeper and my second was amazingly easy.

July 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrenna

Ashley, I don't know if you ever found a solution (or if you'll even see this), but I have to say, I completely disagree with the pediatrician. Obviously something is bothering her about the car seat. It might just be that she can't see you & is moving backwards, or it might be uncomfortable for her. Things that have worked for other parents: getting rid of the baby bucket & getting a rear-facing convertible seat; putting the seat slightly more upright (for older babies whose heads don't slump forward & no more than 30 degrees), putting the radio station to static & having it the same volume as the crying, singing, trying different kinds of music, sitting in the back with the baby (obviously only works if someone else can drive :) ), having toys that are just for the car, only going somewhere when baby is sleepy...I'm sure there's others, those are the most common

July 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

[...] to this, yes in part because I am a “self-righteous LLL-type” who believes that CIO is harmful (to infants, to their parents, and to the adults they grow into), but mostly because I think the [...]

Thank you for this. My child is 7 months old, we co-sleep and he is a very happy baby. He sleeps wonderfully, most nights, from 9p-7a. Naps are where my difficulty has been, he would sleep next to me on the boppy on the couch where I sat next to him. I never left him alone during these times. Now, he is beginning to be disturbed with his naps mostly due to his teena ged brothers being, well, teenagers. So, i thought how am I going to get him to sleep in the crib or playyard so that He can be in a quieter spot in the house and be safe so I can use the time he sleeps to clean or sew.. or something. I was going to try CIO, because I had used it with my 16 yo son many years ago, and he is a well adjusted, emotionally healthy smart kid.. but then I realized.. his CIO wasn't really crying, more restlessness settling into sleep as I patted his butt. So.. this child does not respond to butt patting, and sleeps on his back. Back in the day no one recommended back sleeping so my teens as babies slept on their tummies. After reading this article, I decided to try other methods.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercc

[...] Cry It Out (CIO): 10 Reasons Why It Is Not For Us [...]

[...] do not think cry it out is an appropriate way to teach babies or children to sleep, whether it is a graduated method (like [...]

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWhy I can’t recommend Fe

Then what do you suggest to get my child and myself any sleep at night?????

September 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeridyth

Did you read the other post that I linked to? http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/02/28/gentle-baby-and-toddler-sleep-tips/" rel="nofollow">Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips.

I also have some book recommendations in http://www.phdinparenting.com/my-parenting-library/" rel="nofollow">My Parenting Library.

September 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

A quick follow-up to my post on May 1. Our daughter is now just past 8 months and sleeps through the night just fine. She first slept through the night at about 5 weeks but that only latest for about a month and then it was pretty rough for about two solid months. Hence the interest in this post and the comments made on May 1. We ended up with somewhat of a hybrid approach, I guess. She always went down just fine, but would wake up around 11 and the again around 3. We let her cry for about 20 minutes and then would go in and pat her on the back or play with her hair. We never picked her up because we didn't want to teach the habit of crying = get picked up. This worked well for us and she eventually (after about two weeks) did not wake up any more. She has been sleeping from 9pm-7am for almost 3 months now. She has a bottle at 7am and then goes right back to sleep for another hour or so. Our method would not work for some and other people's methods certainly did not work for us.

In my opinion, this is proof-positive that......again....there is no absolute method. Each child is eternally different. I personally slept through the night from 3 months on. According to my mom, my older brother didn't start sleeping through the night until nearly 18 months! Crazy.

My advice to new parents is to try what seems like the best approach, but be willing to adjust your thinking and try other methods. Don't give up!!! You'll eventually find the solution that is right for you and your baby. Science, technology and research can most definitely support one practice over another and we should trust them (with an open mind), but when it comes to how you raise your kids.....they can't guarantee what will work for your baby.

Excellent discussion here and certainly a topic that will perplex every new parent for as long as we're all around on this earth.

September 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEMD

Meghan,

I didn't read all the replies after yours, so maybe someone already said this. Have you looked into the possiblity of your baby having allergies? Dairy and wheat especially are HUGE triggers for fussiness, and can be passed through the breastmilk. I personally know several people and have heard of many more who have eliminated dairy or wheat from their diets and seen great results in their baby's moods and sleep.

Craniosacral therapy is another route to try. This is usually performed by a chriopractor. It helped my nephew a lot.

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Personally, I'm tired of people framing this debate within the context of efficacy.

It'd be terribly effective if we tied our kids up and put them in a closet, too. Boy, think of all the cleaning we'd get done!

And if we fed them junk food, they'd finish dinner in a flash!

