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November 05, 2004

Babies Need to Cry

Babies need to cry.
It develops their lungs.
They learn they are not the center of the universe.
It teaches self-control later.
It helps them sleep.
It's hard to let them cry, but in the long run it's worth it.
It releases emotions so they are more peaceful.

These are common myths used to reassure mothers that it is good to let their infants cry. These justifications are often used by those reassuring mothers using Babywise or other sleep training ideas.

More research was released this week in the November issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood that further indicates that these myths are not based in infant biology or physiology.

"Babies who cry a lot for no apparent reason may be more likely to have problems later in childhood, according to a study by American and Norwegian researchers.

"They assessed the crying patterns of 327 babies at six and 13 weeks of age and whether the babies' crying was caused by simple colic. The children had their intelligence, behaviour and motor abilities measured when they were five years old.

"The study found that children who had continued prolonged crying (not due to colic) beyond three months of age had intelligence scores nine points lower than other children. . .

"Prolonged crying in infancy was also associated with hyperactivity, poorer fine motor abilities, and behaviour and discipline problems later in childhood. . ."

This corresponds with other findings that link "crying it out" with later neurological problems. Remember, however, that this study was not looking for whether the crying caused these later problems.

Related Reading at TulipGirl.Com:
Loving Families and RAD
Mommies, Babies, and Chemistry
Nutrition and Brain Dev't

Full text of Archives of Disease in Childhood article
Zero to Three: Brain Wonders
Harvard Review on Babies Crying
Stress in Infancy
Bonding and Attachment Discussion at GCM
Woman to Woman


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I only ever let my babies cry it out when I stressed/over tired or needed a breather. Then it would only last a few minutes before I go comfort them. Crying isn't the only way a baby can communicate either. Mercedes (9mths) hardly ever cries, just when she is sick or upset. She communicates through different sounds. Even when she was a newborn she hardly cried and would communicate through different sounds.
I don't like leaving a baby to cry unless it is absolutely necessary.

Posted by: Judith at November 5, 2004 10:45 PM

Thanks for the links. I've been there and done that but sometimes I need reminding about some details.

Posted by: Samantha at November 5, 2004 10:51 PM

Wow. I recently saw a device that is purported to translate what your baby is crying about within 90% accuracy or some such thing. I was stunned. Mostly by how bizarre it is that people feel so alien from their babies that they'd need a translator. Then again, I had a colicky infant and I'd like to see that gadget translate what the heck she was talking about back then!I think the research you have dug up may be true. Even for collicy infants. At least in my experience. Of course, with colic, there is nothing you can do to help them cry less. That is when I discovered attachment parenting though.

I do live in Chitown by the way. No view of the lake, so I am jealous of your parents too!

Posted by: Kim at November 6, 2004 01:19 PM

You know, it has occured to me that colic my be a sign of a food allergy in babies. Baby gets a taste of something mom ate that baby doesn't like and lets you know about it by screaming bloody murder. Anybody know if any one has done any research on that theory?

Posted by: Samantha at November 7, 2004 01:48 AM

There are a lot of different ideas about colic; I konw what worked with one child didn't work with the other. For one of my children I would hold them and just allow them to feel and cry; I know that sounds weird, but instead of trying to get them to stop, I told them that what they were doing was fine and I was there for them. The crying jags were shorter.

Another child had to have a bath; nice warm water and poop a few minutes later and baby was fine.

We have become separated from our babies and from each other. In the past, when there were many hands around, the crying was probably less because there was always a grandma or aunt or sister or cousin or whatever to take the child, so the spiral of crying baby, tense mom, more stressed baby, more stressed mom, didn't continue.

I wonder what we could do now to bring back the "tribe" without the cave? If you know what I mean.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at November 9, 2004 10:13 AM

WOW! Good updated information. I have seen firsthand babies parented by Babywise methods, and it's a VERY grievious thing to watch. Thanks for taking the time to research this. I'll be bookmarking this for the future!

Posted by: Karen at November 10, 2004 09:10 PM

OMG My parents let us cry.

**This post has been editted b/c it was cross-posted from another site. The rest it has been removed until verified that the poster is not trolling.**

Posted by: Gern Blanston at November 10, 2004 11:50 PM

After having handling one baby the Babywise way, and being VERY pleased with the results; handling second baby the same way with less satisfactory results, I have concluded that the right view on this issue is somewhere in the middle.

Some babies do need to cry themselves to sleep. They settle themselves down within a few minutes and enjoy a sound sleep. These babies do not benefit from being held,rocked or nursed to sleep excessively. If this is done, they do become dependent on it, and by one or two years of age or beyond, they still have no idea how to put themselves to sleep when they are tired. In this stage, these children really grate on parents nerves because they will be cranky for hours before finally nodding off to sleep and being taken to bed. Or perhaps a parent will have to lie with them for an hour or so to help them fall asleep. A baby that is promptly put to bed when tired right from early infancy, even if they cry there at first, will generally be able to go to sleep on their own at a very young age. They associate going to bed with going to sleep and don't need a lot of other helps like rocking, car rides etc. I think it is a wonderful gift to give a child the ability to easily get to sleep when he's tired. This makes his awake time more pleasant for him and everyone else.

