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Is "Crying It Out" (CIO) Cruel?

Is "Crying It Out" (CIO) Cruel?

Is "Crying It Out" (CIO) Cruel?

Months of interrupted sleep take their toll on new parents. But what can be even more stressful is the parade of people telling you to just CIO, or "cry it out:" your pediatrician, best friends, the grandparents, and even strangers in the grocery store check-out line who spot you with your baby and those bags under your eyes.

The idea behind CIO (also known as "controlled crying" or "Ferberizing") is that you put your baby in the crib, awake, and after her bedtime ritual, let her wail herself to sleep. You do this every night until she learns to go to sleep without crying. Proponents of let-your-baby-cry sleep training methods say that in no time you'll wind up with lots more shut-eye (for you) and a happy, well-rested baby who has learned to self-soothe in the process.

But a resounding cry from a large group Circle of Moms members suggests that CIO is just plain wrong. As mom-of-one Veronica R. emphatically puts it, "I think it's cruel. I refuse to do it. Won't, won't, won't. I think it will ruin my attachment parenting bond with my daughter. Out of the question for me."


Many Circle of Moms members who have tried "cry it out" sleep training report that their sympathy and frustration for their balling babies (whose crying went on for what felt like hours) caused them to lie in bed fighting their own tears. "Letting my baby cry it out makes me sad," says Melissa J.

"I refuse to do this because I think babies under age one or so lack communication skills, and when they cry they are crying for basic needs," says Stephanie H. "There were many nights where my daughter would just cry when she was about six months old, and as much as I was frustrated, I would just sit in the recliner and rock her. I know in my heart that it was right for me to do it that way."

The central question about CIO sleep training (is it common sense parenting or bordering on abusive?) divides experts as roundly as it does moms.

A recent study by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute finds that "controlled crying" to help infants sleep does not lead to emotional and behavioral problems later on. On the other hand, child development experts including Dr. Penelope Leach (author of the 1977 book Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five), insist that letting babies cry at night for lengthy periods of time can be damaging to their brains and psyches. Leach recently told the Daily Mail that this is "not an opinion but a fact that it's potentially damaging to leave babies to cry."

Experts aside, many Circle of Moms members say that letting a baby cry is just plain cruel. Crying is a baby's sole way of signaling when he or she is uncomfortable or distressed, they say.  As Katy explains it, "Babies are not developmentally ready at three or four months to soothe themselves. They need your love and attention. They're not spoiled and you won't be spoiling them. There is a real reason he is crying. Even if he just wants to be held, he needs it."

Jaime G. echos her opposition, explaining that a baby's trust in the world is at stake: "By leaving them alone you just teach them the world is not a safe place and parents are not going to be there. The baby is not manipulative. He is crying because he needs something."

And Allison B. is adamantly opposed to the letting an infant cry it out because of the potential for damaging "the baby's relationship with his or her mother." She says that "Babies need unconditional love and support from their caregivers. 'Tough love' can come later once they are older."

Siobhan T. suggests that moms who don't like the idea of crying it out should experiment with whatever calming methods work for the baby—and for them.

"What I found worked with my daughter was to give her a warm bath, put the lights on low and sit in her room reading a book," says Siobhan, about her infant daughter. "Once that was over we would put her in her crib. I had to accept the fact that I couldn't dictate when she got tired so we had to wait some nights until she was ready. I had to watch her for the cue to start bedtime. Luckily it started coming at around the same time every night. I'd try something like this before letting a baby cry it out."

For another perspective, see 3 Ways to Make Crying It Out Easier.

Do you think it's cruel to let a baby "cry it out?"

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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