I also wish people would stop thinking about how to solve a 'sleeping problem' and start thinking about what else might be bothering their infant. If they nurse, have they tried eliminating dairy from their diet? If they formula feed, have they tried giving human milk to their infant? Temperature changes? Moving bedtimes? (That's another peeve...I'm so tired of hearing how babies get dumped in their crib at 6PM...are ya kidding me? And then you complain when they wake up at 4am?)

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Interesting reading all of this. My oldest is 4 and a half, so it's really interesting to read this thinking of him in hindsight. He never slept through the night until he was 2, and has JUST NOW stopped screaming for me when he wakes up at 5:30 am...and has been a horrible sleeper his whole life. Anyway, I responded to him every time he cried during the night when he was an infant. (Which was about every 2 hours.) By the time he was 6 months old, I was depressed, I hated being a parent, and I hadn't slept at all. We lived 4 hours from either set of parents in a new town and my husband was in residency and was completely unable to help; it all fell on my shoulders. I can say that the negativity and resentment that grew within me toward him made it impossible for me to be a good parent.

Here's what we tried: We tried CIO, we tried AP, we tried Weissbluth, we even tried that crazy guy who says you should feed your kid every 3 hours only? What's his name? Anyway, every thing you can possibly imagine. He already had about 8 hours outside every day, was extremely active and had an amazing diet of breastmilk. :) Things like that just didn't make any difference or were rather unchangeable.

What did we have to do, and what do I think some folks need to try? Make peace with the fact that he's a crappy sleeper (just like I am...heh...) and get counseling and on Celexa!! :) No really, Celexa made a big difference for me; I was able to see through the fog and see my son for the first time in a long time. Counseling helped give me a little bit of perspective; life isn't going to be just like this forever. It's just not.

When he turns 16, he'll be sleeping so much that I won't be able to wake him...until then, I've just had to DECIDE that I'm going to enjoy my wee-hours-of-the-morning discussions with him about dinosaurs and rocks...It's hard, but you know what? I don't EVER get this time back. Seriously. Being tired isn't the end of the world...but regretting resenting your kid and not spending time with your kid when you have the chance sure sucks.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

It's just such a tough debate, because it's about our beloved children, and (hopefully) everyone does what they think is the best thing to do. It's also tough because every child and every family situation is different, so it's hard to say that what work for you should work for someone else.

We've been non-CIO with our 9 month old, and it's been tough, but it's also seemed like the right thing in our case, with our child. However, I would feel really irritated if we were practicing CIO, and I read about all the harm it was causing my child -- no one wants to be painted as being a bad parent! And so, it will continue to be a challenging debate. I personally find it helpful to hear stories of how other parents dealt with their babies.

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob

@Rob: We dealt with our babies by treating them with the same respect, empathy and caring that we would want to be treated with. In terms of what we did to create an environment conducive to sleep, you can check out my Gentle Sleep Tips: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/02/28/gentle-baby-and-toddler-sleep-tips/

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

The only thing I would add to this is, to number one... I find that mothers I speak to think that I am saying ALL crying is harmful to babies and don't seem to understand that its unattended-to crying that is harmful. When you are working hard to try and comfort your baby when they are crying, even if it isn't working, doesn't cause those same changes that unattended-to crying causes.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

@Heidi: Yes. That is an important point. I wrote about that in my post called http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/07/12/ill-hold-you-while-you-cry/" rel="nofollow">I'll hold you while you cry.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you for a well-written, well-researched post. Here's my reason... if every bone in your body is telling you to go pick up your child, you should listen!

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

That was always exactly my reason for not letting my child cry unattended, it feels so awful to do it. Times when I could not hold them (like when we were driving and they had to be in their car-seats) it killed me to not be able to hold them. I remember times when we would be almost home and I would have to say to my husband 'please don't talk to me for a minute' and then just close my eyes and plug my ears, because the baby (or babies, I also have twins) was/were crying in the back seat and it was so hard to hear, it just went against everything my mommy instincts were saying. If my body responds to the crying with such anguish and stress when I can't pick them up, then it is obviously natural for me to pick them up every time they cry like that when I can. I could never figure out why would someone go against all their instincts because some expert says it is OK, if it feels wrong it probably is. Not like my kids never had a time where they cried a bit before I could get to them, but if you are tune with your baby then you know when it is a cry that needs immediate attention and when it can wait for a minute, and when you are in tune with your baby it seems like they don't cry as much.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcie

