Cry It Out – 6 Educated Professionals Who Advise Against It

Cry It Out - 6 Educated Professionals Who Advise Against It

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard about the cry it out method to get your baby to sleep.

Well-meaning family or friends might suggest letting your baby cry himself to sleep, so he can ‘learn to be independent’.

Or perhaps they suggest ‘cry it out’ because they say, ‘it works’.

However, parenting techniques like ‘cry it out’, which originated in 1913 (and potentially earlier), aren’t always best.

And when we know better, we do better.

What some people believe ‘works’ on babies, actually has effects that go beyond their own understanding of the infant brain.

In order to understand what cry it out really does to the infant brain, and why highly educated and trained professionals refuse to support it, I interviewed some leading experts in the baby sleep world. From paediatricians and professors to a lactation consultant, the evidence is startling and of great concern.

What Is Cry It Out?

There are two types of cry it out methods:

#1: The ‘extinction’ method — which is what most people know as ‘cry it out’ (CIO). Parents are instructed to leave their babies alone at bed time, completely ignoring their cries. These babies literally cry it out until they have absolutely nothing left.

#2: The ‘graduated extinction’ method — which is also known as controlled crying. Some ‘Baby Whisperers’ try to soften the term, by calling it controlled comforting or sleep training. Parents are instructed to leave their babies alone at sleep time. They alternate between attending and not attending during crying spells, at increasingly longer intervals.

‘Cry It Out’ – What Do Well Researched, Educated Experts Say?

Just to be clear – we’re not talking about putting your baby down for a minute because you need a sanity break. ‘Cry it out’ is a specific sleep training method of leaving babies alone in their beds, with the intent that they will fall asleep on their own.

So, why does ‘cry it out’ have highly educated professionals seriously worried?

Here are the facts based on years of research, which is absolutely not the same as opinion or judgement:

#1: Dr. Margot Sunderland

What makes her so qualified? Doctor Margot Sunderland is the Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health in London. She is also an Honorary Visiting Fellow at London Metropolitan University, Associate Member of the Royal College of Medicine, and a Child Psychotherapist with over 30 years’ experience of working with children and families. She is also the author of over 20 books in the field of child mental health, including the best selling book, ‘What Every Parent Needs to Know‘ (new edition to be released in 2016).

Doctor Margot Sunderland says:

“I would be very surprised if any parent continued to use ‘cry it out’ if they knew the full extent of what is happening to their infant’s brain. The infant brain is so vulnerable to stress — after birth, it’s not yet finished! In the first year of life, cells are still moving to where they need to be, a process known as migration. Migration is hugely influenced by uncomforted stress.

Then in the first year of life, there are adverse stress-related changes to the gene expression of key emotion chemical systems, that are responsible for emotional well-being and the ability to be calm and handle stress well in later life.

In addition, the level of stress caused to the infant brain by prolonged uncomforted distressed crying is so toxic, it results in:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated cerebral pressure
  • Erratic fluctuations of heart rate, breathing, temperature
  • Suppressed immune and digestive systems
  • Suppressed growth hormone
  • Apneas
  • Extreme pressure on the heart, resulting in tachycardia

It can even re-establish fetal circulation, as the part of the heart known as the foramen ovale re-opens. We don’t know the long term impact of this on the health of the heart in later life. Science hasn’t got there yet, but who would risk it?

Any uncomforted infant mammal will stop crying. So it’s not an achievement when you hear their crying stop. It’s a process known as ‘Protest-Despair-Detachment.’ A resigned, self-protective, giving up.”

#2: Professor James McKenna

What makes him so qualified? Professor James McKenna is the Endowed Chair in Anthropology and the Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been a member of many medical advisory boards. In over 30 years of work dedicated to mother-baby sleep, Professor McKenna has published over 139 scientific articles in journals on co-sleeping, breastfeeding, evolutionary medicine and SIDS. He lectures not only to parents, but also to paediatric groups. He has published a book for parents, Sleeping With Your Baby.

Professor McKenna says:

“The only 30 minutes I wish I could take back in my life are the 30 or so minutes my wife and I wondered if it was really selfish of us NOT to have our son Jeffrey learn to ‘self-soothe’.

So, in trying to be a ‘good parent’, and before that same son changed my career, once I realised that separating infants for night-time sleep and denying them breast milk laid the foundation for the rise of SIDS, we, too, levied a cruel and undeserved punishment against our innocent son.

The fact that I subjected my beautiful little boy to 30 minutes of unnecessary inconsolable crying ‘for his own good’ still causes me to cry! I can still feel my heart being torn out, when despite our well-intentioned cruel behavior, after opening the door to his room, all I could see in my son’s eyes was his unqualified love — still in need for me, and only wanting to feel his dad’s arms around him.

The fact that we let anyone convince us that it was important to teach ‘self-soothing’ still leaves me angry and resentful, of medical authorities of any kind using such estranged and adult-centric beliefs and values as weapons against trusting parents and their infants. They do not realize that the practice of ‘crying it out’ is entirely a western, cultural construction, and nothing less than a form of abuse.

Such ways of thinking only illustrate all too well mistaking social ideology for science — a mistake that continues to pervade western pediatric sleep advice in general.

What remains true is that every infant and child will eventually — and without any instruction — learn how to put themselves back to sleep. There is no need whatsoever to be “taught” this behavior.

Dr. Tom Anders, who is associated with inventing the concept, is clear when asked that he never intended his work on signallers vs self-soothers to be used to argue that self-soothing is important — or a necessary prerequisite — to assure optimal sleep development. Nor to provide some social developmental skill that could not be acquired equally well by some other more humane social learning.”

#3: Dr Howard Chilton, MBBS, MRCP (UK), DCH

What makes him so qualified? Doctor Howard Chilton is a Consultant Neonatologist at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney. He also has books published, including Baby on Board.

Dr Howard Chilton says:

“Cry it out makes absolutely no biological sense.

Like other primates, humans are a ‘continuous contact’ species, but we are even more than that — we are born the most immature of all placental mammals.  The important point is that in the early months, our fetus-like babies have to embark upon massive amount of brain development. They have to lay down life-long brain connections and embed fundamental beliefs about how safe and secure their world is, how reliable their parents are, and how valued and loved they are.

This is a vital time during which they are learning from their parents (but their mother in particular) new things about the world around them and how to deal with stress.  So it makes no sense at the darkest, scariest time of the day to abandon them to a regime of nocturnal neglect!

Cry it out also contradicts the very basic parental instincts of nurturing and caring for those we love the most in our lives.  It truly makes no sense.”

#4: Professor Helen Ball PhD, MA, BSc.

What makes her so qualified? Professor Helen Ball is a Professor of Anthropology and Head of Department, as well as the Director of Parent-Infant Sleep Lab (established in 2000) at Durham University. She pioneered the translation of academic research on infant sleep into evidence for use by parents and healthcare staff via ISIS, the Infant Sleep Information Source website.

Professor Helen Ball says:

“From an evolutionary anthropological view point, human infant crying is an identical behaviour to the separation distress call displayed by infants among other primate species. Crying is the infant’s only means of attracting their mother’s (carer’s) attention once separated, in order to ensure their own survival.

Responding to their infant’s cry is an instinctive behaviour of human mothers. To resist the urge to approach her crying infant is emotionally and physiologically stressful for mothers. Leaving an infant to cry is therefore evolutionarily inappropriate and biologically detrimental to both mother and baby.

Sleep techniques that employ prolonged crying to ‘teach’ an infant to sleep simply teach the infant that the mother will not respond as he or she expects. As a consequence, the infant cannot rely on the mother’s care and for survival, and he or she must conserve energy, since the mother as a food source is now unpredictable.

The infant therefore ceases to cry when crying fails to produce a response, and presents the appearance of sleep (shuts down activity). This leads parents to think they have successfully sleep trained their baby, while the baby is responding to the possibility it has been abandoned, and attempting to conserve energy to stay alive.”

#5: Tracy Cassels PhD

What makes her so qualified? Tracy Cassels has a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Developmental Psychology. She also has a background in research and statistics, so she well understands what research is telling us — and she even teaches it. Tracy’s academic works have been published in many peer-reviewed journals, including Psychological Assessment, PLoS OnePersonality and Individual Differences, Midwifery, and more.

Tracy Cassels says:

“What all parents need to know is that ‘cry it out’ and all modified forms of it are based on early behaviourist beliefs that if you stop the crying, you stop the distress. But what we now know is that this is not at all close to the truth.

