Cry-It-Out is a Personal Choice

Every once in a while, the cry-it-out sleep debate rears its head online, as most hot-button parenting topics do in waves every now and again.

And, up go the arms and everyone takes a position, holds on tightly and justifies their personal success as being the sole result of whatever trend in parenting contention is circulating at the moment.

I've learned to keep myself out of the debates where there is no need for a winner, but this time, I found myself coming to a new realization, and it didn't have anything to do with sleep but a broader question about our indifferent attitudes towards parenting and children. 

What message are we are sending about children's needs?

I don't have any experience as a mom with sleep-training. I assume from other friendly accounts that most typical kids can be sleep trained in a few days and that it doesn't usually involve prolonged crying with rising stress levels over sustained periods of time.

So, I get what people are saying about there being no brain damage, but I'd contend that crying for release is still very different than crying in distress and I disagree that the latter is entirely innocuous, beneficial, or necessary to produce independence or self-soothing behaviors.

Leaving a baby to cry is a personal choice.  

I'm sure it isn't an easy task for any parent and the parents who have the endurance to attempt to sleep-train their babies have the right to make choices that are based on their personal ability to cope and their assessment of their child's ability to tolerate the experience. 

But, I don't have to agree that it is neurodevelopmentally friendly.

Crying (behavior) is communication and represents a need to be acknowledged, not a manipulation or a defect that needs scheduling and discipline to be fixed or managed. 

I believe crying is always appropriate and communicating a vital need and yet, I can also see how reasonable people sleep-train their babies without any apparent problems and no ill-intentions.

This is why there are no winners in this debate. It's personal.

After revisiting this age-old argument (Dangers of Crying It Out), the critical distinction, for me, is not how damaging is it to leave a baby to cry, but should we always respond to a crying baby?

What is the benefit? Is it harmful if we always respond?

I don't view this as a debate about whether a bit of crying here and there is damaging, but instead, it's about what we're saying about the emotional needs of children.

I think most parents can see the difference between abuse and sleep choices but to suggest that babies thrive under controlled crying strikes me as perpetuating more than a personal decision based on the best interests of the individual family.  

It is evocative of an attitude that promotes dismissing a child's emotions for discipline's sake. "It's for their own good."  As if somehow this grants us permission to claim some peace and quiet that we could not seek before.

Don't we already deserve some proper alone time and adequate sleep? 

Does meeting our needs have to depend on our children's behavior?

Sleep for children is not a challenge in independence in the same way we might strive to achieve in academics or life.  Sleep is a primitively controlled, basic need which demands that a set of developmental expectations be met by the caregiver.  

How does it serve us to demand when children sleep, especially as infants?

If we can't adjust our lives to consider the typical stages of childhood and unique patterns of development, then how can we expect to weather the real challenges?

Can give our babies the freedom (especially in the first year) to adapt with our full, uninterrupted support, sleeping close by if necessary (because they're wired to have us do so) and attending to each call for comfort so that they develop a certain kind of unshakable belief that the world is safe and that they are worth having their needs met?

I believe we can. 

Talk soon,

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