Great post. With our first we attempted to CIO based on the peds rec. We realized quickly that it went against BOTH our parenting instincts CIO. After reading more about child dev our instincts were validated.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeth aka confused homemaker

Your post was just what I needed. I was never able to let my daughter CIO. Now, I feel some sort of pressure to let my son CIO so he can learn to fit into the nap schedule at his new childcare. It just doesn't feel right and I feel so reassured that I am doing the right thing.
All the developmental things you noted made me think of something else - so many people remarked about my daughter being so attached or "too attached" to me. However, as she has grown, she becomes more confident every day. She started preschool last week with no tears, no fears. She knew I was coming back for her at the end of the day. "What's the big deal?" she seemed to be saying. She is still shy but she is not clingy. At 4 she still doesn't go to sleep on her own, but she at least starts the night in her own bed. Every day she learns new things and becomes more independent and I don't worry at all about snuggling with her at night.

September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Thanks so much for this post! I've posted this to my facebook profile and shared with an online discussion group and what people keep challenging is "definitions"...they want to know if you're talking about controlled crying, full CIO and what ages we're talking about. For me personally, I just don't agree with CIO at any age for my children. Many also conflate CIO with letting a child cry in your arms. I understand that crying isn't the issue so much as the parental response....

Many also feel judged for having done CIO or feel that they've been unfairly accused of permanently damaging their children. How would you respond to that?

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLizette

Reading this, 9 years after my son was an infant confirms why I am glad I went with my instincts. My son is secure, comfy with his emotions, outgoing ands comes to me with every issue. I hope he continues this into adulthood.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNancy@ifevolutionworks.com

I hate when parents write articles that put other parents down. Parenting is hard enough without being told that I am "disrespecting my child's needs". That's pretty strong wording if you ask me! "Research" has been done on both sides of the issue, and on both sides, evidence was found to support that theory. The problem with your article is that it's close-minded and it assumes that there are absolutes. Any parent could tell you that there are NO absolutes, every child is different and responds to their environment differently. Data is data; but judgment is something else all together.

To answer each of your points:

1. I believe there is a need to recognize the different cries a baby makes. Though I'm all for the CIO method, if I hear a cry that I know my child won't recover from (meaning, he won't fall back to sleep) I will comfort him. If he looks like he'll go back to sleep, I'll put him back down. If he doesn't look like he'll go back to sleep, I'll get him up. I think there is a difference in letting your child cry and cry and cry, and letting your child cry to the point of becoming able to put himself to sleep. I cannot tell you how many moms have begged for the "trick" behind getting my son to sleep so easily. After juts a few times of CIO, I can now take him upstairs, hold him and sing all I want, put him down and walk out without worrying about whether or not he'll go to sleep. I know he will. He'll do it himself, without me having to rock him for hours and sneak out by army crawling on the floor (my parents had to do that with me!...HOW ABSURD!)

2. There are many cues that I attend to every day. Both of my children (daughter 22 months, son 5 months) exhibit various cues other than crying. I readily attend to those without question. My daughter, another CIO child, had NO delay in motor abilities, NO problems with attachment, and NO issues controlling her emotions.

3. My daughter is anything but detached! I'm amused at this "finding" since she is the most "there" child around and has always been extremely responsive and empathetic!!

4. The thought that a child would not turn to their parent in a time of need simply because they cried a little when they were an infant is very interesting! In my case, my toddler daughter turns to me in any time of need...when she needs someone to hold her hand up the stairs, brush her hair, kiss a booboo, swing her in the air, lift her into the car, protect her from a loud noise, sing to her through a stormy afternoon, etc.

5. My daughter is extremely secure. She's well-adjusted and well-liked by her friends and teachers at church and her Mom's Morning Out program! To say that she would be anything else simply because I didn't run upstairs every time she cried is truly amazing to me. It's as if your "research" wants to ignore all of the other ways I meet her needs throughout the day. Do those things mean nothing?

6. I loved your scare tactic in this one. Any parent SHOULD know NOT to let their child cry for hours!!!! Anyone who has read a book on CIO ("Babywise", for example) should remember that there is no reason why a baby should cry that long. I am actually with you on this one.

7. I've never had to start the process over again.

8. Again, I meet my childrens' needs day in and day out, 365 days a year. It is laughable that you accuse CIO parents of not doing so. I put my chidrens' needs above my own every second of the day. I go without lunch sometimes I'm so immersed in playing with them, taking them on walks, reading to them, visiting family with them, etc. Simply because I have chosen to let them learn to fall asleep without my help does no negate any of that.

