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Should you leave a baby to cry

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Should Babies be Left to Cry?

To parents of a small baby it can often seem like everyone around them is a self-appointed expert on the matter of baby-sleep.  Disturbed nights are a fact of life with a newborn, as they need to feed regularly and the only way they can alert you is to cry.  So far so reasonable, but once these early months have passed your maturing bundle becomes physiologically capable of sleeping for more extended periods, and the issue of how to get you baby to sleep through the night becomes a hot topic of conversation.  Should you leave a baby to cry?

This subject more than any other seems to invoke extremely strong points of view in many parents, and it is not uncommon to encounter views so vehemently expressed in both directions you could imagine they are law.  Often uncertain and overwhelmed by conflicting advice, parents can be left feeling judged for their approach, and questioning their decisions.

The explosion in popularity over recent years of experts with opposing views such as Gina Ford, Jo Frost and Karen Pryor, has added to the confusion.  What parents need to remember is that each celebrity expert, whilst undoubtedly experienced and qualified, is popular in part because their ideas are so different from each other.  So who is right?

Controlled Crying

Proponents of routines for babies will often espouse the virtues of controlled crying as a way to train children to sleep.  This technique in its most popular form basically involves putting the baby down awake, and returning at increasing intervals to calm him if he cries, continuing until the baby is asleep.  The tricky part of the process is not returning between timed intervals, even if your baby is crying.

Supporters say it works wonders as a method of training your baby to sleep, and does the baby no harm whatsoever.  To others, babies are not dogs to be trained, and the very idea of leaving your baby to cry is abhorrent, and tantamount to child abuse.  Opinions can be that polarised.

baby crying

Science In Knots

For sure, listening to your baby cry and choosing to ignore it can be incredibly distressing for parents.  However there is no doubt that controlled crying can work, and there is no confirmed evidence to suggest that it has any long-term effects on a child’s development, or sense of security.

Distressing as it may be initially for parents, those who have successfully employed the technique say that their babies seem to be more content in the day following a better night’s sleep, and that they as parents are able to function better and support their baby more effectively because they are not so tired.  Perhaps it is a case of weighing up the benefits of longer-term gain over short-term pain.

Opposition to the technique cites scientific research which suggests that controlled crying is distressing for the baby.  Well, the baby is distressed anyway, so how they determine this is a moot point.  It is important to keep perspective, and realise that no research is absolute, because babies are not machines.  For every piece of research put forward in favour of one idea, there can be further research found to counter it.

As if to confirm this fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently reported results of a ground-breaking review of various sleep-strategies.  Their findings?  In a nutshell – all methods work, provided the parental approach is consistent.  The five approaches tested included two variations on the theme of controlled crying, use of bedtime routines, and scheduled wakings.

It would seem then, that based purely on the success rate, any approach to baby-sleep can be effective, as long as you see it through.  What will drive your choice of approach is how comfortable you feel about it.  Unless you are 100% committed then your approach to helping your baby sleep will not work.  Your baby will pick up on your discomfort, making failure inevitable.  Following your instincts seems to be the best course of action, for you and your baby.

A Final Note – Don’t Compare!

Comparisons with other parents are tempting, but dangerous.  If every other parent you talk to has an apparently model baby who slept through from 6 weeks, then you will be left feeling not only tired, but like a failure.  Which, by the way, is absolutely not true.

In response to endless questions from friends and family along the lines of “Does your baby sleep well?” and “Is he goings through the night yet?”, many parents simply lie, because it’s easier.  These false impressions can be demoralising, so take them with a pinch of salt, and don’t necessarily believe everything you are told!




About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, whatsapp plus,travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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