On the other hand, some babies, like my second, don't seem to catch on as easily about bed being a nice pleasant place to fall asleep. These babies will cry it out for hours on end, during certain stages of their development. As I recall, my daughter got really bad this way around 7 to 10 months. Even at 10 months, there was no little light that went on in her head. I just softened up on my techniques and started looking for ways to soothe her and help her sleep, which I wish I had done sooner. Still, I felt strongly that she needed to learn the skills of sleeping at some point and I watched for signs of readiness. As she got older, at various times I sensed that she was starting to manipulate me to get things she wanted rather than crying in genuine distress over trouble sleeping. So I did sometimes refuse to give in to her and let her cry. Eventually, around 18 months, this daughter was a good sleeper, and now enjoys going to bed just like my older child.

Posted by: Twinklemoose at November 11, 2004 04:37 PM

**Discussion on this thread is welcome. This post has been removed until it has been verified that the poster is not trolling.**

Posted by: Gern at November 11, 2004 06:02 PM

In our home, we did not let babies cry without at least attempting to comfort and calm them (and if we couldn't calm them, we still did not leave them alone). I guess it went against our intuition about how we treat people in our home.

My *first* baby was like your second one, Twinklemoose, so I learned pretty quickly to give him the care he needed instead of comparing him to an earlier experience. My next baby was an easy baby of the "lay him down, boom, he falls asleep" variety.

I can only imagine what it would have been like if I'd had him first, drawn conclusions about what a baby's bedtime looks like, and THEN had our high-need baby. I'm sure it would have been a much deeper "culture shock" for me, so I'm kinda glad we had our trial-by-fire baby first. Every baby was an easy baby after him! :-)

They are both adults and now I see why they were so different from the start. It's funny how we expect babies to be all the same, but we understand and relish differences among adults.

My oldest is an extreme extrovert with a Type A personality who charges around accomplishing lifetimes' worth of achievements while other people snooze their lives away. He functions on very little sleep and resents its necessity as an intrusion on his productivity. My second (the one who would simply close his eyes and go to sleep when tired) is an introvert who probably appreciated the way closing his eyes gave him some additional peace and privacy and so naptime wrapped him in what he craved, while naptime was anathema to my oldest, cutting him off from his beloved world of stimulation that he craved--no wonder he would fight it so hard.

I appreciate those links, tulipgirl. The Harvard study corresponds with what I experience in real life but I do wish the article was more detailed about what sort of raw data they used because it sounds really fascinating.

Posted by: Kathy at November 12, 2004 04:37 PM

What does "no apparent reason" mean? I mean, how often does a baby cry for no apparent reason? I guess it depends on how well you know the baby.

So-called "high needs babies" cry an awful lot, but it's not for no reason. :D They just want to do things and they aren't able to yet. So they cry a lot.

This article doesn't seem to indicate that the babies were CIO or not.

Also, like I always say, correlation is not causation. So if crying and lower intelligence (or hyperactivity or whatever) are correlated, it doesn't necessarily mean that one causes the other. It could mean that some third thing causes both.

Posted by: silvermine at November 12, 2004 09:59 PM

What happened to Gerns post? As a parent I thought he made a lot of sense. I find my self second guessing so many times just to do the best thing, and get lost in all the "Good Parenting Advice" from other people. Sometimes I think we need to follow our instincts like our grandparents must have. If my great grandmother saw us all sitting here posting and trying to parent with a keyboard, she'd chase after me with the frying pan!

Posted by: June at November 15, 2004 04:40 PM

June! *L* That's quite a funny image!

I agree--a combination of instinct and wisdom passed from our own mothers is the best place to get encouragement about parenting.

Gern's posts were removed because he was cross-posting in such a way that indicated trolling. I have them saved for later reinsertion, if I deem he is really desiring to add to the discussion and not simply cut-and-pasting from site to site.

Posted by: TulipGirl at November 15, 2004 06:37 PM

If I told all of you what I thought of your “computer discussions” on raising your children, I know it wouldn’t get posted. But I know for a fact that Gern what’s his name is posting from real life and not trolling – what ever that is - because he is my son. (that’s not his real name obviously) And yes, we let our babies cry and got them into a sleep pattern early on. If they were full, dry, and not running a temp. they got put to bed. We needed our time together without kids around (married for 45 yrs) and we needed a full night of sleep! If they woke up in the morning earlier than we wanted we changed the diaper, gave them a drink or something to eat and left them to play in their crib. For those of you that quote Bible verses, yes, a little child shall lead them, but they have to know where they are going first and that is your job as parents to give them a structured life so they can fit in with society. And if you don’t like this society we live in. Then go where they do things your way. Don’t expect us to change for you!

Posted by: Grandma at November 20, 2004 08:46 PM

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