9. Another scare tactic.

10. I have many friends who used the CIO method years ago. Their children are not depressed, they're quite independent, loving, and intelligent. I agree that we need to be there for our children, but we also need to know when to let go and realize that EVERY LITTLE THING we do as parents doesn't have to have monumentally detrimental consequences. Some children may not respond to the CIO method positively - so don't do it with them!

To conclude, I appreciate your point of view. The article was very interesting to read. I have heard it before. However, I don't think I've heard such judgment from the others. I laughed when I read your respone to someone's post, saying that you try not to judge CIO parents. However, I think that if you could take off your PhD hat for a minute and read this article as an objective parent, you would be surprised by the harsh wording and damning accusations that we are in some way ruining our children.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

@Holly: If you are confident in your choices, then you don't need my position or my approval. These are MY reasons for not doing CIO. If you don't think it is disrespectful and don't believe the other things written here, then by all means go ahead and parent the way you want to. Other parents make different choices and that is their prerogative. These are *my* reasons for *my* choices.

What I don't understand in your response to my article, and in many of the other responses I've heard over the years, is why people see responding to nighttime needs as different from responding to daytime needs. Why is it important and formidable to do all the things you do during the day, but then not important to do the same at bedtime or at night? To me it sounds like saying, I never cheat on my husband except on business trips. Or I never hit my wife except on Sundays. Personally, I don't think I've ever gone without lunch in order to meet my child's needs. I can make lunch even while nursing a sick baby in a sling, so that hasn't been a problem. But even if that wasn't the case, I would rather have my child crying for a few minutes, where she can see me and be comforted by me, while I make my lunch than to leave her screaming and crying in a room by herself at night.

Lastly, this post points out what I think the consequences of CIO *can* be. It doesn't mean that they will occur in all children all of the time. However, there is a risk of it, so I avoid it. While it is great that your kids and other kids turned out okay, that argument doesn't hold water with me. My mom played beer baseball while she was pregnant with me and I turned out fine, but I wouldn't get drunk while pregnant. Lots of people rode around in cars without car seats and without seat belts and they turned out fine, but I wouldn't do that either.

In terms of harsh words and damning accusations, if that is how you read it, I'm sorry. It is something I feel strongly about and I can't water it down without feeling that I am compromising my beliefs.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I would never assume to need your approval.
I'm pretty sure I never mentioned NOT meeting the needs of my children at night. On the contrary, I stated that if my child was crying in a way that meant he would not be able to CIO, I would certainly do what I could to comfort him for as long as he needed.
Your comments were not of what the consequences CAN be, they are absolutes stating that these are the consequences that WILL be...#4 - CIO IS harmful to the parent-child relationship - #8 CIO IS disrespectful of my child's needs.
I understand that you're doing what you can to win people to your side of the argument. However, even the most fiery of debates can be done with eloquence and mildness. "A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle word turns away wrath."

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

@Holly: You didn't specifically mention that you don't meet their needs at night, but you went on at length explaining how you do meet their needs during the day and that you respond to cues other than crying. That may be true. But IMO, ignoring crying at bedtime/at night, is ignoring some of their cues. Maybe not all, but some. You are defining that it is important to respond to some cues in some scenarios, but not other cues in other scenarios. For you it may have been "a few times of CIO" and for others it is a lot more.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Amazing info! I'm only just now finding this now, over a year since it was originally posted. Thank you for taking on the bold endeavor of combating the over-use of the CIO method. So many moms out there could benefit from reading this post. I've shared it on my baby blog, Kid Happens. Thanks so much!

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLainya

I once tried CIO because I was so exhausted of rocking and nursisng and rocking... It didn't work at all. My baby cried for one hour and half, and if I didn't pick her up to calm her down, she would cry for several hours. I found it so cruel. I thought I was being a terrible mother.
I still haven't found a solution for making my baby sleep for more than two hours straight, but CIO is not for us.
I think the problem is believing that all babies will behave the same way, as if they didn't have their own personalities. We should try to do what's best for our own little ones.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMariana

Thank you Holly for saying exactly what I was feeling while reading this article. I am a CIO parent and I was a CIO child. As a child I tested out in the 99th percentile for my age group every year. I talked at 8 months and by 10 months was using sentences. With my child it took 1 night of CIO for a while, I checked on him, and I have a video monitor I could look at....yes it broke my heart....but now I put him to bed and most nights he doesn't cry at all and is asleep after 5 minutes...some nights he will cry for 5 minutes and then be asleep by 10 minutes.

September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

Babywise is a horrible book which has been discredited by pediatricians. Google it.

