Cry it Out (CIO) is a sleep training method that consists of letting babies cry when implementing a sleep routine. So if you have done their night routine and you lay them down and they wake up crying 10 minutes later instead of you instantly comforting them you allow them to cry in their crib or other safe place. Although it is often referred to for sleeping in this article I am addressing CIO as any event where a baby is crying consistently regardless of whether or not it is sleep related.
Is CIO harmful?
What the research shows is that a baby crying has no long term developmental adverse effects however there is no general concisces between experts. There are experts arguing both sides, either stating that it causes long term harm while others state there is no concern. According to a study out of The University of Warwick “Leaving an infant to 'cry it out' from birth up to 18 months does not appear to adversely affect their behavior, development or attachment. Researchers also discovered that those left to cry, cried less and for a shorter duration at 18 months of age.”
It is important to note that crying itself is not harmful no matter the age. Crying is done at every stage of life and is often used as a form of communication, self expression and even a therapeutic release. Say it with me… “Crying does not equate to neglect.” Neglect is neglect. If babies' needs are met - they are fed, clothed, changed and receive physical affection then crying temporarily is okay and needed for some parents.
Should I Let My Baby Cry? You are the only one who can answer this. However, there are some things I want you to heavily consider before making that choice. First and MOST importantly I need you to check in with yourself. Crying evokes extreme stress in most parents. Whether or not you should instantly pick them up is going to depend heavily on what your needs are. If you are not in a good mental place and feel frustration in your body, the baby may be safer left crying in a crib or bassinet. I urge parents to NEVER lift a baby when they are extremely upset or irritated.
There are approximately 200,000 cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome that happen here in the US every year. Shaken Baby Syndrome could severely harm or even kill a baby and it is a result of the parent being so frustrated they end up shaking the child to get them to stop crying. In every situation of Shaken Baby Syndrome I am sure we can all agree it would have been a better option for the parent to put the baby in a safe place and let them cry while they calm themselves down.
As a society we need to recognize the reality of parenthood and realize some parents are sleep deprived, hungry, struggling with postpartum depression, impoverished, alone and so much more. None of these are excuses for such violent behavior. They are, however, reasons why I believe there are situations in which you need to leave the baby in a safe place to cry alone while you get yourself together.
In everything that I teach and every situation I work with, the first person we work on is never the child or baby but rather the parent. You as the parent are extremely powerful and have the biggest impact on what will happen to your child because you are their guide. So we cannot approach what is best for the baby before we address what is best for the parent.
Did You Let Your Daughter CIO?
My daughter was born premature and spent the first 3 weeks of life in the NICU. So throughout her hospital visit we held her as much as possible through cords and other devices. When we brought her home she was not a collically baby at all. Addy pretty much cried when she was hungry and she slept A LOT. So as a baby, no I never let her cry it out but I did not have to.
I was financially stable, Addy rarely cried and I was married to her father. These things heavily influenced me not implementing the CIO method. Now that Addy is three I absolutely let her cry. When she is mid tantrum I do not go to comfort her right away. I think she should be allowed to have her feelings but that is another article.
My central point- I did what was best for my family. Maybe having another child the results will be different. This one she wasn't left to cry it out and I had the privilege to not even have to try it.
I need you to be truly honest about what you as the parent need. You do not have to share with the world that you leave your 3 month old to cry sometimes. If you are at peace and the baby is not neglected no one else's opinion truly matters. We were all perfect parents until we became one and everyone says what they would do until it is their turn to do it with your circumstances.
If you want additional support navigating this method or alternatives we can set a coaching session to figure out what is best for your family.
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