Infants and children often have a behaviour-physiological mismatch. For example, a child that is upset, but is being held and comforted by an attached caregiver, may not show physiological signs of distress. Whereas a child that is silent can be experiencing huge internal distress.

This is why responsiveness is key in our parenting. Responding to our children is paramount in building a sense of security and later independence for our children. Understanding what is normal for infants and children with respect to sleep can help alleviate the pressure to use extinction sleep training to ‘solve’ our children’s ‘sleep problems’.

Parents also need to know that there are gentle methods to help guide our children’s sleep when changes are necessary, and, even more importantly, that most of the severe ‘sleep problems’ that children display are actually not sleep-related at all, but reflect feeding or underlying health problems.

When we ignore these facts, we are unable to truly help our children — and hopefully that is the actual goal of all parents.”

#6: Dr Frans Plooij Ph.D

What makes him so qualified? Doctor Frans Plooij, Ph.D, is the president of the International Research-institute on Infant Studies (IRIS) at Arnhem (the Netherlands).

Dr. Plooij has served as Vice President for Information of the International Society for Human Ethology, Vice President of the Institut European pour le Développement de tout les Enfants (IEDPE). He is on the editorial board of the journal Ethology and Sociobiology, and is a member of the panel of assessors of the Journal of Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

He is a member of several international, scientific societies for child development and behavioural biology, and of the New York Academy of Sciences. In addition to many scientific publications, Dr. Plooij has written several best-selling books on parenting, including The Wonder Weeks, which is based on 35 years of research and has been published in twelve languages.

Doctor Plooij has posted a YouTube clip telling parents to never let a baby cry it out:

Cry It Out Also Affects Breastfeeding

Not only can cry it out or other sleep training methods have an impact on a baby’s brain, but on the whole breastfeeding relationship too.

Renee Kam is BellyBelly’s IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, which is the gold standard in lactation training). She explained to me what happens to breastfeeding when we sleep train our babies.

“Night waking can be an exhausting and stressful time for parents. Feeling like they are doing something ‘wrong’ can make these feelings worse. Unfortunately, our society contributes to parents feeling this way, due to setting up unrealistic expectations of what babies of certain ages should and shouldn’t be doing.

Parents deserve evidence-based and realistic information about their baby’s sleep. Hopefully then more parents will be able to feel more relaxed about their baby’s sleep, and trust that their baby will wake less or sleep through the night in their own time.

All of this is important, since getting babies to sleep for longer before they are ready to (e.g. with cry it out) can be damaging for a mother’s breastmilk supply. This is because breastmilk production works on a supply equals need basis. So if a baby’s needs are ignored by them being left to cry it out, then a mother’s milk supply can suffer.

So, the less we feed our babies, the less milk our body thinks we need to make. This creates a ‘low supply’ belief, which is simply a symptom of not feeding baby frequently enough to keep up supply”.

What About Controlled Crying? Is It Better Than Cry It Out?

While controlled crying isn’t as intensive as ‘cry it out’, it certainly has its fair share of problems too.

“Too often you’ll hear parents say that they would never do ‘cry it out’, but will happily engage in modified versions such as controlled crying,” says Tracy Cassels.

“They honestly believe these methods are ‘different’ and ‘better’, and will not cause as much distress to their children. The problem is that the evidence we have would suggest they are wrong. Modified versions of ‘cry it out’ may sound nicer, but in reality, they are the exact same principles at work, only possibly more frustrating for the infant or child.”

Tracy continues, “A parent who checks on their child every 3, 5, 10, then 20 minutes isn’t actually responding to the child, but rather providing a glimmer of hope to the child that their cries are being heard and the warm arms of a parent will soon be available. This hope is short-lived, of course, as parents shush their children, possibly pat their back, then walk out the door again. Some parents may even pick up their child for a moment, only to put them back down and start the process over again. There is no comfort, only loneliness, fear, sadness, and repeated feelings of abandonment.”

Professor Helen Ball agrees. “It’s not part of a baby’s evolved biology or behavioural repertoire to be sleep trained anyway, therefore it’s completely normal for a baby to resist such a process — however gradually it’s done. The fact that it’s possible to sleep train babies doesn’t mean it is an appropriate thing to do. We have no idea of the consequences.”

Speaking about her interviews with parents about their sleep training preferences, Helen says, “Some parents are very clear that their baby must fit into their life, and this involves sleep training. Others are very clear babies’ needs come first and they as parents must adapt to cope. Those who struggle are those who are unprepared to do what ‘society’ thinks they should do, yet also haven’t contemplated how to adapt (or aren’t able to adapt for some reason). This group really struggles with the trade offs between parent needs and infant needs, and controlled crying appeals as a half-way house for them. They assume/hope/believe it won’t have any (serious) consequences for their baby.

The Australian Association of Infant Mental Health doesn’t support cry it out or sleep training for babies either.

What can you do instead of ‘cry it out’? Read though BellyBelly’s baby sleep articles to become more informed about your options, to build up your baby sleep toolbox, and to understand baby sleep much better. Remember, all babies will eventually sleep through in their own time, so with a little love and guidance from you, sleep needn’t be traumatic for mother or baby. I also highly recommend reading one of the above experts’ evidence-based books, and choosing from among BellyBelly’s recommended baby sleep books.

At the end of the day, you need to make the best decision for you and your family.

But before you consider cry it out ask yourself this: in a society already brimming with anxiety, depression, low self esteem, co-dependency, narcissism and other mental disorders, do you think it’s acceptable to continue this widespread experiment on infant mental health? When we don’t respond to our babies, what sort of future are we paving the way for?

Note: If you feel that you are not coping, please contact a post-natal support organisation such as PANDA (in Australia) to connect with someone who can provide emotional support.

Recommended Reading

 
Last Updated: May 10, 2016

CONTRIBUTOR

Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a doula, writer and mother to three awesome children. Currently, she's travelling the world for 12 months with her partner and children, and hopes to inspire more families to do the same. Visit aroundtheworldpluskids.com.au for more information.


115 comments

  1. As someone who completely changed my mind on letting babies CIO as soon as my own was placed in my arms, I truly appreciate these articles. My one complaint is the lack of knowing what to do and expect regarding an infants sleep without CIO. Of all 4 months of my son’s life, he has never been put down to sleep without me attached to me (or his father), whether in a carrier or lying beside him nursing him. Yet, he still “fights” sleep at almost every nap and it’s very difficult to find information, or even just validation, on good expections for infants and babies. Such as: how to help form healthy sleep habits/associations, what, if any, associations to avoid, transitioning infants from sleep habits that aren’t sustainable (I.e. nursing if the child is only taking in extra milk and spitting it up, walking stairs, driving in a car, or any motion assoc., etc.), when one can expect a well tended to baby to fall asleep without being parented to sleep, why a baby might cry when entering sleep if they’ve never been left to do some without its mother, etc. Maybe these are silly and I’m sure there are still answers, it’s just that the internet is so polluted with CIO methods it’s quite difficult to find good information!

    1. Hey Kacey, four months is a wonder week. Have you read the book? It’s a must for all new parents. It will give you tools and help you to better manage/understand the wonder weeks which bring the three c’s — crying, cranky and clingy.

      http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby/wonder-weeks/

      We are writing a follow up to this article, but also please see BellyBelly’s section “For Mothers” which addresses lots of post-natal parenting issues. The baby sleep section might be a huge help too, with lots of tips and advice on coping with baby sleep.

      http://www.bellybelly.com.au/post-natal/6-things-to-do-when-you-need-more-sleep/
      http://www.bellybelly.com.au/post-natal/ (for mothers section)
      http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby-sleep/ (baby sleep section)

      Good luck — know that many mothers have and are been with you xx

      1. In time the baby will slee.p longer, but my 15 months don.t sleep without me. Never. But i love it. Just listen your heart, have patientce and everything will be ok in time.