And CIO feels mean. That's what my ped said but I didn't need him to tell me. The idea made me sick. That was my personal feeling and my personal choice. I'm not judging anyone so why do people who do CIO get defensive?

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEJ

My son is 8 months old and he still usually wakes up once a night to eat. BUT, since we have always tended to him right away and never left him alone in his crib to cry himself to sleep...all we have to do is feed him and he just goes right back down! Even during the day if we put him up there for naps he LOVES going in his crib, probably because he knows he's not being abandoned.

I am always appalled when I hear of parents doing this. I even hear of people doing it with 2 week old newborns!

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

You're so right that all babies are different and if yours would cry for hours an hours, then NO, I don't think anyone would suggest you let her CIO. My kids learned to CIO for a matter of minutes and then would fall asleep, waking with a happy disposition and well-rested. In my case, it worked, but they did not cry for hours and hours. You're doing what's best for your baby!

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

If your baby is getting up at night to eat, I don't think anyone would expect you to let him CIO! He's still needing a late night feeding. I think if he just wanted to get up to have some play time that would be different. We have to remember that having well-rested parents to be emotionally and physically stable is also an important component of caring parenting!

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

We get defensive because people call it offensive, disrespectful, and mean. However, it worked for me and my kids, so why would someone want to diminish that? The only thing more disrespectful than CIO is when people use such strong words to put down a method that worked for me and others I know. We aren't looking to bash the way the non-CIO parents operate! Whatever works for your child is what you should do!

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

@Holly: In a number of your comments here you have said "if.....I don't think anyone would expect you to CIO". Unfortunately, that is wrong. Maybe you wouldn't expect that person to do CIO, but there are plenty of books, doctors, friends, family members, etc. that do suggest CIO in all sorts of scenarios.

With regards to getting up to eat versus getting up for play time:
(a) A lot of the CIO methods out there are designed specifically as a way to get rid of nighttime feeds. They aren't only for parents whose babies want to play at night.
(b) I think that parents that want to get rid of nighttime feeds (with a toddler, not a baby) or that want to discourage nighttime play time can do it by being firm about it being time to sleep, without that necessarily meaning leaving their baby alone to cry to sleep. My kids aren't always happy that it is bedtime, but I don't leave them to cry by themselves. I parent them to sleep.
(c) I have a post where I responded to a parent whose toddler wanted to get up to play and go outside at night suggesting methods other than CIO: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/12/19/night-owls/

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I love that this post sheds light on the minority of voices out there whose instincts are telling them that CIO isn't the way. I know there's plenty of research to support the claims of either side, but how many people read both sides of the issue? I've read the pro CIO information and it only served to further my disdain for the method. The right answer for our family has been one where decisions are made out of balanced research, love, instinct and intuition.

It's doubtful letting your baby cry is the sole cause of all human insecurities, but it certainly can't help. To me, it seems obvious that not tending to your baby's cries would create issues down the line. It's not like your child will say one day, "Hey mom. You suck because you let me cry myself to sleep when I was 6 months old." But in a way, ADHD, aggression, separation anxiety, and insecurity are signs of that exact thing. Babies cry for many important reasons, including ensuring their survival. Unfortunately, in today's modern society, it's necessary for both parents work to support the family. Moms whose primary duty was to rear their babies have been replaced by moms who are hustling work outside the home and who thus need sleep. We are facing an time in our history where less emphasis is being placed on our families' well-being, and more emphasis is being placed on maintaining a standard of living that requires two incomes; a "keeping up with the jones's" scenario.

It's worth it to ask yourself who it's benefiting to get your child to sleep through the night. In many cases it's for the convenience of working parents. Co-sleeping or tending to your child's needs isn't forever. The natural order of human development shows that babies turn into children who do eventually outgrow their parents and seek independence.

I believe that raising children requires a lot more self-sacrifice than many people are aware of or have time for or are willing to do. This is another "me" generation that is more concerned with personal interests than those of the community. Raising happy, well-adjusted children contributes to a thriving social system. Perhaps those who take issue with the intimacy and needs that babies require are most likely people who failed to have their own needs met as infants? Don't forget that there are two sides to consider: Nature AND Nurture.

This isn't about finding the one perfect method that will solve all of mankind's developmental issues, because no such thing exists. This is about listening to your maternal instincts, this is about having the humility to try to live a more loving and compassionate existence, and about finding what's best for your family based on researched information. Many moms comment about how awful it feels to let their babies cry unattended. Perhaps they should have a little more faith in their intuition. After all, mama knows best.

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLainya

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