Updated: Jan 9
This can be a heated topic - one in which many feel quite intensely one way or the other. This article shares the #1 most critical reason to NOT let your baby "Cry It Out."
However, it doesn't stop there! It's also important to understand that as crucial as responding consistently to your infant's cries is the need to help your toddlers and preschoolers understand that (with your help) they can handle waiting.
The most important reason infants need their primary caregivers to respond promptly and consistently to their cries - especially within the first 12 months of life - is to help them develop a connected relationship. This is also known as a healthy attachment.
When God entered the Garden in Genesis Chapter 3 (after Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to eat of the only tree from which they were forbidden), He called out to them asking, “Where are you?” Of course this was not because the all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign GOD didn't know where they were, but because He desired intimacy with them!
By His grace, we have also been gifted with intimate relationships with people here on earth - parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends - those with whom we connect and help us experience tangible representations of His love and presence this side of Heaven. God has such a deep and abiding love for each one of us that is not far away, but here and now.
However, this world is broken and therefore our relationships are, too. When those we love hurt us by not providing the love and security we need and want, we tend to pull away. By distancing ourselves, we think we are protecting our hearts, but really we are just left with empty spaces that we try to fill with other things like work, food, social media, Candy Crush, wine, shopping, cleaning, working out, romance novels, the list can be endless, really. And it's all because, as Clinton and Sibcy put it, "The persistent human cry is for someone to love us." (Why You Do the Things You Do).
Developing a healthy attachment CANNOT be overstated!
Attachment theory explains how we learn to experience and respond to separation and distress in the context of our primary relationships from very early on in our lives.
The quality of our relationships define the quality of our lives! Therefore, it is important to foster safe, trusting, connected, loving, attentive, affectionate relationships with our children - starting in infancy!
Your baby just spent 9 months in your temperature-controlled womb. He was never hungry, tired, dirty, understimulated or overstimulated. He never even breathed AIR before. Now he's out and sometimes feels hungry, or cold, or warm, or tired....or lonely (after all, he used to literally be attached to you).
When you consistently comfort your baby by talking to and cuddling him when he cries, he will begin to understand that he is worthy of being loved and he is capable of getting his needs met. It will also help him to learn that other people are reliable, trustworthy, and willing to respond when he needs them. When we learn those critical skills, we develop a healthy, secure attachment....and can begin to relax!
According to Children's internalizing and externalizing behaviors and maternal health problems.
The fact is that caregivers who habitually respond to the needs of the baby before the baby gets distressed, preventing crying, are more likely to have children who are independent than the opposite (e.g., Stein & Newcomb, 1994). Soothing care is best from the outset. Once patterns of distress get established, it's much harder to change them.
It's also worth asking yourself how YOU would answer these questions:
Do you know that you are worthy of being loved?
Do you feel capable of getting your needs met?
Do you believe that others are willing and able to love you? 🤔
Some people believe that in order to keep the parents (and not children) in charge of the home children need to be "trained" by being put in their beds and left alone during the sleep schedule parents have dictated. However, we know that the developmental needs of infants require that we respond to them! They don't learn, "I guess my parents are in charge and I am not." They learn, "My needs don't matter so I should just suck it up." And, depending on the individual child's temperament, they will either get more clingy or seem "self-sufficient" - which just means they are ignoring their own distress in order to cope (not a healthy response at all).
Toddlers can start learning to wait a moment at a time
Around their first birthday, babies can be developmentally ready to handle waiting longer for you to respond to them physically. Continue using empathetic words like: "I hear you, honey! I know it's hard to wait for me. I'm coming soon. I know it's hard, but you can do this! I am right in the next room and I'm coming." Try not to say, "It's OK" or "You're OK" because whatever is happening in their little minds and bodies is NOT OK in that moment and that needs to be recognized respectfully!
I wholeheartedly agree with what this Dad wrote about letting his baby cry it out:
"At the time, crying it out felt like a way to toughen up a child early, and I wondered if I was too lenient as a father. Perhaps I was going to be a pushover my whole life. And when I think back on those thoughts, they feel really silly. At the time my son was less than a year old. Little of parenting during the first year has to do with discipline and rules. It's about nurture and love and holding the child when they need it."
Although our individual temperament plays a part, know that our primary attachment relationships form the relational patterns that influence ALL OTHER relationships (romantic, friendships, co-workers, etc.) for the rest of our lives.
Responding consistently when your infant is crying makes sense because they are communicating a real need they have that cannot otherwise be communicated. You responding to their cries for hunger, diaper changes, or emotional comfort throughout the first year does NOT make them MORE needy, but actually LESS as they learn that they can depend on you.
However, this does NOT mean you need to respond like that to your toddler or preschooler! As a matter of fact, doing things for them that they can do for themselves is more harmful than helpful. Allowing your child some time to struggle through a situation (i.e. how to open a container, fit a peg into the correctly shaped hole, pick up finger food on her own, or not wanting to nap in her own bed) helps her brain develop skills in problem solving and growth that is invaluable as she grows!
Whereas some may say by picking your baby up when she cries will "harm" or "spoil" her (absolutely not true), giving in to your 3 year olds every whim WILL "harm" her by spoiling her! During the first year, meeting your infants needs is of utmost importance, but once they are developmentally ready, we need to teach our children that the world doesn't revolve around them!
Have you ever met a three year old who always got his way? How about a five year old who expected to be waited on? Or a seven year old who thought nothing of interrupting an adult conversation with his desires? Imagine what that child will be like as an adult....Do you think it may be difficult to have a relationship with someone who was taught that world revolves around their needs?
Here is an abbreviated Live Mini-Training that may help you as you contemplate if "babying" your "Baby" is more harmful than helpful: