When it comes to parenting and sleep training, one of the biggest discussions nowadays is the Crying It Out method. Okay, so what exactly is the crying it out method anyways? Well, it is difficult to state exactly what the CIO (cry it out) method is as there are many different opinions on the definition. In general, the CIO method means not going to your baby every time they cry to be soothed. It, generally, means letting your baby cry through their stress and put them self to sleep.This method is intended to teach babies and young children to self-soothe. Well, I’m calling bullshit. Many parents may not agree with me on my point of view but that’s okay. Every parent is different, as is every child and every situation.
There are endless studies that have been done on the CIO method and whether or not it actually works. What I’ve found is that it causes much more damage than it does good. With the CIO method, babies do not really learn to “self-soothe”. When your child is crying, especially as an infant, they are crying because they are in need of something. They may be hungry, need a diaper change, may not feel good, or they simply just need to be loved. Now, many of you may say, “Well, if you give your child attention every time they fuss, you’re going to raise them to be spoiled and always need attention.” Not true. You need to remember that this precious bundle of joy is completely new to this world. They have never experienced this before. Think of them like a clean slate. They have no understanding of relationships, trust, love or compassion. They are coming into this world not knowing a single thing. It is our responsibility as parents and care givers to teach them those crucial understandings.
If your baby is crying out for you and you go to him, it teaches him that when he needs you, you will be there. It teaches him that he can count on you to protect him, care for him, and make him feel better. It is such a crucial step in building a relationship with him and teaching him that he can trust you. If your baby cries out for you and you never come, it causes excessive levels of stress and their level of cortisol to spike tremendously. Could you imagine being in this completely new place and not understanding anything; crying out for the one (or two) people that they know they should be able to trust, and having that person never come? Could you imagine how stressful and upsetting that would be? I sure wouldn’t want to be forced into that situation.
As stated by Denene Millner, “In her recent piece for Psychology Today, Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology at Notre Dame, writes that when babies are stressed, their bodies release cortisol into their systems — a toxic hormone that kills brain cells. Considering their brains are only 25 percent developed when they’re born full-term and grow rapidly in their first year, killing off baby brain cells is a huge no bueno. Narvaez notes that studies out of Harvard, Yale, Baylor and other prestigious institutions show that said killing off of baby brain cells can lead to the higher probability of ADHD, poor academic performance and anti-social tendencies, and that human babies are hardwired for hands-on comfort and care.” I’ve included links to both Millner’s and Narvaez’s articles below.
You may find with the CIO method that after a few days, your baby does not cry so much when they are being put down to sleep. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are learning to “self-soothe”. Studies show that even when these children aren’t physically crying, their cortisol levels are still spiked just as high as they were the first day when they were screaming for you. Basically what you’re doing is teaching them to cry and panic silently. This can cause children to be stressed, anxious and alienated. It can alter their long term development of relationships, trust, and connection.
Now, I’m not saying that every time your child makes the smallest peep that you need to go barreling to their side and overwhelm them with affection. However, if that’s what you’re comfortable with then by all means go for it. What I’m saying is that your child needs to know you will be there for them when they need you. If baby is hungry, feed them. If baby needs a diaper change, change them. If baby needs love and affection, GIVE IT TO THEM. Does this mean you have to pick up your baby and smother them? No. Sometimes simply talking to baby and putting your hand on their chest is enough to calm them down and let them know, “Hey, I’m here. I hear you and know you’re upset; but I’m here and I love you.”
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post: every parent is different, as is every child and situation. My views may not be right for everyone but I encourage all parents and care givers to check out the articles below to get some more incite.
Narvaez, Darcia, Ph.D. “Dangers of.” Psychology Today. N.p., 11 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out
Millner, Denene. “Cry It Out: The Method That Kills Baby Brain Cells.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denene-millner/cry-it-out_b_1163864.html>.
Cassels, Tracy, Ph.D. “What You Need To Know About Crying-It-Out.” Evolutionary Parenting Where History And Science Meet Parenting. N.p., 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. http://evolutionaryparenting.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-crying-it-out/
Glenn, Amy Wright. “Screaming to Sleep, Part One: The Moral Imperative to End ‘cry It Out'” PhillyVoice. N.p., 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://www.phillyvoice.com/screaming-sleep/>.