Friday, October 30, 2009

On letting babies cry it out

Babies cry. Thats how they communicate. It sucks as a mother to hear your baby cry. Especially when you are over tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and just want to sleep. I know how tempting it is to put your baby into their bed and "teach" them how to sleep, by letting them cry and cry and cry until they finally go to sleep, and repeat until they have been taught to sleep.

But it is cruel. You might not want to think that or admit it, but it is. You are taking a tiny little baby, who trusts you. Who looks to you for everything they need, and teaching them that you cannot be trusted. That you won't be there when they need you. That they are alone and have to fend for themselves. You aren't teaching them how to sleep, you are teaching them how not to trust other people.

I've heard from several people lately that your baby will try and manipulate you. Babies honestly think that when you leave the room you are gone. They don't know that two halves make a whole. They don't know how to say their names. How can they have the cognitive ability to manipulate. It just isn't possible. Testing boundaries is NOT manipulating. To assign such an intent to an infant, shows a major misunderstanding of babies.

But think about it from your perspective as an adult. If you were alone, and tired and scared would you like to be left alone to scream yourself to sleep night after night?


Michelle said...

now why can't i ever say that so well?

Erin said...

I absolutely agree.

I don't even know how people can think a baby can manipulate someone.

Or putting a baby to sleep in her own room just so you can sleep better.

I haven't let myself get embroiled in that discussion but I know exactly which one you were talking about.

autumnesf said...

Crying is communication. The opposite side of this coin is when you adopt a child that never cries...because no one ever came. They don't know how to get their NEEDS met. They don't trust that anyone will take care of them.

Who thinks that is better?

Jim said...

Your argument correctly identifies that babies cannot manipulate because they do not have the higher level thinking skills to do that. It ignores the fact that trust is also a higher level skill that they cannot develop. Babies need to learn how to communicate and how to soothe themselves. As you well know sometimes we are all alone in the world, or at least we feel that way. Finding a real balance somewhere between, "my wants will always be met." and, "no one ever takes care of me." probably benefits them the most.

Michelle said...

I don't think I've ever felt all alone in the world. My mother was always there for me as a child and my husband and others I love are always there for me as an adult. I certainly don't want my babies to feel all alone in the world! Babies learn to trust those who care for them. If my newborn cries because she is hungry, she stops crying as soon as she is in the nursing position in my arms, before I even pull down my shirt to nurse her. In her few weeks of life, she has learned to trust that I will nurse her when she cries (and usually before). There are so many times that I can't make the world perfect for my babies (in the car seat, when they are teething, etc), why would I make them cry on purpose??? It has been shown that a baby crying alone is physically under a lot more stress than a baby crying in a parent's arms. Those stress hormones affect them for life. My 2 year old is an unusually empathetic child, probably because his needs are met. His emotional need for nurturing and comfort as well as his physical needs.

Linda said...

I couldn't have said it any better! It irritates me whenever people tell me to just let him cry it out - let him cry himself to sleep. Um, hello! If he's crying, that means he's trying to tell me something that he needs. How could I ignore that? People always tell me that we're going to spoil him. You cannot spoil a baby. And who cares if we spoil him, he's ours and we feel that the way we're taking care of him works for us. I've had many criticisms from "well-meaning" people give us parenting advice, and I'm so tired of it! Anyway, thank you Erin for this post. At least someone else out there feels the same way we do.