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Tuesday
Jul052011

No Cry It Out: 3 Years Later

Three years ago today, I wrote what has become the most viewed and the most popular post on this blog. I wrote the post, Cry it Out (CIO): 10 Reasons Why it is Not for Us, after years as a message board moderator where we would post lists and lists of links over and over again, each time someone asked what was so bad about cry it out or every time someone needed information to help convince their partner, parents, in-laws, friends, nosy neighbours or whoever else was sticking their nose into their business. I wrote the post as a support for parents who didn't want to let their babies cry it out and as information for parents who were exploring their options. I didn't write the post to make parents who chose cry it out feel guilty, but I also realized, of course, that it would. My feelings on this topic are perhaps stronger than my feelings on any other parenting topic and there really isn't a way to write about it without that shining through.

As I think back, with my children now 4 years old and almost 7 years old, I am considering how my views on cry it out have changed. Ultimately, they haven't. I don't think it is right. I think it is disrespectful and I think it has the potential to be harmful. That said, I have changed. I have realized that  we all have limits as parents and that we will all do things, at some point in time, that have the potential to be damaging to our kids or to our relationship with our kids. I was able, despite having one horrible sleeper and one clingy sleeper, to persevere and never use cry it out. There were tough bedtimes and rough nights, but we never left a crying baby or child alone to fall asleep while they sobbed. However, I've done other things, as a parent, that I am not proud of. For example, I tend to yell when I lose my patience. Perhaps there are other parents out there who opted to use cry it out, but who have never-ending patience during the day, never raise their voice to their child, and feel as strongly about that as I do about cry it out.

None of us are perfect. All of us have things we feel strongly about and things we feel less strongly about. If we could enter into conversations about these things with that understanding, they would be a lot less controversial. If someone comes into the discussion with the perspective that they are a perfect parent and that cry it out is the best thing ever, there will be hurt feelings and heated disagreements for sure. Just as I would be hurt reading an article about the problems with screaming at children, if I actually thought it was an effective and positive discipline technique.

Three years later, the post still averages more than 2000 page views per month, from search engines, message boards where it gets posted, and facebook shares. It is among the top five posts on my blog pretty much every day. It upsets some people for sure, but I hope at the same time it reassures others that they have made the right choice for their family and their child.

Now, if only I could get my post on Gentle Baby and Toddler Sleep Tips to be just as popular as the anti-CIO post.

Photo credit: .Dianna on flickr

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Reader Comments (75)

What a good point! I don't like the CIO routine either, and I never could try it on my children. However, I lose patience daily and get snappy. Every parent must follow their heart on what's best for their family. Thanks for sharing!

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

As a non-CIO parent I find it so difficult to discuss this topic with other parents. I usually avoid it altogether. I hate telling people we don't CIO if they do. I don't want them to feel judged. I usually just say we have mostly co-slept and night nursed because it was the easiest way for all of us to get sleep.

We recently transitioned our 20 month old from our bed to a single bed and weaned at the same time. There have been challenging evenings but with a lot of cuddles, singing and pats on the back, he has adapted to sleeping on his own with no mom milk. When he wakes and cries out for us my husband or I go and lie down with him to soothe him back to sleep. His favourite way to fall asleep is face to face with an arm over my neck. Could there be any better indication that a warm hug and physical contact is what my child needs?

I avoid the topic too. I tend to avoid most parenting topics in conversation, because everything is so hot-button lately. What you feed them, how you feed them, how you sleep, mom's career choices...there are pros and cons to everything.

I wish we could all quiet our insecurities to better support our fellow moms. Because you're right, none of us are perfect.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney Sperlazza

I'm the exact opposite. If people feel judged by the choices we make with our family, that's their business (and potential issue) so I have no problem telling folks (if the topic comes up) that we're not a CIO family. When they ask why I feel so strongly I tell them that if I was crying and my husband ignored me, I'd be pretty upset so I wouldn't put my child in the same position. Kids aren't mini-adults, they are children. I think some people expect them to have the same ability to rationalize as we do and they just don't.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanieMZ

I don't CIO but there are certainly things I've done that I'm not proud of. I think one of the main differences is though is intention. I can easily forgive and understand a parent turning to CIO because in that moment he/she cannot get the baby to quiet. I've done that. Constant whining/crying from my daughter has lead me to putting her down or handing her to my husband and walking away for a few minutes.

