A Little Crying Won’t Hurt – So Rest Easy

A Little Crying Won’t Hurt – So Rest Easy Picture

There are quite a few parenting issues that strike a dividing line between parents holding opposing experiences and ideas. Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, whether or not to circumcise, and the topic at hand – whether or not to allow your baby to cry it out as a means to get him to sleep.

I’d venture to guess that most parents don’t begin researching sleep training until around 4 am, when their sweet little angel is once again reaching top decibels despite the fact that mom and dad have to wake up in just a few hours. Desperation and exhaustion can often lead them to try things that they may have previously dismissed as unthinkable. I spent many nights attending to one – or two or three – crying little ones, but there were inevitably moments when I couldn't immediately attend to someone's needs. Despite my desire to avoid anything approaching cry it out as a training technique, there were times that the babies – and I – had to cry.

Well, the latest research suggests that if you find yourself in the situation of another exhausting night of tears or facing sleep training, that you won’t be permanently scarring your child for life (*if you wait until after 6 months of age AND if you use certain sleep training methods – there are plenty of other ways to scar them for life that we still suggest avoiding). Of course, it also seems there won’t be any lasting benefits, either.

According to a newly released study, “Using behavioral training to help babies fall asleep doesn't seem to harm them emotionally or developmentally years later, but it doesn't benefit them long-term either.” Researchers followed up with 225 families from an original group of 326. Of the follow-up group, 122 of the families had used some form of sleep training, while the other 103 had not.

Studying the children as six-year-olds, researchers found no difference when it came to emotions, conduct, stress, and closeness to their parents. Additionally, “among parents, the researchers didn't see a difference between those who had tried training their infants and those who did not when it came to rates of depression, anxiety and stress.”

Let’s be clear – this isn’t a permission slip granting permission to close the door on your screaming infant, with a cheerful, “See you in the morning, dear!” But for all those tired parents who attempted to comfort a crying baby, but encourage him to self-soothe – your child will be alright. And those, like myself, who spent sleepless nights comforting babies because you couldn’t bear the thought of letting them cry – your children will be alright, too. Hopefully we’ll all be alright.  


What do you think?

A Little Crying Won’t Hurt – So Rest Easy

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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  1. Jennifer says:

    First off, let’s start with my 13 yr old son. I did let him cry it out, but he never was able to go to sleep without crying 1st. At age 3 he saw his 1st psychiatrist, & now at 13, he’s seen several by now. He’s been diagnosed with severe ADHD, Bi-Polar disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, & Conduct Disorder: which is also known as Anti-Social Personality Disorder, & then becomes Sociopath when he’s an adult. Am I saying letting him cry it out caused all this? No. The genetic markers were already there, from my ex-husband. BUT, it has been proven that if the child is under extreme stress for prolonged periods of time, then the disorders develop & appear. So now, my son has to live with his problems FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. Constantly getting in trouble at school when bullies pick on him for having to be in a "special class", (because he can’t control his anger), constantly feeling like nobody loves him or wants him, even though I tell him EVERY SINGLE DAY, & then there’s him acting out at home, & getting into things, when all he has to do is ask. Life is a constant struggle for him, & I wish I can go back & do it differently.

    Back to my daughter. From the moment she was born, she had horrible gas pains & reflux. She has been, & is currently, on meds for both. She also struggled with projectile vomitting (even with my breastmilk), so we had to switch formula several times. She’s now 8 mths old, & was only able to sleep, on her own, once. It was for almost 2 weeks, right after one of her booster shots. Other than that, she’s constantly crying & fussy, & can only be put in the exersaucer or bouncer for short periods of time. You know that high pitched, quick cry…usually associated with being hurt or very scared? That’s the cry she’ll do, FOR HOURS. Sometimes, even holding her doesn’t work. She kicks out, arches her back & screams. Tell me, how is that healthy to let go on? When she was about 2 or 3 mths old, I had brought her to the ER to check for an intestinal block or SOMETHING to explain the crying, & she had screamed so much, when she threw up, there was blood. She burst a blood vessel in her throat from excessive crying! Xrays were fine though.

    I just brought her to a different ped about a wk ago. She was screaming because I had to lay her on the scale for her height & weight measurement, & I kept seeing the other nurses & dr’s peeking to see what was going on. She sounded like someone was hurting her. While I was talking to the doctor, he noticed her do a weird "shaky" thing. He asked if she’s done that before, & I said yes, so he’s checking for a seizure disorder. Also, Asperger Syndrome is a form of Autism, & 2 kids directly related to her have it. Normal Autistic kids don’t like being touched, Asperger kids crave & need that touch. The dr referred her to a nuerologist, because he said that even if she doesn’t have seizures or Aspergers, she should NOT be crying like that, & "cry it out" will hurt her.

  2. Amy says:

    I have a six-month-old baby boy and I have finally found something that works! I was reading online how to sleep train a baby after my son spent ALL DAY fighting sleep, like he does most days. I learned a method, sort of like the cry-out method, but way better and less stressful for me and the baby. It’s the same concept, but you implement routine. I have started my baby on a nightly routine where he eats his dinner, has a bath, we read a story, then we turn the lights out and I feed him a bottle. Once he has his bottle, I lay him in his crib with him still awake and leave the room. Sometimes he cries, but if he cries for more than five minutes I go in there, pat his back and make calming noises (but leave the lights out and I don’t pick him up), and leave the room again. He usually rolls over and goes to sleep by the first or second time of me reassuring him. Now that he has been on this schedule for about three weeks, he goes straight to sleep most nights, no tears!

