Is Crying It Out Dangerous for Kids?
It seems every few years new theories come out about the best way to raise children, some of which go against what was previously believed to be a best practice. I’ve never been a fan of letting kids “cry it out” at night, but that is because I don’t have the strength to let my kids cry for me for very long before I want to comfort them. Now it looks as though some experts thinks it’s best to provide that comfort.
If the link between parent and child is strong enough that kids can “catch” their parents’ stress, it may stand to reason that babies crave the physical connection that comes with a cuddle.
It’s something that plenty of parents are more than happy to provide during the day but, when it comes to bedtime, the modern emphasis has been on teaching good sleep habits — and giving mom and dad a break.
Most sleep-deprived parents get to the point where they’re willing to try almost anything in order to get a good night’s rest. While some decry it as cruel, others have had success with the “cry it out” method — teaching babies to “self-soothe” by letting their nighttime crying go unanswered.
But is “crying it out” about establishing independence? Or is it just a way of making those early years easier for parents?
In an article published this week in Psychology Today, one researcher says that crying it out could be dangerous for children, leading to a lifetime of harm.
“A crying baby in our ancestral environment would have signaled predators to tasty morsels,” writes Darcia Narvaez, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Collaborative for Ethical Education at the University of Notre Dame. “So our evolved parenting practices alleviated baby distress and precluded crying except in emergencies.”
When babies are stressed, their bodies release the hormone cortisol, which can damage or even destroy neurons in their still-developing brains, researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School have found. That can lead to a higher incidence of ADHD, poor academic performance, and anti-social tendencies.
Human babies are hardwired for near-constant holding, breastfeeding, and having their other needs met quickly — the hallmarks of Attachment Parenting, Narvaez points out — in order for their brains to develop properly. Even Dr. Richard Ferber, whose sleep-training method is commonly called the Cry It Out Method, says that he never intended parents to completely ignore their babies nighttime tears.