However, using CIO as a chosen parenting technique to make a baby/toddler "learn" to sleep thru the night I can't forgive. I understand that the pressure to use CIO comes from all sides, but I can't really forgive a parent who doesn't follow their own instincts on this issue.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

Well said. I wish that it were easier to talk to other parents without feeling like I have to defend my choices, or force people to defend theirs. While I don't believe in CIO, and am still nursing my 23 month old daughter, I realize that there are other parents with different opinions and situations. I don't need everyone to do things "my way"; I would just like to raise my daughter as I see fit without the admonition of "she'll never learn to sleep if you don't let her cry", or "She shouldn't still be breastfeeding", etc. I don't question people on their choices of bottlefeeding, controlled crying, returning to work, because I'm not in their shoes, and have no place making them feel bad about their choices. If they want to know why I've chosen the path that I have, I'm happy to explain it, as long as they are respectful that there's nothing more personal than raising your child, and criticism just doesn't help anyone.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShoshana

I'm a better mom and person when I get a good night's sleep. We did CIO with both my boys; it took 2x 20 min crying the first night, 2x 10 min the second, and then we all slept through the night since. [As a general rule, that is. There are always exceptions, and once they were sleeping through the night if they would cry out for more than a couple of minutes we would go to them.] I do not believe that a grand total of 60 minutes of crying is going to do long term damage. I think my short fuse without enough sleep is much more detrimental.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I really like your blog. Thank you for putting many ideas I also agree with together and out into the world as an easy to read, sensible package. I have one baby so far, and CIO horrified me, but my mother was insisting on it. I sent her your 10 reasons article and she has dropped the subject. I often send/share your intelligent, thoughtful blog to friends and family and really appreciate your help.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarey McPherson

Like @Nico, we did some version of what some may think of as CIO with both our kids. I've since stopped using the CIO label because I feel like people characterize CIO as abandoning your babies to sob themselves to sleep no matter how long it takes. I never let my babies sob - I carefully listened for the differences in their levels of crying. I simply didn't respond immediately to fussy/complaining crying, which at least in my kids, is utterly distinct from real sobbing/need. They were both around 8 months old, and it took both of them even less time than in @Nico's case, and by the third night not a sound, and they - more or less - have slept through the night since. I don't think "sleeping through the night" is some crucial milestone all parents should reach by X date, and I don't think what I did would necessarily work for other people's kids. But I have to say, it does *not* fall into the category of things I did out of desperation as a parent that I am not proud of. I am not ashamed of what we did sleep-wise, because we felt strongly that what we were doing was the right thing for our kids and responded to a need that *they* were articulating. We are very AP in our orientation and it seemed totally counter-intuitive to us that our babies might not a) enjoy co-sleeping and b) want to be on us. My babies actually liked to be put down. My eldest in particular was especially susceptible to overstimulation, and once he was older than 4 or 5 months, he simply could not sleep next to us without thrashing miserably. He didn't like being in a sling/carrier when he was little, and he did not like co-sleeping when he grew bigger. He was never a cuddly baby; in fact, he used to flinch when we kissed him. We always respected his needs and boundaries, and now that he is older, he is super affectionate and demonstrative; we think this is partially because we never tried to force him physically to a level of closeness he didn't want. When he crawls into bed with us in the wee hours, we snuggle up with him. We have fundamental respect for who he is, and make our parenting choices from that as our starting point, rather some made-up idea of who he should be. That's what my instinct tells me.

