Is Crying It Out Ever Okay For Your Baby?
Few baby parenting topics are more controversial than sleep training, especially the cry-it-out method. As a mother who practiced attachment parenting with her babies, leaving my baby to cry alone was strongly against my mother’s intuition and my quest for intentional parenting.
That’s why you may be surprised by my current thoughts about crying it out.
Will Crying It Out Hurt Your Baby?
You’ve probably seen the studies and the articles. This one that simply calls sleeping training and crying it out bad for babies. This one from Harvard. This one that turns the subject of crying it out into a moral issue.
As I said before, I followed the tenants of attachment parenting with all three of my boys and am glad that I did. However, each one of my boys spent some amount of time as infants crying it out, although sleep training wasn’t part of my parenting method.
Honestly, there are situations where crying it out can’t be helped. I firmly believe moms shouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt when these situations happen.
When is crying it out okay?
I recall three stressful scenarios that happened when I was the mother of three young children, who were each about two years apart in age.
When these situations occurred I had a lot of guilt over the time my babies spent crying. However, with more experience as a mother, more maturity, and more wisdom I realize there is no reason I should have felt guilty.
I did the best I could do.
Learning how to parent without anxiety and how to move past my parenting regrets taught me an important lesson: We can’t control every situation we encounter as parents. If we could then our babies would never cry, right? But we can’t. So we do our best and don’t sweat the rest.
Here are three situations when it’s okay for baby to cry it out.
It’s Okay For Baby to Cry It Out in Your Arms
Attachment parenting doesn’t stop babies from being babies. Attachment parenting supports babies in being babies. And babies cry. A lot. Even if you’re doing everything right, mama.
If you’re holding your baby and being attentive to her as she cries you shouldn’t worry that she’s being harmed. Sometimes you’re out of solutions and all you can do is hold your baby while he cries.
Sometimes when babies who are crying in arms eventually cry themselves to sleep the attached mama experiences guilt that her baby cried for so long. This guilt is a waste of time. Don’t allow it to invade your thoughts.
It’s Okay for Baby to Cry it Out When You’re Attending to Another Child’s Urgent Needs
When you have more than one child, sometimes one child is left crying while you tend to the other(s). It’s not fun, but it’s a fact.
In a situation where an older child needs to be fed or has a scraped knee, for example, you might have to put your baby in a safe place, where they may cry, or carry them in a sling while they cry. I call it parenting triage and we moms do it every day.
Honestly, I sometimes found it difficult and unsafe to work around a crying, flailing baby in a sling while I attended to the needs of his siblings. Sometimes I had to put my baby in a crib for a few minutes while he cried and I bandaged my older son(s), changed their diaper, or made their lunches.
Parenting triage is a fact of life for mamas of more than one. Those few minutes of crying while you attend to the more immediate need of another child will not do long term damage to your baby or your relationship.
It’s Okay for Baby to Cry it Out When You’re Overwhelmed or Angry
Parenting is often difficult with even the most easy-going babies. It can be a nightmare with those babies who are more sensitive. (I had two high-needs babies and one easy-going baby.)
If you ever feel frustrated with your baby to the point of being angry, please put your baby in a safe place and take a break.
A crying baby can cause a lot of stress. Sometimes stress can turn to anger without warning. It’s not healthy for you or your baby to experience stress that turns to anger.
If you find that stepping away for a few minutes while your baby cries in a safe place doesn’t help you to reenter the situation with a clear, calm head, then it may be time to seek help from your physician or therapist.
In addition, a baby who cries to the point of inciting anger in her parents may have a medical condition that requires the expertise of a pediatrician.
Is it Okay for a Baby to Cry it Out to Sleep?
Short answer: It wasn’t okay for my babies, but I can’t tell you what’s right for your babies. However, I’d never recommend crying it out as a healthy sleep training method.
If you find co-sleeping or waking during the night to attend to your baby’s needs is not an option for you, there are gentler ways to gradually get your baby to sleep better.
A great resource is the The No-Cry Sleep Solution.
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