    2. Ok articles like these just tick me off as a mother of 5 what are my qualifications I’m a mother of 5 wonderful children. I haven’t spent my life in a book I have spent it with my children put the books down moms and listen to your instinct as a mother learn your children. 5 kids and each one was sleeping through the night from day 1. I didn’t get lucky with my children I got blessed. With a mother who raised me. This cry it out method ya I would definitely use it if it was necessary but half the time in my experience parents create a child to be so dependent on them. So instead of a child at a very young age learning mommy isn’t going to hold you all day but we will spend time together parents don’t put their kids down then when they do they scream so they pick them up solving nothing. Babies are smart they learn what they can and can not do very early off and who they can do it with. We love our babies and it is natural to hold our babies but you teach them nothing by doing this constantly. I always have my babies with me there is nothing I can not get done might be a little slower but it gets done. My baby’s watch me they help me they spend quality time with me learning at the same time. Ya they cry at times but it’s bc they r hungry or need fed. They don’t even cry when they r tired they just go to sleep. Parents your making this parenting thing hard on your self and your not truly enjoying it. I sleep 8hrs a night my house is always in order my children are always put together girls hair braided boys hair trimmed and neat and so am I. Be the parent follow through with discipline no is no I don’t care how cute your kid is follow through keep consistency. As far as this crying business you created the need to even let your child cry it out now what are you going to do about it. It’s like you got it in your head that your baby is going to be crying for hrs and hrs and days on end when in fact depending on how bad you have over indulged your child it will be longer at first and gradually and rather quickly they will learn just as they learned to cry to get what they want they will learn crying doesn’t get them what they want. The key here really is don’t let it get to the point were your child is the boss.

      1. Did you even read the evidence in this article? I’m holding back so much here but every shred of professional evidence says that not responding to a baby’s need is bad physically and emotionally. No wonder they stay asleep- maybe they’ve given up asking for help

        1. I saw only one person who is qualified mentioned they had a child. I can read a book on how to swim, but it doesn’t mean I know how to swim.

          1. Just because only one expert mentioned a personal story about their own child, doesn’t mean the others aren’t parents! They chose to focus on facts, rather than a personal story. We do live in a society that demands research, qualifications and proof (but not in some cases, it seems when it comes to baby sleep experts!).

        2. While all these people commenting are experts, none of them has conducted or reviewed research about babies’ brains before and after CIO. Perhaps there isn’t any. They are reporting their opinions, not research based facts. Additionally, I find it hard to believe that three nights of sleep training damages the brain of a child that is otherwise being lovingly and attentively cared for on a daily basis. It doesn’t really make sense that three nights vs, thousands of good days (and nights of good sleep) would result in such devastating changes in the brain or psyche. It’s not a sensible proposition evolutionarily..I don’t believe CIO “teaches” self soothing, though. It just teaches a child to fall asleep. And while I think it unfortunate when a family reaches this pass, I don’t think it it’s a trauma that shapes a child permanently. I want to see research. I work with too many mothers for whom sleep deprivation is a harmful fact of life for six to eighteen months of a baby’s life. That, too, is “abuse,” although without a thinking perpetrator.
          Please read the book, Bringing Up Bebe, about how babies in France are brought up. While I don’t support the lack of breastfeeding in France, French children are well lived and intelligent, and grow up to be well adjusted. The whole country isn’t full of damaged people due to their sleep practices. It gives one pause to become familiar with what people from other countries do.

          1. Leslie, these people above are not only trained and educated in a range of relevant skillsets and working in specific, relevant roles and in leadership positions relating to that (unlike the baby whisperers and those pushing CIO etc), but they refer to a stack of research and have done a heap themselves. A far cry from others out there pushing sleep training with an “idea” that it works because they have seen it.

            Would you prefer to get critical breastfeeding advice from your GP (who has 0-3 hours of breastfeeding “information” combined with personal experience and/or bias), or from an IBCLC, which is like having a masters degree in breastfeeding and who see breastfeeding women all day, every day for a living? Not like most baby trainers have any medical quals at all, but just trying to give an example.

            “When I was studying medicine, I had a total of eight hours on dietetics. At the end of eight hours, I realised I knew nothing about dietetics. I now understand why people spend four years studying to become a dietitian.” — Dr Karl (famous doctor in Aus media).

        3. This is simply untrue – there is plenty of evidence out there to the contrary but this article uses emotive language by parents who happen to also have professional qualifications. Controlled crying does not make a stressed child in my experience – what stressed my daughter out was being picked up and fully reawakened when she was exhausted and trying to sleep. Teaching her to sleep through the night was the best gift we could give her and it took hardly any crying time at all.

          1. They have professional medical and/or psychological qualifications, and they are also researchers – many of them for MANY years. So they not only have the medical knowledge, but the technical knowledge to perform, interpret and teach research to others. Based on MANY babies, not just one.

            I think when people try to discredit professionals and their advice, they should disclose their own qualifications and training.

        1. And those Amens were for the original comment that babies learn very quickly! Experience trumps a book or degree any day!!

      2. Having kids doesn’t make you an expert of anything. My mother had 5 children and I would hardly say she is qualified to give any child-rearing input. Having kids also does not make you an expert on the brain or neurological functioning, education does. I have children, and would never be so vain as to say I am qualified to give parenting advice, I trust and refer trained scientific individuals with certified training and verified research.

      3. Momof5, I totally agree. Mind you, I don’t let my kids cry it out for hours and hours. I let them go 5, 10 min. tops (and this is after they’ve eaten, been changed, spent some play time), and if they are just not self-soothing, then I’m like ok, well maybe they are not feeling good, and figure out what else might help. But the CIO we do after we have done everything that they could want or need, we know they are tired, but they are fighting it. And you know what, I have 3 kids, so I’m not going to hold the baby to get her to fall asleep when she’s already fighting hard, hold her for a long period of time, when my other 2 need me for stuff too. I have to try to give them my time as well. Mind you, I do tell them I will be right w/ them as soon as I get done w/ the baby, but they’re 3 and 6 and they can only hold on for so long. So if I did everything for the baby (who is actually going on 1 year old), and she’s just fighting it and fighting it, and there’s just nothing else I can do for her because she’s beyond tired, I put her in her crib, shut the door, and let her CIO to go to sleep. I actually did it w/ my other 2 as well. My parents did it w/ us 4 and so on. Nothing wrong w/ us. Nothing wrong w/ my kids. These kind of articles tick me off as well. And these “experts” really tick me off too. I’m feeling like a lot of these people are only going off off their personal beliefs of how parents should be. We should do what we feel is best for our kids, w/o having people like this make us feel like s*it about it. Next thing you know, this will be yet another thing all these damn liberals will be throwing into the category of child abuse. Such bulls*it. The meaning of child abuse has been so misconstrued because of all these bleeding heart liberals anymore, it just irks me. These are the same people who baby and coddle their kids their whole lives and wonder why they grow up to be whiny, sissies who are still living at home til they’re in their 30’s and not being productive members of society. I weep for this country’s youth, I weep for my potential grand-kids because at the rate this is going, my kids are going to be too scared to do what they feel is right for their kids because they’ll feel like they have to do what this now liberal society tells them they should do w/ their kids.

      4. You did get lucky. Some babies are born crying and hardly ever stop unless being held. I’m a postpartum nurse and have witnessed thousands of babies on their first few days. I’m here to tell you that you can pat your back all you want, but you had nothing to do with your baby sleeping through the night on the first night.

      5. Totally agree! I was so opposed to cry it out, that I basically trained my son to cry whenever I wasn’t holding him. I did this for 10 months and both my son and I were suffering. In the end, ONE night of letting him cry for an hour taught him to sleep through the night. Two more nights involved a few minutes of tears and then all was good.

        I am way more relaxed with my 3rd and yes, because stuff needs to get done, I can’t jump at every peep and she is the best sleeper – no need to train!

    3. Hi,
      When attempting to set baby on a schedule for sleep, it’s best to have a routine at night. Such as giving a bath every night before bed. The routine will catch on, and soon enough baby will get that it’s “bed time”. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, don’t turn on bright lights, and if possible, keep lights off. This is a good way to get him to know the difference between “up time” and “down time”. When transitioning my 3 babies, during the day for naps I would lay them in their basinet and talk to them while I did things around the room. They heard my voice and they were fine to fall asleep. Then at night I began doing the same thing, but I got up with them when they needed me. They never had a problem being in their own sleeping space at about your sons age. They were able to be laid down at the same time every night and fall asleep on their own. But if they woke up, I was right there to tend to them. Maybe try getting a routine before bed and putting him down in his bassinet or crib, just standing there to show him he can fall asleep without you holding him. 🙂

    4. I used Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block video and book. The techniques worked wonders with my baby. Though she was never interested in the pacifier and that was fine. Around 7 months I felt a lot of pressure from friends and family about her falling asleep on her own. They said let her cry it out. IT WAS HORRIBLE. Needless to say, my daughter is persistent. I said never again because she cried for a long time!!! Then I tried the interval method- that was crazy too. It felt in-humane. I can see where abandonment and all sorts of emotional problems can develop from the crying it out method. Children need to feel secure and if they cry and no one goes to get them, their neurons get scarred in their developing brains.! So I went back to the Happiest Baby techniques and my daughter was put to bed by me or my husband. We rocked her using the glider. We used the shushing technique and once she fell asleep we put her in her crib and she stayed asleep.