That said, I never feel judged simply by someone saying that they co-sleep or really hate CIO philosophically. Different babies and different families have different needs.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

I don't do CIO either. I have a 3 yr old & a 16 month old. I tried with my older child a few times & ended up crying myself & doing it for no more than 15 mins & ran in and picked him up & apologized over & over. My little one did it once completely by accident. I was trying to get the older one down & the little one was causing mischief, so I put him in his crib while I got the older one to sleep & the little one just cried for a few mins & fell asleep - so not sure that really counts as CIO.
My belief is that they are so little (and only little once) & who are we to deny them comfort. We still lay with the 3 year old until he falls asleep for both nap (which I just did & it took an hour - but I did it) & bedtime. Why not? He won't want me to do it forever. And if they wake up during the night and need us - who are we to say they don't and leave them to cry. I believe that it will make your children more confident to know you are there for them when they need you.
I too yell & lose patience. That is a struggle with myself every day. I get angry at myself for doing so, but I don't have an unlimited supply. For those that do, I applaud you, I don't & I admit it. We all have flaws & that is mine!
No CIO - to me that's the way to go.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa B

Nico, good point. Every parent is differen just like every baby is different. Everyone has to do what is right for them & their baby. No one should say this isn't the way to do it if it feels right to you.
When my sistern in law was pregnant I told her the only advice I would give is to do what feels right for you & the baby. Oh and to start brushing teeth as soon as possible.
But everyone has the right to do what is best for them & not to be judged.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa B

Erin, my response to you is the same as to Nico. You do what works for your family & your baby (babies). That's all that should really matter.
I know that some people will tell me something & I think in my head "really, you do that?" But really who am I to say? I don't live in their house & don't know what goes on 24/7, so if it works - then by all means.
We need to enjoy our babies - that's all. The outside "good intentions" really just need to stop.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa B

Isn't it funny how you change the way you think about certain topics? Or rather, how you react to certain topics? Just as you write, I have now had so many topics I felt strongly about (breastfeeding and CIO) that I now see much more relaxed BECAUSE I can never know why people choose to do it differently from how I would do it. I now know how important the situation and the setting are for any decision we take as parents. And so I am with you, Lisa B: Every family should do what they feel is best for them - as long as they think about it and take a conscious decision.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSandra

Funny, just read your CIO post today while letting my 9-month old daughter CIO. Perhaps your blog entry reassures some, but it's unbelievably, cruelly, unspeakably horrible to others. It must be nice to think that you have a doctoral degree in parenting, when in fact you're just doing what you think is best for your kids. As we are all doing. Who the hell do you think you are to be so incredibly haughty, judgmental, sanctimonious, and above all sure of yourself?

I do have a PhD -- not in parenting, god knows -- and appreciate that what that advanced degree really requires is a healthy dose of humility.

You are really one of the most horrible people I've ever had the misfortune to "meet."

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

P.S. If you had a PhD perhaps you might realize that "none of us are perfect" should be "none of us IS perfect." My daughter may have had to cry it out so she would get more than an hour of sleep (I don't care about my own sleep, frankly, rather worry about hers) but she'll have good grammar.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

elizabeth....the adjective "perfect" describes "us" which makes "are" the correct form of the verb....that's just my phd in education talking though....

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

Elizabeth: While you may disagree strongly, I will tell you that the writer of this blog is not horrible whatsoever. She's lovely, and passionate, and strong willed, and articulate, and she says nothing on this blog without considering and researching it thoroughly. It sounds like you're not in a good place right now with your daughter, and you're struggling. It's really hard. I've been there. I hope things work out well for you and your family. There's a great community of people here to turn to if you need an ear or some suggestions.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterzchamu

Nope, sorry. The subject of the verb is NONE -- a singular subject. Verbs don't agree with adjectives.

You're just wrong.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

Actually, Elizabeth. I'm not. None can be both a singular and plural verb. When used in the above context, none of us it refers to us as plural.

The statement "none of us is/are" is commonly considered a grammar error when it's not. Google it.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

Google as the grammar authority? You're kidding... I'll stick with my Yale PhD, thanks. Terrible that you consider yourself an educator.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

If she's not horrible, then she should learn not to come off that way in writing. Wherever I am, she shouldn't judge.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

It's obvious that you're really angry, especially if you're trying to get into a grammar battle. You're focused on the tree not the forest. I'm not sure why you're getting so angry over a pretty reasoned blog post that's backed up with some research.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

LOL. Yale, me too. What year?