  3. Lady says:

    I have 3 children (5, 3, 4 mo) and I let my 2 oldest cry it out. I did my research and used a method I felt comfortable with. It wasn’t long before they were going to sleep on their own with less crying. I think how a child responds is based on personality and temperament. My firstborn definitely needed to learn to self-soothe. She cried a little more and took longer to adjust than my 2nd.

  4. Delores says:

    well my little one is almost a year old and he still cries a lot but me and my husband let him cry it out but at the same time it can go on for hours and some times he will not go to sleep. So I just let him cry until he falls a sleep but some times that does not work. I’m still tired at times when he will not sleep.

  5. Nancy says:

    What about twins? We have twin 7 month girls and they were our "oops what do you mean I am pregnant that is not possible and what you said twins" If I let one sooth herself the other wakes up then the whole house hold wakes up. Seperating them is not an option our other 2 girls (7 & 12) already share rooms. I didn’t have problems with them. Just tired and so sleepy.

  6. From personal experience, the CIO doesn’t work and just made us all miserable. Some crying is ok. I don’t mind a few minutes of crying, but not for infants under 6-8 months depending on the child.

  7. ‘Martyr Mothers’…what in the heck does that even mean?

  8. Some crying is fine. I tried the CIO method with my first. We were all miserable. With all of my kids after that, I turned to co-sleeping (in our bed) at night and naps in their crib during the day. The transition from our bed to their own beds at night was smooth and they slept through the night at earlier ages and more easily than my first (we have 5 kids).

  9. TinkFL says:

    Oh, and to the moms who used their own anecdotal experiences as examples – THANK YOU! In my book, experience is worth a thousand "articles!"

  10. TinkFL says:

    I’m a new mom and I still haven’t decided on a sleep plan yet for when he is old enough (he’s only 3 months old right now). With that in mind, Linda, would you mind linking a couple of the reports that you’re referring to; and Heather, you readily offered a link to a blog, which is of no use or help to me – would you also please link the research you are referring to? than you.

  11. Heather says:

    Except that MRIs show that it rewires their neuropathways, enlarges the amygdala (which causes an increased fight/flight response), and every other study done has shown that it DOES do long term damage–most of which is not seen until teenage to adult years. This story is garbage. It’s still hurting your baby’s brain.

    And here’s a blogger with a better rant than mine, although mine is actually based in the SCIENCE.

  12. I’m not a Martyr Mother, but I do believe in doing what "I’ feel is right for me and my child. I sleep with my baby daughter, and I also slept with my teenage sons when they were babies. My four sisters and one brother did the same. Other people don’t believe in sleeping with their children and that’s their prerogative. I personally would not and could not let my child cry it out. I don’t care what the "scientific studies" say. I will do what I think is best. Period! Nap time…I breast feed her until she falls asleep, then lay her down. 9PM rolls around and her and I go to bed. I breast feed her and she goes to sleep. All is well in our household. No crying it out here. 🙂

  13. Member says:

    Look at Professor Wendy Middlemiss’ research on cortisol levels in infants subjected to "controlled crying". Although babies appear to learn to sooth themselves their cortisol levels remain high indicating that they merely learn their crying does not work to get their needs met, so they give up on crying but remain stressed http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/06/19/3528487.htm

  14. Holly says:

    I realize that every parent has their own method. Our son just turned 2, and we never sleep trained, even after our pediatrician suggested it a few times. By a year, he was waking up only once a night, unless he was teething really bad, or just had shots that day. He continued this until about 18 months, and then he started sleeping through about half the time, and on the other nights, waking up once. We only planned to have one, and he’s our baby, and we felt that if he needed us, that’s what we’re here for. We wanted a baby very much, and we wanted to baby him. At around 21-22 months, he started sleeping through every night. He’ll occasionally fuss in the middle of the night, but we’ve checked on him, and he’s always sleeping, just stirring a little. Did our son’s pediatrician agree with us…no, nor did his nurse with a son just a couple months older. A lot of our family disagreed with us, too, but it was right for us. He’s a smart, happy, healthy toddler. He’s a good napper, and a good sleeper, but we always wanted him to know that we’re here for him, and I think how did things helped reinforce that.

  15. Kathy says:

    Linda, would you care to post a link to ANY example of any research proving your point? I’m curious as to where this "vast amounts of research" that you refer to is.

  16. And now, here is the part where all the Martyr Mothers talk of how their methods are better than scientific studies… wonderful. Let’s hear it Ladies…

  17. The article cited is referencing a study published in the journal, Pediatrics, published by the AAP, just this month. Although there are conflicting studies about various methods of sleep training, the information comes from a researched, published, current study.
    As with many topics, there are fact to support many viewpoints on the topic. I was never one to leave my babies crying, but I know that there are many parents who face a lot of guilt over even one night of attempting sleep training, and these results suggest that they can rest easy. Kids are resilient, and good parents can make different choices and still be good parents.

  18. Linda says:

    That article is so wrong!! Just do the research yourself there are vast amounts of research out there that say otherwise. Not to mention all the benefits to a child if they are not left to cry themselves to sleep. People need to get current on their facts!


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