      1. Omg children don’t develop abandonment issues because they cried for awhile one or two nights. What about if you were driving an hour away to visit a relative on a highway and your baby was crying the whole time. Would you pull over on the side of the highway and pull them out of the car seat? No because it would be more dangerous if you did that than if they cried for an hour there and back. Stop the mommy shaming. A sleep deprived, depressed and angry mother is more damaging to a child than crying for two or three night tops. You people are all insane and you’re doing more harm than good by posting these articles.

    5. I’ll be honest, I’m reading it as my 8 month old is currently CIO.

      Like most males… TL;DR.
      Skimmed.

      And I do not see a Bold header for what to do instead of the CIO method.

      1. Mike: our son was impossible to get to sleep, and honestly, even an attempt at CIO didn’t work for him (probably because we caved, thereby reinforcing him for crying/screaming) – he fought right through everything we tried starting around 7-8 months. Methods #1-4 in the link posted below were not helpful to us (well, I haven’t read any of those books, so I guess the jury’s out on those). #3: Oh how I wish that sleeping better myself would have a positive effect on my son’s sleep!! I’m fairly certain that the quality of my sleep and the quality of my son’s sleep have an inverse relationship (because our time getting him to go to sleep obviously cuts into our time sleeping), so in my experience, improving the quality of my sleep does not in any way help him to sleep. #1 – we tried the calming routine thing and it also didn’t work; in fact, I think he figured out what was happening and fought it even more. #4: Indeed, you just need to accept this phase in life and know it won’t last forever. What we did that worked: lightly jiggling him in our arms, walked around the house with him for an hour or so until he fell asleep (I had great biceps!); and if that didn’t work, we drove him around in the car until he fell asleep. Around 1.5 years, we laid in bed with him until he fell asleep – this usually took 1-1.5 hours. Starting around 2.5 years, we lay with him for 5-minute or so spans of time, then leave and say we’ll check on him later; then go back a few minutes later. We space out these “checks” until he eventually falls asleep, but it usually takes him 1-1.5 hours to go to sleep from the time we put him in bed (and we put him in bed 9-9:30, which I definitely don’t think is too early). I just figure this kid hates to sleep and try not to worry about it. I know full well how important sleep is to development and it used to worry me that he might not be getting enough sleep (hence all the techniques we tried), but I figure we’re doing the best we can and he seems like a happy kid. Hope that helps! Good luck!!

  2. i just know that leaving a baby to cry does not work, my last child was a nightmare and never slept till he was 7, only tried leave to cry once and I was the sniveling, crying person, too stressful, it was hard but just let him be beside us reading, coloring in and listening to music, Eventually he slept, he is 22 now and still has trouble with sleep. everyone is different.

  3. Very interesting article but if you don’t use one of the CIO methods, what’s the solution to get your child to sleep?

    1. Most babies will sleep well if their awake times are stimulating. It’s a two-fer. Stimulation of the brain of a baby while they are awake will allow the baby to develop more neuron connections, while allowing them a more restful sleep. Older children may have a problem with over-stimulation prior to bedtime, but babies have a different brain as well as a different sleep pattern than even toddlers.

    2. Follow the baby’s cues…one hour before sleep..dim the lights , less noise…foot massage or a warm bath or the breast. Enforcing is detrimental.

  4. at 18 months we tried the CIO extinction method and what happened was crazy. It was a last resort and i agreed to just try it one time. I was pregnant with my second and so exhausted and sick. My DH only cried for less than a minute – more like 30 seconds. She never ever cried longer than that and was sleeping perfectly from the first night. nap times too. I don’t even like saying we tried it – but if we didn’t we would have never found out she was ready. I know every child is different and if she did cry horriblely we won’t have continued it. Good luck mamas!

  5. The issue u have with these articles is that they never give any reference to the age of the baby. If you start CIO with your baby at say 6 weeks then I would agree with all of the above but at coming up to a year or over? When a parent is so sleep deprived they can barely function, something clearly has to be done. I feel articles like this lay guilt at the door of those who cope for as long as they can before taking more drastic action. When you’re a new parent feeling guilt and pressure everywhere you turn, “educated experts” and smug attachment parents (who if they’re honest have toddlers who are just as challenging) frowning at you on top of that is the last thing you need! Throw away the books and the studies and do what your instinct tells you. Provided you are a mum who loves and care for her child, you won’t go far wrong!

    1. If you’re sleep deprived and not functioning, instead of resorting to CIO (which is additional stress for mum most of the time, and definitely baby), then you can look at ways to make changes so you can cope. There are some articles linked in this article for starters. But many mothers forget to actually reach out for help or to give themselves some downtime. And yes, I have been a single parent, and I have had postnatal depression. If you’re not coping, look to fix your situation, not your baby, then no-one has consequences. It’s a win-win.

      1. Wow, what an incredibly condescending thing to say to a mother who has been struggling for a year to cope with her child’s sleeping habit, as if she hasn’t tried everything under the sun. My wife and I struggled with massive colic, a child who would not sleep if he wasn’t being held upright for over six months. When we could finally lay him down we tried everything you can imagine, and despite all the help, all the reading, the only thing that worked was the Ferber method (the method ignorantly lumped in with CIO by many of the doctors above). In a few weeks we started seeing progress that was nonexistent after months of other methods. Telling someone that their problems are because they are lazy, or not trying is just rude and profoundly unhelpful. I’m glad I didn’t have a friend like you in my support network during our year of no sleep.

        1. I’ve not told anyone they are lazy, Michael. I was so desperate I tried controlled crying with my first born too. Luckily, there were the two of you there to help with the baby most of the time. I didn’t have a simple time of it either, but CIO was not the answer.

          1. Just wrong Michael & aggressive & rude. Kelly didn’t say anything about lazy. If you were so happy with your choice perhaps you mightn’t feel so defensive.

            And yes I tried CIO & it was awful & I had PND

            When I knew better I did better & now my kids are late teens early 20s the ones that I sadly didn’t pick up & trust my instincts are the ones struggling emotionally.

            Not sure why Julia is saying Bravo. It’s very sad being so aggressive & simply stating wrong things as facts.

  6. I don’t know. There has to be a good compromise. I never let my babies cry themselves to sleep, and they would not go to sleep easily or take naps regularly. My mother said I needed to let them cry and then they would sleep but I just couldn’t do it.

    I was a wreck for years because my kids wouldn’t go to sleep like normal kids or take naps. I even ended up with some health issues from lack of sleep. I have four, they are all grown, the last just graduated from high school. They are incredibly well adjusted and very smart. Wishing I could have done things differently though to save my health.
    MC

  7. I was just wondering what your thoughts are on being in the car seat? We travel in the car quite often and my baby hates it. He will scream and is effectively “crying it out” until we stop driving. I am able to soothe baby if I am in the back of the car with him but if I am driving by myself it is really awful. Do you think this will have damaging effects on the baby’s brain?

    1. This question does get asked quite a bit once people read articles like this.

      It’s a tricky one, because you don’t want them to cry, but you need to drive the kids to school or things like that.

      Here are some tips for the car seat: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby/baby-hates-car-seat-9-tips/

      If you don’t use crying methods for sleep, but need to use the car, then hang in there and get through it as best you can. Take solace in the fact that your baby doesn’t have to cry himself to sleep. But where you can, minimise car crying if possible. Sometimes that is VERY hard when you need to be somewhere. Good luck!

      1. I found my babies needed some treatment from a trained Osteo/chiro post birth. One was forceps one was over 4.5kg & one had a torticollis. The treatments helped enormously

  8. I have to offer an opposing view, as the problem with articles like this is that it scares mums (including me!) into thinking these strategies are evil and should NEVER be attempted! And when you have a baby that wakes 8 times a night (like my first) and you think leaving them to cry is the equivalent of being a bad parent, it leaves you confused and uncertain what to do next.