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

And with that, I'll leave your "community" alone with yourselves. Sorry to have ever run across any of you.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

Well, at least you've given up trying to defend your grammar. I bow out.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

Yale doesn't award PhDs in education. Nice try, though.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterelizabeth

Elizabeth brings up an interesting point - why is it that when people present differing opinions than our own we feel judged? I don't feel judged for breastfeeding when my friends all use formula.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

Oh, sorry. I didn't mean my PhD...and I stopped with the grammar argument because I know that we're both correct :)

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

Stephanie:

I've tackled that topic too: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/09/26/dont-judge-me/" rel="nofollow">Don't Judge Me

I should warn you in advance, there *may* be a typo in the post somewhere. Don't Judge Me. ;)

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Frankly, Elizabeth, I think pretty lowly of anyone who puts their own guilt, hurt feelings and anxieties as a parent above the importance of knowing all of the facts before making decisions for their children. I can't tell you how to be a perfect parent, but I *can* tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that as soon as you put your own petty feelings ahead of whatmay be very relevant information regarding decisions you are making as a parent, you do your children a disservice. You owe it to them NOT to boo-hoo about how a blog post "makes you feel bad" and "is horrible!" and process the information handed to you - objectively, and rationally - before making a level headed decision for your family.

Incidentally, this is why I'm MASSIVELY disappointed with this overly apologetic blog post. We are parents. We have a seriously frightening level of influence over a little life. We shouldn't need our consciences and egos stroked by fluffy kittens with pigtails.

You may well want to call me judgemental, sanctimonious, a pontificator (one of my recent favourites) or sure of myself but, if you take a brief glance at the world, and look with HONESTY, you'll see that I'm not wrong. The vast majority of parents today put themselves, their comfort, their sleep, what THEY want and need, first... and their children a close second. It's not good enough, it IS a problem, and it's getting worse. No, no one is perfect, but that isn't an excuse. Why is it OK to say "No one is perfect, so my ways are OK!"? Surely BECAUSE no one is perfect, we should constantly strive to be *better*?

This blog is little more than a retraction of one that actually made a strong statement. It's not going to help anyone. As soon as you state that "no one's perfect, so sometimes, it's OK" ever single person who does it will say "That's me! I'm the sometimes! Whew." As soon as you say "we all have limits as parents", you open the door to "yep. Me. I was at my absolute limit and had to do something!" - when 99% of the time they were nowhere near their "limit", and know it perfectly well. It's a lazy excuse.

I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the apologetics to save the guilt of parents who have already messed up. They will never be the ones listening to you. They're sitting in the corner with their fingers in their ears like Ms Elizabeth. Posts like your ORIGINAL blog are for those parents who HAVEN'T turned to CIO yet, who might still be listening with some degree of objectivity. Maybe even people who don't have children yet at all. This follow up does nothing but introduce that little niggling doubt that *maybe* those sleep-trainers could be right.

So, maybe in 3 years I'll look back on this and think I was being a little harsh. Even right now I think I probably am. But when everyone else is deciding that we should suddenly all hold hands and hug, with 90% of the western world's babies wailing in the background, SOMEONE has to be harsh. The responsibility of being a parent IS harsh. The facts don't care if you don't like them. People need to deal with that and stop retracting their statements when people don't like what they're hearing... this is the 3rd "retraction blog" I've read this week. Bleh.

Rambo:

This post was not intended to be apologetic nor to be a retraction of my previous statements. I still feel as strongly about this issue now as I did then.

I don't think that it is "sometimes OK". I do think that parents have the responsibility to seek other solutions and to continue seeking other solutions. I also agree with what Olivia said previously about intention and I agree with what you have said about constantly striving to be better. That is one of the reasons that I have this blog and that I write about my struggles, my successes, my research and my ideas.

I didn't intend this post to be a "hall pass" for parents to do CIO. First, it isn't my place to make those decisions for other people. Second, even if it was my place, I wouldn't grant that permission.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

To give her her due, "none of us is perfect" is the better grammar here, as when you consider the expanded sentence ("none" being a contraction of "not one"), i.e., "Not one of us are perfect", it's easier to see that the grammar is flawed.

