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Letting Your Little One Cry to Sleep: Callous or Correct?

Letting Your Little One Cry to Sleep: Callous or Correct?

 Baby crying

Whether you’re a newly-minted or seasoned parent, the struggles of putting your baby to sleep often remain the same. A well-rested baby is a happier and healthier baby - but not all babies are the sleeping beauties we hope for.

In order to successfully put a baby to bed, various techniques are employed, from rocking to patting, sleep-training and more.

Now, every baby responds differently to these methods, but there is one key debate regarding this infamous practice: is it right to let yours cry to sleep?


What Crying to Sleep Means for Your Baby

As this sleep-training approach suggests, it involves letting your baby cry till he/she eventually falls asleep with no intervention from others to help. It is also termed “graduated extinction”.

The popular Ferber method created by pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Richard Ferber is a variant of crying it out. It is reasoned that this method allows babies to learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.

Compared to parents who choose not to return to their babies’ rooms at all, the Ferber method is relatively mellower. Parents check in on their crying babies at periodic intervals that slowly lengthen over time, an approach Ferber calls “progressive waiting”.

It may also be called controlled comforting.


Why Some People Agree with Crying to Sleep

Although some parents shudder at the thought of letting their babies cry to sleep, they welcome the possibility of sleep-training success and a blissful night of uninterrupted sleep.

Mental, Sleep and Health Benefits: Despite how it sounds, crying to sleep has also been found to have scientific benefits.

    This research study found that the babies they surveyed presented no added signs of attachment or emotional problems after a year of self-soothing to sleep.

     Their stress levels were also lower than other babies in their control group that did not follow the same approach. The babies also fell asleep 15 minutes faster. 

    Once Learned, Always Learnt: It might be believed that after the initial periods of crying it out, a baby who has mastered self-soothing to sleep will always be able to fall asleep successfully that way.

     Baby with comfort toy

      Why Some People Are Against Crying to Sleep 

      While there are proponents who support this move, there are also opponents who suggest possible repercussions. 

      Drastic and Dangerous: A howling baby can tug at one’s heartstrings, and parents may deem it a hard-hearted and harsh way to make your baby sleep. Our natural response to stop our babies’ crying isn’t easy to resist.

        Occasionally, babies may also cry because of other factors unrelated to fussy sleeping, and leaving them unattended may pose a danger. 

        Crying as a Survival Response: It may be argued that babies who lack the physical comfort they need from their caregivers cry as a main survival response. This means that letting a baby cry it out may be depriving them of what they need to feel safe and to survive.


          The Importance of Recognising Sleep Cues and Healthy Sleeping Habits

          Sleep-training aside, here are other things you can do to ensure successful sleep. 

          Sleep Cues: This includes looking out for signals your baby is sending when he/she is sleepy. Such signals include rubbing of eyes, yawning, fussing, or looking dazed. An overtired baby exhibits the opposite: being overly awake, alert or hyperactive. 

          Sleep Routines: You can incorporate a sleep routine with planned wake and sleep times. Soothing activities like reading a bedtime story, warm bath or singing lullabies can help. 

          Avoid Sleep Associations: If you tend to rock, shush or sway your baby to dreamland, your baby may assume that those movements are needed in order to fall asleep. Move away from these negative sleep associations to promote an independent sleeper.

           Happy baby sleeping

          The bottom line is, there is no perfect argument or answer to this debate. Instead of relying on these sleep-training methods or building sleep associations, it may be more effective to identify sleep signs, looking out for what your baby needs and implementing positive sleeping routines. 

          Whatever you choose to do, remember to be consistent! Many techniques or habits can be challenging to adopt at first, but it is important to keep going for a period of time to see results. Keep trying until you find something that works best for your tiny tot.

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