    With my first baby I thought CIO and all of its forms were mean. She is now 4 and still a terrible sleeper. With my second child we started controlled comforting from 6months and it worked beautifully; I responded instinctually, if we was screaming and in distress I cuddled her, if she was having a little whimper (but clearly tired and drowsy) I left her to her own devices to settle herself. She was sleeping peacefully from 9m through the night and now at 2, is a beautiful sleeper, goes down without a fuss for her nap and at bedtime (it takes 5 mins to put her to bed and an hour to get her big sister settled!)

    So my advice to other mamas reading this is: there is NO solution that is ‘one size fits all’. Try to follow your instincts and take articles like this with a grain of salt. Yes, leaving your child in distress and screaming for hours/days/weeks on end will be damaging, but a light controlled crying regime can work wonders on restoring sleep and balance to the whole family.

    1. I think the problem with taking an article full of leading world experts that have been studying baby sleep for 20-30 years (each, for some of them) with a grain of salt is that it tells people that it’s not important. It is. Instead of dismissing important knowledge like this, we can be trouble shooters and work out how we CAN make it work. Families of all shapes, sizes and setups do make it work. I think it’s because they are well aware of information like this and look for solutions, are resourceful and seek support and networks. I was guilty of suffering alone too long with my first. I didn’t think to ask for help, and I was alone for most of the day, every day, and my ex husband was a workaholic, which no doubt led to PND. CIO just wasn’t an option, so I co-slept with all three babies (had 4 kids in our blended home though).

      Yes, you need to do what works best for you as a person and family. But I think people get stuck with sleep deprivation and stress, and the first solution they think of is how to train the baby, when we first need to look at, how can we improve this situation at home?

      1. I agree, take it all with a grain of salt. In a couple years they’ll all be saying that the CIO method is the best. Everything baby related changes every couple of years. My almost 2 year old has never slept on her back, not even during nap times. Even against the pediatrician’s wishes. She slept in a bassinet in my bedroom til she was 6 weeks, then moved to her crib in her bedroom and once she got used to going through the process of slowing her mind and calming herself down, has slept in there ever since. Babies that co-sleep or are held in order to sleep are a nightmare for daycare providers. It’s important to learn their cries. Know your baby, know the issue. Follow your gut!

        1. Again, some of these experts have been researching for 20-30 years – and their stance hasn’t changed. Parenting may go through fads, but research, biology and babies are still the same, just as they have been since the beginning of time. What has changed is our expectations of them.

          1. Research does change, yes, but a great deal has not too. I think we get confused with crappy studies which were flawed and not set up well. I see it all the time, groups not separated properly, high risk with low risk… such a shame. Everything makes it to the media, but they never mention the flaws, nor follow up.

          2. A very selective group of experts and researchers. There is just as much data and doctors who argue that CIO has no measurable long term effects on childhood development. Your doctors have good reasons for their opinions, as do the many, many doctors who fundamentally disagree with everything you are arguing above. Hence, anyone who has done a bit of research and has a good pediatrician will immediately recognize a cherry picked argument for what it is and take everything that’s said with a grain of salt.

          3. They were selected for a massive amount of research they have been doing for an extraordinarily long time. They are recognised leaders in infant sleep.

          4. While it may be good advice to not ignore this research, the same might be said for leaning on it too hard. 20-30 years is certainly not an entirely respectible length of time. It’s barely half of a person’s lifetime. They were using mercury and heroin to cure coughs and ailments for centuries. Children died from ingesting “soothing” narcotics. Yes, we’re getting better at sciencing, but there are still fads that last for much longer than 30 years. Lobotomies were in style for over 50. I’m not saying anything is wrong or right, just that “research” is not “still the same”. I don’t think people should ignore the research on this, but I do agree with those saying they went with their gut or found out what worked best for them. There’s 7 billion people on the planet. No amount of research is going to perform a just cross-section on that. All I know is infants have needs and need close care, but when they start getting older, they sure start discovering what gets attention. But that’s another story.

          5. Hi Kelly, I would really like to understand this topic (how CIO affects the brain) better. Can you please tell me the articles from peer-reviewed journals (not books; anyone with some money can publish a book) on which these experts (and you/others) base their assertions about CIO? I clicked on the links above under each author and only two of them (McKenna and Ball) have any scientific articles listed on their website. I intend to look through these articles and read the relevant ones, but I thought I’d ask you too since it seems like you’ve already done the work (and maybe I’m missing something on some of the websites)! Thanks!!

        2. Whether a baby cried it out or not is not a deciding factor to how they’ll act at daycare. My daughter didn’t co sleep, she slept in a crib in my room. She wasn’t breastfed but didn’t cry it out either. She was a nightmare for daycare providers. My son who co slept for almost two years, nursed to sleep the entire time, and was attached to me 24/7 never cried at daycare, even the first day. A year and a half into daycare his provider has always had nothing but positive things to say. He naps great for her and is always happy. Kids will have their own personality regardless. I will never force another child to sleep alone (my daughter didn’t seem to mind, but she wasn’t given an option) and I will never, ever let my child cry it out.

  9. CIO made my kids wonderful sleepers. Their pediatrician was fine with it. They are all fine, well adjusted older kids now.

    1. 2 for 2 with our kids using CIO. Well adjusted, great sleepers who love their parents and are well ahead of the curve physically and with communication. The difference between them and their friends is that ours sleep much better.

  10. This sounds like what goes on when a vaccinated infant cries inconsolably too:
    “In addition, the level of stress caused to the infant brain by prolonged uncomforted distressed crying is so toxic, it results in: Elevated blood pressure Elevated cerebral pressure Erratic fluctuations of heart rate, breathing, temperature Suppressed immune and digestive systems Suppressed growth hormone Apneas Extreme pressure on the heart resulting in tachycardia”
    SIDS

  11. I have a 6 year old who screams and crys for cartoons. Even when watching a cartoon if it stops to load for litterally 2 seconds immediately crys and screams. And as soon as it starts again instantly stops. I know these are tantrums my partner believes we should fall to her feet and instantly try and get the cartoon to work. I believe ignoring to tantrums is best she is nearly 7 years old what do you think?

    1. My 6 year old and 3 year old does that. You know what we do? We tell them that if they’re going to act that way, we’ll turn it off. If they keep it up, we turn it off for a while. They can go play w/ their toys in their room, or just go to their room and they don’t have to play w/ their toys, but we still send them to their room until they can calm down and act right. My 3 year old is quick to calm down when we do that, he’ll be in his room for a couple minutes, and he’ll come out says he’s calm. So then we put it back on for him. My 6 year old, Idk, she seems more grudgeful, she’ll be in there a while and not want to talk to us. After a while, she’ll be like can I come out, and we’re like yeah, if you can be calm we can put it back on.

  12. I read a book given to us by a well meaning friend after our first was born, that basically attributed lack of sleep to poor performance in school and ADD. It was our bible and our son was sleeping through the night from the beginning. I was in agony the whole time. Not knowing who/what to trust, trying to be ‘strong’ because this method ‘worked for others’ kept us going and motivated. Gah. I think back on that whole episode with physical pain and regret. When my second came along 7 years later I refused to do anything other than keep him attached to my hip and let him tell me what he needed. He didn’t sleep through the night for a year, but I was much happier and so was he. Hold your baby, even if you have to do it in your bed lying down. You don’t have them long. Cherish every second.

    1. Many of us learnt more & changed. I too have many regrets. I try to focus on the good I did but I agree it’s hard. Hugs to you too

  13. Ok, so we’re supposed to just hold our babies indefinitely? Letting them cry is obviously a horrendous inhumane form of torture, so what’s the answer? Reassuring them constantly that whatever they want they will get? At what point is it ok to not reassure them that crying will get them whatever they want? Believe me I’m not saying I believe in cry it out but it seems to me that these ‘highly educated professionals’ have zero solutions, and I’d really like to see what kind of spoiled brats they have for kids if they are giving them everything they want.
    We started the controlled cry method when our son turned six months, and it worked beautifully…he very rarely made it into the ten or twenty minute intervals. To be honest I have never seen a more loved, happy and secure baby. But we somehow permanently damaged him, and he ‘gave up’ on our love?
    Sometimes when you study something for so long I think people start to abandon reason and logic. There is a connection between a mother and her child (perhaps father too) that science can’t comprehend. When a child knows he/she is loved there is something there that these ‘highly trained professionals’ fail to see in their books.
    If a mother/father never trains their child to sleep at bedtime the child will learn that he/she can go to bed anytime they want, and there are no rules or structure. I’m not saying you should start this right away, obviously, but come on…it was pretty clear when our son was old enough to be able to handle sleeping on a schedule.
    This disgusts me, and even moreso that it caused my wife to get extremely upset that we had somehow ruined our perfectly normal and happy child.