HOWEVER, I also agree with Stephanie that debates seldom descend into grammar wars unless one or both parties are struggling to find an actual point to make. :D

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRambo

Thanks for the link. I didn't mean to go on the grammar tangent...I enjoy reading/discussing parenting topics to help me work out my own perspectives. I like your "Don't Judge Me" post - it articulates a lot of what I think when friends get offended when I explain my parenting choices (after they ask!).

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie MZ

Ultimately, on the grammar issue, I really don't care whether my usage was correct or not. I know from my years in school that I am not my own best editor and I don't make enough money with this blog to hire someone else to read through each post before I publish it. My unedited grammar and spelling is good enough for the purposes of what I am writing here. If this was a PhD thesis, I would hire an editor to go through it with a fine tooth comb for me.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I realise it isn't intended as a CIO permission slip (enjoying the analogy :p ) but, I also know that - horribly, frustratingly - it will be taken as one. For some it's as simple as guilt-relief, for others it varies from vindication to downright smugness. Whether intended or not, "I have realized that we all have limits as parents" will inevitably be twisted into "See? Even the people who are against it say that everyone has limits, and at MY limit, I had to use CIO.". It'll be seen as "no one should feel guilty - because we all have limits".

It goes without saying that we DO all have limits. I've come up against mine, several times. Anyone who claims that they haven't is either a saint, or lying. However, when those limits are reached and we act in ways that we don't like, surely it's not only natural but *important* to embrace the feelings of guilt that come afterwards? Not to wallow in them or fail to forgive ourselves, but to recognise that hitting that limit ISN'T ok, and ensure that those limits are constantly being pushed back.

July 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRambo

Honestly? I'm really disappointed by this post.

It's all very well and good not being a perfect parent but I absolutely refuse to be the kind of parent who things being "good enough" is acceptable. I will never stop trying to be better, never stop using the guilt I feel from mistakes made through my own imperfection to help me learn to be better.

It's just not good enough to say "I am what I am and I cannot be better" when, 99% of the time you absolutely can. Be that through pushing yourself, seeking help or completely altering your perspective. This isn't a battle you can just pick up or drop, or a vaguely controversial issue. This is an incomrehensibly big issue with enormous social implications and I, for one, am not happy to stand back and be so wishy washy about it and I never expected that from this blog either.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

@Elizabeth

Since you're so set on humility and not believing yourself to be ultimately right, why don't you put your money where your mouth is, go in and pick up your bawling child and remind yourself that you haven't a clue and you have no business forcing your child to do anything in the name of what is, ultimately, what you believe to be right.

Until then, your whole point is just another rancid little puddle of hypocritical bile.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElle

Elle:

I don't simply accept "good enough" and I do always try to do better. I am also not wishy washy on the issue of cry it out. I do, however, understand that parents fail sometimes. That doesn't mean that cry it out is good or even okay. It is an issue that I was simply not willing to fail on because it is that important to me.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It sounds like it worked out well for your family; you're lucky.

The problem with CIO as a rule is that not every baby will respond like yours did to being left alone to cry themselves to sleep. Many babies will ramp up their upset, not self-soothe. Many babies will take far longer than 10 minutes or two days to understand Mom isn't coming to help them. Real damage can be done, both to to parental sensitivity and empathy and to baby's delicate system if they are left to cry for prolonged periods of time. When mothers & babies get out of synch at night, and babies sleep deeply for long periods of time, it can lead to even more dangerous situations for baby.

It's unfortunate that "sleeping through the night" is held up as the "holy grail" of the first year of parenting, so much so that sleep training an infant seems like a necessity for baby or parents, and parents feel like failures if their infants haven't reached that "pinacle". Yet, this unrealistic expectation ignores the very real needs of infants - their physiological need to sleep lightly for safety reasons, and a very real need to eat frequently - remember babies grow more quickly and dramatically in the first year than at any other other point in their lives. They NEED to nurse frequently.

