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Can The Cry It Out Method Relieve Stress In Your Baby?

Parenting Cry-it-out Sleep

If your mother-in-law suggests you allow your baby to cry themselves to sleep, they may not be wrong according to recent research. Allowing baby to cry-it-out is harmless and may even relieve stress, according to science, although the topic remains highly controversial.


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When a baby is born, their first indication of health is a big hardy cry. Taken in this context that cry signals a huge sigh of relief from both practitioners and parents and is everything that’s prayed for at that moment.

Once baby lets out that first big cry, it goes downhill from there. Suddenly crying takes on a completely different meaning. Instead of that cry being a signal of need, it becomes a beacon of fear on the parent’s part that the child will somehow become hurt if they are left to cry after all their basic needs are met.

Crying is not only a human response to show sadness, it's a healthy response. Crying is a natural way to relieve emotional stress that, left unchecked, can have future negative physical affects on the body according to research. Emotional tears have special health benefits according to biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis. Frey discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones, which get excreted from the body through crying.

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It Is Not Abandonment To Let Baby Cry It Out

Parents have become snowflakes when it comes to letting their babies cry it out. In the days of old, allowing an otherwise healthy baby who couldn't be comforted to cry themselves to sleep was common practice.These days, there is an unwritten rule that only a “bad parent” will allow their child to cry for any extended period of time, or that allowing a baby to cry is lazy parenting or abandonment. The fear of this judgment befuddles a parent’s mind, motivating them to do what makes them feel better instead of teaching the life skill of falling sleep. As a result, they have a baby who has learned to depend on them for their emotional responses and well-being.

A Harvard study has confirmed that there is no harm or residual effects in bedtime fading and graduated extinction– also known as the “cry it out” method. A total of 43 infants (mostly girls) aged 6–16 months, were randomized to cry it out. Sleep measures included parent-reported sleep diaries and infant actigraphy. Infant stress was measured via morning and afternoon salivary cortisol sampling, and mothers’ self-reported mood and stress. Twelve months after intervention, mothers completed assessments of children’s emotional and behavioral problems, and mother-child dyads underwent the strange situation procedure to evaluate parent-child attachment.

The study concluded that both graduated extinction and bedtime fading cry-it-out methods provide significant sleep benefits and convey no adverse stress responses or long-term effects on parent-child attachment or child emotions and behavior.

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Sleeping Is A Skill That Is Learned

Babies are quickly able to adjust to both bad and good habits that have been instilled in them by their parents. Often as parents we forget learning how and when to sleep is a skill, just like eating, walking brushing our teeth and bathing. Children who are left to fall asleep in front of a television, or neurotically rocked, cradled, strolled, or driven in a car until both mother and child are at the point of exhaustion, makes little sense.

We All Need A Good Cry

It’s important to remember that crying also relieves stress. This is why babies often tantrum or become fussy when they’re tired, because they become stressed.

While an infant’s crying is their only way to communicate what they need, with you nearby ensuring all is okay there is no need to fear allowing baby to cry for a ten or fifteen minute stretch. As long the babies basic needs are met and he/she is fed, bathed, changed and comfortable and the baby is not ill, then there should be no fear to allow them to cry in a safe and supportive environment (i.e, their crib) to fall asleep.

How To Allow Baby To Cry It Out Safely

It’s best to start with nap time. Baby will usually signal they’re ready for a nap by fussing and crying. This indicates a low level of stress. Gently lay them down and allow them to cry for five minutes monitoring the severity from just outside the room. Gently go back into the room to reassure baby that you are near by. Then allow the baby another five minutes to cry. Check on baby again reassure them that you’re near, then leave for another five minutes. You will find that the crying will subside during this time and become sporadic instead of consistent over this 15 minute experience. Within three days of consistency you will find that your child’s struggle to go to sleep has lessened and their cries during the night have dwindled or become non-existent.

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When Not To Let Baby Cry It Out

A mother knows her baby best. It should go without saying that a baby who is in clear distress, or ill with fever, a cough or cold, should never be left to cry for any extended period of time. Children who have sensory issues or special needs, or who have become emotionally distraught should also never be left to cry for any extended period of time. The same goes babies who are vomiting. It is at these times that excessive crying is a clear indication that immediate attention is required.

Sleep Is Essential to Natural Health

Adequate sleep is one of the basic and most important requirements of natural health. A child who sleeps soundly through the night is a healthy child, just as a baby who cries at birth is a healthy child. There is little distinction between the two when it comes to health – both sleeping and crying are innate acts of humanity and largely verifications of vibrant health.