    1. Thank you! I *hate* articles like this! They are so condescending trying to make parents feel horrible about their parenting decisions. I especially loved the last paragraph where it said that “you need to do what’s best for your family”, but was immediately followed up by reminding you that if you do employ CIO as a sleep training method you will surely raise a child who will suffer from any number of mental health disorders *eye roll*… perhaps the raise of mental illness has more to do with better diagnostic procedures, environmental factors, etc… but no no its because you choose to sleep train using CIO. Just as a side note both my husband and I were sleep trained using CIO and he’s a physician, I’m finishing my masters of nursing… I could come to the conclusion that CIO actually produces healthy, independent and intelligent adults. Which is just as ridiculous as implying that your child will have mental health issue later in life. The moral of this story is to not give in to scare tacit like this but talk with you doctor who IS educated in infant and child health rather than seeking advice from outrageously biased articles like this!

      1. You hate an article that tells you to be more patient with your children? Yeah, you’re perfectly well adjusted. I had to do CIO with my 15 year old. I regret it but this article doesn’t shame me.

  14. I have raised seven children each of them were sleeping through the night between seven and 10 weeks we found that a regular routine give a child all the confidence and rest needed to be healthy and strong

  15. Hi there, you say this article is based on evidence from research. Please can I see this evidence? Or a reference to the peer reviewed research? I don’t get why these articles never say what evidence the statements are based upon. And i don’t mean an experts opinion on the research,; I want to see the actual research please. I mean “CIO causes brain damage” is a massive statement to give parents without actually showing any evidence. ..

    1. Thank you for that comment. I don’t see any children who CIO with brain damage. I don’t see any of the “research” they said they did on here.

      1. All of these people have dedicated their lives to baby sleep research (and/or baby mental health) – if you check out their websites they have loads of information, studies and research papers. Margot Sunderland’s book is based on hundreds of studies, all of which are referenced in the back of her book. There is a tonne of research out there, I can’t possibly list them all – but these people aren’t just expressing opinions, but what they know due to MANY years of research on this topic. They are world famous for their knowledge.

        1. Thank you so very much for this wonderful article Kelly.

          To all those looking for research papers just google.

          Very distressingly I notice most disagreeing are angry Dads. All I can say is no wonder the baby’s are stressed & the mum’s too.

          It’s not fixing a problem with our babies. Our job as parents is to support each other & nurture & love our babies.

          Babies need to be breastfed at night & often when a mum feels confident & supported & feeds at night & then co-sleeps everyone gets more sleep

  16. What about older babies? We have resisted CIO or “sleep training” with our daughter for 15 months now. She sleeps in our bed with us. But lately, she spends more of the night awake than asleep. She is a super light sleeper and spends half the night fussing and crying, despite all her needs being apparently met. We are all sleep deprived and having a hard time functioning. We don’t want to do CIO but can’t keep going like this. NO ONE is sleeping well, including her. Just at a loss.

    1. Well just my own experience; I used to bring my son (15months) in to our room if he wouldn’t sleep but now we prefer to lie on the floor next to his cot until he goes to sleep. In the night if he wakes up and doesn’t settle after a couple of min, we will go in and get him to lie down, give him his dummy and soft toy play his nighttime music and leave again. If we hear him stand up again we go and get him to lie down again but eventually he will stay down and drop off or if he’s particularly upset we will stay with him again until he’s asleep but we don’t pick him up. If he’s waking several times a night I believe it’s because his teeth are hurting and calpol does wonders. I feel it’s much better sleep for him in his own bed because he has his own space and comforts. even if for now we have to stay with him until he drops off , he’s at least learning to be in his own bed. We have a routine so he knows when bed time is. Our routine is bath bottle bed. We dim the lights and play a lullaby. I hope that’s not the same as Cio as I feel that a 15month old crying at night is closer to them having a tantrum (you can hear when they are truly frightened/in pain) for their own way. Would be nice if the article was more clear on ages. Tho the video did say 1st year and I wouldn’t leave a baby younger than that to cry.

  17. My little man is 19months old and we still have problems trying to get him to sleep through the night. He has been through various sleeping patterns of sleeping through and then not. And the past few months have been horrendous so it’s all very well saying that they sleep when their ready but when you are at the end of your tether and lacking In sleep yourself and having to work too, the cio method is an option which we’ve been doing. Don’t get me wrong I feel awful but we have tried everything to get him to sleep and this seems to be starting to work. I do check on him but I sometimes think that makes him worst.

  18. What about toddlers??? My almost 2 year old started waking up in the middle of the night and this has continued for a few months now. Are the consequences the same at this age?

    1. Two year olds are getting molars so they can often have patches of rough sleep. They are also very sensitive to changes in the home — new jobs, new houses, relationship issues, anxiety and stress in the house. Love and reassurance are key, and knowing it will pass. My daughter started sleeping better after she weaned at 2.5, then had a period of upset for a bit, and is sleeping better again. As they get older, it gets easier. You’re almost there!

  19. My baby was colicky till he was about 3 months old. There were times i had to put that crying baby in the bassinet, close the door and take a break. I slept little and cried a lot. Those times made me think that i didn’t want to have any more children. It was the longest three months of my life. When he was getting better, my tolerance for cry was high (after colic nightmare). I wouldn’t let him cry himself to sleep, yet i’d let him fuss for up to 3-5 min and i would try to move on to the different method of putting him to sleep. After colics were gone he was moved to his crib and started sleeping through the night. Now he is two and a half, he is a very calm and laid back child. He takes 3+ hour naps, tells me when it’s a night-night time. He is perfect. I have been judged by my sister for letting him fuss/cry a little before sleep. She never did, yet my 8 year old niece still cannot fall asleep without her mommy and daddy by her side in addition she suffers from bipolar disorder and self-confidence issues. I really think that all kids and parents are different. And I agree with all the comments that the article didn’t provide an alternative solution. Also I think as parents we don’t always realize when we make mistakes in bringing them up and which actions of ours create behavioral issues in our children… wether letting them CRY IT OUT, putting them in the corner, grounding them for a week or kicking them out of the house at 18 🙂

  20. Just because some supposeded experts say it is wrong, doesn’t mean it is, I could give you names of other experts who say it isn’t. And please, this isn’t a new idea, there arer documented cases of kids being left to cry themselves to sleep in Euprope for hundreds of years.

    It comes down to knowing your child. After having three kids I know one thing is true, none of them were the same and they all needed different things when it came to sleeping, and yes,I had one who simply had to be left to cry herself to sleep. And to this day that girl is still our most stubborn child who wants what she wants and when she wants it.

    Babies learn quickly how to manipulate, that is what crying is all about, they learn that crying gets them fed, held and changed. At this age is is the only way for them to communicate their needs. As they grow older they are taught how to speak and to use their words to ask for food, to be held and whatever else they need. And the “terrible twos” or whatever age it occurs to a given child is proof that they report right back to those early methods of manipulation to get what they want.

    I am so tired of reading articles telling parents they are bad because they parent in a different way than the author. If you don’t feel comfortable or the need to let your child cry themselves to sleep then for bloody sake don’t do it. But stop trying to make other parents feel bad because they do. Let’s face it, you are NOT a perfect parent and if I we’re retook come to your house I could probably tell you a myriad of things you are doing wrong. But that isn’t my job, is it? My job is to raise my own kids and be the best support I can to other moms. And right now I am doing that by telling other moms not to feel bad because a total stranger doesn’t agree with everything you do,

    1. Babies cry to communicate their needs. Yes, they learn a cause and effect relationship between crying and being attended to. But that’s not manipulation. A young baby NEEDS to learn that someone will come when s/he cries. Learning that builds trust. And helps lay a foundation for how communication works As the baby gets older, yes, her caregivers can talk to her, have her watch what they’re doing, and all that. And the terrible twos really don’t have to be terrible. Twos get frustrated because they’re trying to learn and do so much, and sometimes what they want to try to do is beyond what their bodies are capable of. Their language is still developing, and they’re still learning to identify and label their feelings, so, yes, sometimes they fall back on crying because that’s a form of communication that’s easy for them. But I can’t agree with calling a cause-and-effect relationship “manipulation.” It’s not good for parent-child relationships for parents to be preoccupied with how to out-maneuver their children; instead, focus on how to teach and nurture in ways that fit kids’ development.