60 minutes of crying might not do long-term damage, but it is NOT the only way to help babies sleep better, nor is it the only solution for a parent to get a good nights' sleep, so in my opinion, it's not worth the risk of *might not*.

I totally identify with this post.

I have my own opinions about parenting and everything else, of course, but I am also with you that we all have our failures. I am grateful that facing my imperfections has made it hard for me to be holier-than-thou about stuff.

I've also had the experience of people being completely unfair (and incorrect) in assuming that they know all kinds of details about why I or someone else made different choices.

Like @Sandra said, I try to keep in mind that I generally have no idea why other people are doing things that I personally wouldn't do.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

She doesn't really "come off that way in writing"... perhaps it's your defensiveness that's making it appear that way, Either way, there are people who can help you if you would accept it.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterzchamu

Excellent point about heated controversy coming from a place of denial, arrogance, and guilt. If we can admit our own parenting flaws, it's a lot easier to be accepting of others' mistakes. It's also a lot easier to work on correcting those flaws if you're willing to own up to them. In an open, healthy debate, we can learn and grow from each other instead of just defending our parenting styles.

That being said, some parenting mistakes are definitely much worse than others (e.g. abuse) and can't be balanced out by some other positive parenting quality. Maybe the reason the CIO debate gets so heated is that leaving a baby alone to cry until he falls asleep sounds dangerously close to neglect. I imagine it's hard for those who practice strict CIO to hear why it's harmful without feeling intense guilt and getting defensive. Perhaps those parents need more support or information about alternatives to CIO. There are plenty of "gentle" sleep training methods out there that are at least better than nocturnal neglect. As you pointed out, the CIO parents may have other great parenting abilities that can be put to use at night instead of CIO. And maybe they have a valuable parenting skill to teach the rest of us!

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia@MaMammalia

And your evidence for these statements is?

" Real damage can be done, both to to parental sensitivity and empathy and to baby’s delicate system if they are left to cry for prolonged periods of time. When mothers & babies get out of synch at night, and babies sleep deeply for long periods of time, it can lead to even more dangerous situations for baby."

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Undergrad, then? My hubs and I are '98.

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandace

Thank you for this. I feel like your blog posts are quite tolerant while still standing up for your parenting beliefs, which is a difficult but important balance.

However, I think that the CIO post was a bit unfair. Some of the studies you site in the CIO post don't actually support the conclusions you draw. I wish the piece was written along the lines of what you believe rather than what medicine or science says. For example, no crying/ADHD/sleep study (which you don't link to but there is none to my knowledge) have been able to show which came first. As in, it isn't necessarily a causal relationship but the post implies that it is.

(BTW, I'm not a CIO parent although we did try it once years ago and we hated it so we stopped quickly. I never recommend it to people except if they are in danger of harming their child.)

I truly enjoy your blog and your attitude, and I'd love for you to link to the studies and sources that you site more often. (or maybe I'm just catching the posts that don't?)

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex@LateEnough

Alex@LateEnough:

The cry it out post has all of the sources listed at the bottom. The post is about what I believe, but those beliefs are supported by the science, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

I certainly don't think that crying causes ADHD. However, I do think that being responsive to a child's cries could help teach a child with ADHD to regulate his or her reaction and emotions, rather than always freaking out. Some people have ADHD so severe that they need medication, whereas others with milder ADHD can learn to cope and manage without it. I believe that having a responsive parent goes a long way toward teaching children, especially those who may suffer from ADHD or anxiety or Asperger's, to handle their own emotions and reactions.