  21. This is fantastic , reading this brings back the horrendous experience I had with my first son now 22 years ago . He was breast fed and was woke often hourly . I was exhausted. After his first innoculations he screamed and writhed arround his eyes were red his abdomen swollen , he slept breifly and woke screaming . Thearrogant g.p said hes just loud and im an over protective mother . I never went again to see him . My health visitor who never had a child of her own said im making a rod for my own back I should put him in a cot and leave him . I ttried it once in dispair . I lasted 15 mins I thaught he might die he was hysterical .my mother instinct was to comfort my distressed child.after his innoculation I explained to the gp , my son went into a deep sleep and woke screaming and writhing 24 .7. He said ok we wont give him the whooping cough jab next time .20 years later after moving house my new g, p casually mentioned the suspected encepholitis my son had as a baby .. I was never told about this at the time . I was sent home to deal with it and advised to leave my baby alone . This haunts me to this day .
    Thankyou to those doctors who are speaking out , a mother and father have instincts to protect and care for their child …Any advice against this is arrogant abuse
    Hazel

  22. What about infants who cry while you are driving? I’ve tried convertible car seat, toys, music, singing, talking, everything! any my 3mo screams and cries in the car. I feel horrible because she cried on a trip home and everytime I stopped picked her up and put her back down I could see the stress in her eyes. I cried and still feel horrible about car rides. We now only go no more than 5 minutes away unless it’s our monthly grocery trip because I don’t want her to feel like I don’t care. I just have no other way. No one to come watch the kids while I go to the store so I have to do it with them.

    Is this the same if I’m talking to her while she’s crying. I’m thinking she doesn’t like the car because she wants to be with me and see me and she doesn’t like the restraints. Is this the same as cry it out since I can not pick her up.

    1. A baby in a car seat can be very difficult — here is our car seat survival article: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/baby/baby-hates-car-seat-9-tips/

      As I have mentioned to others, there is not much you can do, especially when you need to get kids to school etc. But the phase does pass, so minimise travel where you can for now — and if you aren’t using CIO sleep methods, you’re minimising overall crying time anyway. I found public transport so much easier so I opted for that. Focus on what you can change, not what you can’t. I’ve been there, it’s super tough for mum’s nerves too! x

  23. When my firstborn came around, we had a crib and a bassinet. These items were used maybe a handful of times before we just brought him to bed with us. My son slept in bed with me until he was about 2 years old (he’s 3 now) when he transitioned to his bed, where I would lay down with him until he fell asleep for the night. Until that point, my son would wake 5 or 6 times every night and need to be nursed to sleep (we did extended breast feeding). I now have twin 9 month old girls who sleep with me and are breastfed. They also wake up 5-6 times a night. They just latch on and we all go back to sleep. It’s never been a problem. If not for co-sleeping, I don’t know how I would have done it, because I certainly couldn’t stomach the sound of my child screaming for me until they fell asleep. If mother and baby are both healthy, and mom does not drink, smoke or do drugs and is not an unnaturally heavy sleeper, there’s really no reason not to co-sleep. That’s what humans are wired to do.

  24. Brilliant brilliant article. The more people who read this, the better. Thank you for being a much needed strong voice for our most beautiful yet most vulnerable.

  25. i was skeptical of the CIO method. Of course our parents did it, so they recommend it to us. Until my daughter was 6 months, we did the gentle CIO, where we would come in and out check on her and usually by the 3-4th time I could gently touch her side of her face and make her fall asleep. However at 6 months we simply just let her CIO. Best thing we have done. She knows now when I lay her in her crib it’s bed time and just rolls over and goes to sleep. I agree it’s damaging to do before the age of 6 months. But like the article said, it’s a personal choice! Whatever works for you and your family. No mother abandons their child. I still breast feed my girl just fine and tend to her every need.

  26. Pretty horrible article. It always surprises me that someone can consider themselves extremely loving as a parent but have no compassion for other parents or understanding for other parenting approaches. This article and the author’s comments are just one long bashing on parents who raise their children slightly differently to the author in one respect. It simply lists some people with qualifications who are on one side of the argument, and shows nothing from the other side, e.g. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/07/clinical_lactation_jumps_on_the_dr_sears_bandwagon_to_say_sleep_training.html

    1. Those on that ‘one side of the argument’ are the most educated and researched on the topic of baby sleep and psychology. These people are the longest term researchers you will find on baby sleep, and they hold some very high educational training and professional positions. Even Margot Sunderland’s book is based on 600 studies. End of the day – you can do what you want with your own baby, it honestly does not bother me – I am not on a crusade to change everyone’s thinking. But for those who read my website, this is the information I want them to see, from the most educated and researched baby sleep professionals out there. There are other websites which may say otherwise, so to parents I say: listen to your instincts, they will light the way.

      1. If you want to show the evidence from the best researchers, why did you exclude the actual research that has been done into long term effects? Was it disproves all your points?

        1. Feel free to share links to that research. We are about to publish an article about the most recent article on controlled crying which was done on only 45 infants, hardly noteworthy. Feel free to share your research and any qualifications and I will look at it.

  27. So happy to read this article. Sure every baby//family situation is different, but science is science, and 98% of all the research I have read supports this article. I just think big picture, does it really seem natural and a good idea to keep a helpless child who can’t communicate their needs in a wooden cage in a separate room from their mother/father? Look at developing countries, south-east Asia, Africa, South America, these people think we are crazy to abandon our babies just because we are sleep deprived. It’s so important to be near to your child to sense their needs. They cry because they need comfort/security/nourishment. Just because we live in so called advanced western countries doesn’t mean we know how to best raise kids. Look at the growing rates of anxiety, depression in young children. Those who are left to cry-it-out for extended periods ARE experiencing high stress, and that’s not safe, nor it is helpful. I have a 13mo and a 3yo, both wake 2-3 times a night but I know this won’t last forever. My children trust me and are very happy, confident kids who play independently. I do look forward to the time when I can get more than 4-5hrs sleep a night, but for now I am much happier knowing their little brains aren’t stressed out. Sure it may work for some after just one or two nights, but it’s dangerous to assume this will work for all children. If you have a sensitive or high needs kid, a sick child, a hungry child, a cold child, it’s best to comfort and love them at night, just like humans have for 100 000yrs.

  28. I have 4 children. As well as a degree in Early childhood education. All of my children were ether patted or rocked to sleep until they were about a year old. Then after that I would stop the rocking and just pat, then I would just stay in the room until they fell asleep; and then eventually I’m not in the room at all. They might have cried for a minute or two the first few days but a simple I love you and I lay them back down did the trick. I do believe there is a certain point that if all you do is hold your child on your hip every moment of the day they don’t have any independents and you can can’t anything done. I don’t believe for a minute that allowing my child to self sooth is a bad thing but not as a new born. They need to know you’re there when they are that little it is damaging for a perent to let an infant just cry it out when they are that little still. But as a child gets older they should gain independence from needed picked up and held constantly.

  29. When I cry I NEED comfort and so do little ones. It is impossible to spoil your child (at any age) by loving and comforting them. If they are given a candy bar or new toy every time they fuss they do become demanding. I cannot imagine how anyone could use this CIO while knowing the possible health dangers. With my 4 adult children, 13 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren I have lost a lot of sleep. But I have never rejected their genuine needs and I am the first one to walk away from a spoiled child who is throwing a selfish fit.

  30. Hi Kelly, I posted this question on your website yesterday and I don’t see it today – I’d be surprised if it didn’t “pass” the moderators, as there’s nothing offensive about it. Maybe a website glitch? Thought I’d try again. I’m just looking for more information and who better to ask than yourself (the person who wrote this blog)? So here’s what I posted yesterday: I would really like to understand this topic (how CIO affects the brain) better. Can you please tell me the articles from peer-reviewed journals (not books; anyone with some money can publish a book) on which these experts (and you/others) base their assertions about CIO? I clicked on the links above under each author and only two of them (McKenna and Ball) have any scientific articles listed on their website. I intend to look through these articles and read the relevant ones, but I thought I’d ask you too since it seems like you’ve already done the work (and maybe I’m missing something on some of the websites)! Thanks!!

    1. Kristen, there are no team of moderators on comments, just me 🙂 And, I am currently on a Greek island out of town, so wifi is shocking, and at times non-existent. So my priority at the moment is to help support my team of writers and developers to keep the content coming (had load and downtime issues yesterday). I have a backlog of about 1,000 comments, I will get there, eventually! Just have some high priority stuff to deal with for now.

      1. Oh no rush on the response; just thought it was strange that it had disappeared and wanted to re-try to post. Sound like you are indeed having some technical issues! Glad it went through this time. Good luck!

  31. I had to do CIO with my first born. He’s 15 now. I was young and didn’t know any better, just did what the books suggested. I don’t think he’s any better for it and and he’s actually a bit loopie. But his mother is a moron so who knows. I do regret that period but this article doesn’t make me feel bad. I don’t understand why some people get so defensive and butt hurt.

    My 8 month old is a horrible sleeper but I’m happy to hold him as long as he wants. They grow up so fast. I don’t see myself, on my death bed, regretting the nights I stayed up with my children.

  32. So it’s wrong to use the cry it out method, and nothing else works what’s left to do oh yeah fall asleep with ur baby in your arms in a chair and drop it or fall asleep in bed and roll over and suffocate your baby because your severely sleep deprived, great advise!!!!!!!!!

  33. My husband and I used the “Cry It Out” method with our 19month old. He is fine…He woke up after the CIO method and loves us the same! From our PERSONAL experience, it’s a good method. They cry for 30minutes and sleep like angels…. We have another bubba on the way and will use the same method… Our son is healthy, happy and smart. No damage is done…he also is a great sleeper!! (We dont need to use the CIO method on him anymore) his learnt bed time is bed time… Parents shouldn’t feel ashamed or feel like bad parents for doing this. At the end of the day YOU’RE THE PARENTS! Only you know what’s best for your child! 🙂 You need to teach your kids everything! Sometimes tough love is the best kind of love… Just like smacking, I was smacked and thank my mum for it. Our children will do the same to us one day. 🙂

    1. I agree – we rocked our 1st son to sleep every night for 6 months to a lullaby – and as soon as he laid him in his crib, he woke up crying and we started again, and again, and again. It was exhausting for us and for him. At 6 months my husband said, enough, and we left him to cry himself to sleep. He cried for an hour an a half the first night, 45 minutes the second night, and 15 minutes the third night. After that he was like a different child – sunny and cheerful and fell asleep easily on his own every night. He just needed to learn to do it for himself.

      But, Maygen, I don’t believe that you ever really thanked your mum for smacking you. That just sounds like a justification for doing it to your own kids.

  34. There is no “evidence” in this article…only opinions. No study of case v. Control conducted. No actually scientific measures of the brain. No published papers in the scientific joirnals…just plain opinion on a very touchy subject. No one wants to hear a baby cry. I would like to read real evidence.

    1. Yes. Where is the actual research? Degrees don’t equal results. The one Dr who says it “tore his heart out” is not evidence of anything. Saying brain development takes place during this time is great, but where is the study showing that CIO babies brains work differently or have any significant difference than co-sleepers or babies that were never allowed to cry? One of the “experts” even says that “The science hasn’t gotten there yet, but who would risk it?” Well if the science truly hasn’t gotten there yet then why are we touting your opinions as fact? Why would you risk your babies life daily by putting them in the hands, (and car) of a sleep deprived person, when there may be a solution in the form of sleep training? That seems much more risky. Lastly, I noticed that about a 1/3 of the article is filled with the credentials of the experts. If there were actual facts and research in this article you wouldn’t need to answer the question of “Why should we trust them.”

  35. I knew it! My gut tells me this CIO is wrong. I am so glad I didn’t take this approach. Those tiring nights when my DD was an infant surely was difficult but now well worth it.

  36. My neighbour put her baby boy’s pram at the bottom of the garden so she couldn’t hear him crying. He gave himself a hernia! I never let my daughter ‘cry it out’ and I do not agree with it.

  37. I loved this article. I’m 30 weeks pregnant and have this to look forward to, but in the meantime it hit home for me because I was that child. My mom was told to let me CIO and she did. She did the best she could with what she knew and was/is an incredibly loving nurturing parent, but I have spent my life coping with the deep rooted issues that stemmed from the practice and will not do the same with my daughter. Though it is inevitable that I will fail her in other ways because I am human, my personal experience with CIO fro the receiving end will hopefully protect her from the anxiety and depression of the protest-despair-detachment cycle.

  38. Kelly you’re an idiot and a bully and a mommy shamer and I can show many articles from many experts that shows short term stress is actually beneficial to a child. I would love to live with you to see how with three kids, you managed to attend to each of their crying within seconds? And if so, I can imagine how demanding they must be now knowing that mom has bowed to their every whimper. You know what the problem with our kids are nowadays, bloody over parenting from ridiculous moms like you. I’m never following this site again. It’s become one of those snobby, mom sites that gets made fun of in movies. Moms – don’t listen to this dribble, listen to your doctor. They are the best qualified to advise. Remember a researcher was behind the whole don’t vaccinate your kids crap and that was later rescinded.

  39. Let them cry it out. Teach them early that the world is random, and uncaring. They won’t thank you for it, but it’ll improve their chances at reproductive success.

  40. Babies need care and love. the cry is way of communicating and release of stress. It is natural that parents attend to babies needs, weather it is physical or emotional discomfort. The attending is be there for the baby when she/he has needs, so holding a baby while they are releasing stress is natural and important as giving them milk when they need it..makes sense to me…sometimes is hard to figure out the reason..but to be there for them all times makes the baby feel loved and confident…if the parents are not there for the baby in the means of educating or training him to be independent they will eventually learn self soothing methods that can be harmful in the long run..if the baby is always given a dummy when he cries, he learns to quiet and sooth himself, but in expense of his original needs..which is stress release..he needs to feel supported while crying..no matter what is the reason!!

    Of course when babies are left alone to cry the blood pressure and other physiological symptoms rises..on top of the real cause of the cry he feels stress to be there by himself..when the baby is supported on his discomfort and not distracted with dummies etc they learn that is ok to feel discomfort and learn to release..crying while held actually releases cortisol levels in the blood..this is natural way of babies to release stress (fright, birth trauma…) It is not a method but self regulation way…
    This applies to babies, kids, adults..next time you feel bad try some crying with listening shoulder, instead having a smoke, drink, chocolate, facebook….or other way of distracting yourself from the pain..it is ok to cry..babies just need to feel safe while doing that by loving arms holding him..they dont know in the beginning much else..cry, been fed, love by caretakers…and gradually they learn the bigger world…

    There is a good book called The aware baby that talks about this, and it makes soooo much sense..no need for methods, or tricks to “raise” a ababy..just go with their natural flow and be in the support and guidance with them!!

  41. Please help me. I have to drive 60+ miles a day in traffic, equalling around 1 hour of drive time. The entire time my baby screams. Bloody murder, the whole time. It is not anything other than she hates her seat. She’s done this for 8 months straight, and if crying is so bad for her shouldn’t I stop doing it? I can’t just stop as its my commute for my oldest child’s school. So, how do I not kill my baby’s brain????

  42. How do people avoid getting into arguments with friends/family who support CIO?? My one year old still doesn’t sleep much at night which is hard but I think it’s cruel to let him cry – so o don’t! I’m surrounded by people who believe in CIO and it makes my blood boil to even let them suggest it/say they are thinking about doing it – seriously it takes me ages to calm down! How do people avoid entering an argument about it? I feel so sorry for their babies!!

  43. I am an adult who was left to “cry it out” as a baby. I never bonded with my parents… or anyone else for that matter. I believe CIO has ruined my relationship with my family. My ability to support myself financially, or strategically, has been stunted. I deal with ADHD, bipolar disorder, panic attacks and suicidal ideology regularly. I don’t know how to trust anyone. I don’t even know how to read their intentions. I’ve never gotten to sleep without medications, and I’m middle-aged now! I’m still healing. My younger siblings – who were held when they cried after my parents finally relented out of guilt for seeing how CIO affected me – have gone on to fare much better than I have at life. To see these recent news stories advocating the child abuse and abandonment of CIO… well, it was making my blood boil, at first. But your great article has helped me a lot and given me peace. Thank you.

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