In terms of other posts, I consistently link to the studies and sources that I cite (except in purely opinion-based posts). If you have found posts where I didn't do that, I would be happy to correct that error.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Aside from the instinctual understanding that I have that babies need response, and that training yourself to ignore that response (which goes against your innate gut feelings) can be detrimental to your bond and connection with your baby (isn't this true with ANYTHING? The less time you spend with it, the less responsive you are to it, the less connected you are with it?), there is also my personal understanding of how I've felt crying myself to sleep or being extremely upset over something without anyone to comfort me, or feeling alone and scared in certain situations, along with my knowledge of human development - that a baby doesn't understand that when a parent isn't within sight, they aren't gone forever (object permanence doesn't develop until close to 1 year, so this can be extremely distressing to a baby), along with the basic knowledge that crying is a baby's ONLY way of communicating (so therefore we should LISTEN) here are a few places where you can do more research on the topic:

http://www.awareparenting.com/comfort.htm (many references at the bottom)
http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/crying-it-out-causes-brain-damage.html

Studies have been done on the subject by doctors who have discovered such information as extreme distress in a baby (like from CIO) can block the full development in areas of brain, cause baby to produce too much cortisol, brain damaging effects can occur if parents fail to properly nurture a baby, and parts of the brain: limbic system, left hemisphere, & corpus callosum are all affected by severe distress in babies.

Dr. M DeBellis published in Biological Psychiatry
Dr. Margot Sunderland "The Science of Parenting"
Dr. M Teicher published in Biological Psychiatry

I know! I still get notifications of comments on that post.

For me, while there is no scientific "smoking gun" proving causation of harm of CIO...I believe there is a "preponderance of evidence" that it is not a healthy thing for parents or children.

Individually, all of the "proofs" can be picked apart--the study showing harm is based on true neglect, not CIO as practiced by otherwise attentive parents; other studies merely show correlation, not causation; it isn't "natural" but then again we are living in a different world today, etc.--but taken together they are sufficient for me to say this is a potentially harmful thing. Combining the psychological development of the infant (who does not understand object permanence or know that the parents are nearby with a monitor), the biological knowledge of what cortisol does to the body, the studies we do have, the reaction of the parent to her or his crying baby, and so on...the weight of the evidence is convincing for me.

And maybe if a child just fusses for 20 minutes, twice, and never protests sleep again, this isn't a lot of harm. However, I think CIO tends to be the last resort of parents who have hyper-sensitive children who would be the type who cry for hours...and it would stand to reason that these children are also more at-risk for ill effects from CIO.

Another point...I think that these issues will always be emotional. We are all, for the most part, loving parents discussing this. No one wants to think they did harm to their child, however unintentional or even well-intentioned their actions, or that we wasted effort that could have been put in other, more productive directions.

Once you choose a path, you become even more convinced of its truth and benefit. That's just human nature.

The thing that anti-CIO people don't seem to get is that there really is a level of sleep deprivation for an adult that is dangerous to mental health. And when an adult gets to that point, letting the baby cry so they can get some REM cycles in is sort of a necessity. I've been there. My husband and I aren't harsh sleep training types. I get the critique of CIO and it's true that it's not a cure-all for most babies.

All night nursing is of limited use if mom crashes the car into a tree because she's driving completely sleep deprived. Driving without enough sleep is akin to driving drunk. Or parenting drunk, if you like. It's a mental impairment.

So basically, that's my critique of these posts, which I do find very preachy. Take it for what it's worth. If there's a mom out there reading this who is honestly about to crack from a lack of sleep, you should know that it's ok not to nurse the entire night.

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Clear

Ms. Clear:

I don't think that is a fair assumption about anti-CIO people.

I do know that there is a level of sleep deprivation that is dangerous to mental health. I just don't think that CIO is the solution to that problem. Generally, we revisited all of my http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/02/28/gentle-baby-and-toddler-sleep-tips/" rel="nofollow">gentle sleep tips when things got worse.

If that didn't work, then we would take shifts. While 8 hours of sleep per night might be ideal, most people are not "sleep deprived" if they are getting 6 hours of sleep. So we would take shifts, with one of us being "on duty" from 8pm to 2am and the other one from 2am to 8am. You can adjust that as needed to account for work hours or whatever else. During the time when we were "on duty" it usually didn't mean we were getting no sleep at all, it just meant that we might be waking very frequently if things were bad.

I don't know what I would do if I was a single mom, had to work all day, didn't have any other type of support system, and the gentle sleep tips didn't work. But in a partnered relationship, I think there can always be a way to make it work if the parents feel it is important to do so.

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

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