A recent discussion over something I posted on facebook about the American Academy of Pediatrics stand against the book Babywise by Gary Ezzo made me want to explain to the world all the reasons I have come to believe that babies are not designed to cry it out. This isn’t about Babywise, this is about what I believe is best for babies and why I have come to these conclusions.I had a few private messages asking me to explain further why I believe as I do so here I am. I have divided these conclusions up by physical/biological reasons, psychological reasons and spiritual reasons.
Physical/Biological Reasons why babies are not designed to cry it out
Babies are born completely dependent on a caregiver for survival. They do not have the ability to regulate their own temperature and they do not have the ability to regulate their own emotions without the help of a caregiver. From the beginning of time, babies have been kept close to their mothers both for their protection and because that’s where they are happiest. We now have the knowledge of why babies thrive when kept close and what happens to them when they are separated from that primary caregiver. Studies have shown that babies cortisol levels start to rise during even just brief separations from the primary caregiver, if forced into separation for long periods of time the cortisol levels become high enough in their little systems that it can cause changes in the brain that will make these babies less able to deal well with stress in the future and the emotional stress that this separation creates(such as when being left to cry it out) registers in the brain in the same way as being in pain. I believe that our Creator in his wisdom created babies to cry when they are stressed so that they would have their needs met. Babies whole biology is different from children and even more so from adults. They wake frequently and need to eat frequently . This appears to be a built-in safety feature so that they can be in frequent contact with their caregiver which results in proper brain regulation. When the brain and the body are in deregulation, harmful things can happen. In addition to cortisol flooding the brain, babies respirations and heart rate become disorganized and eventually the body just kind of shuts down on itself when it gets to the point of being too overwhelmed by stress. a parent may then mistakenly believe the crying it out “worked”, when what has really happened is a biological response to try to protect the little one from further damage. Eating frequently also results in optimal growth, especially while breastfeeding as breast milk is designed to be digested relatively quickly. Babies whose systems are not properly regulated due to stress and come to expect that they may not be responded to when they cry could over time lose their ability to know when they are hungry and when they are not, leading to feeding problems. A stressed baby has a much higher change at developing Failure to Thrive then a non stressed, well responded to baby. Everything that is best for a baby biologically such as remaining close and frequent feedings and connections with the primary caregiver are the way they have been responded to for thousands of years until the past couple hundred where we have tried to change the way we respond to our babies based on what’s easier for us as parents while the babies needs haven’t changed a bit.
Psychological/Mental reasons why babies are not designed to be left to cry it out
Babies come into the world ready for relationships, after all , we established on the previous point that they depend on others for their very survival. In the last half of the 20th century, the field of attachment theory was developed and then exploded onto the psychology scene. Basically how babies attach to us depends to a great deal on how we respond to their needs. In order to have a secure attachment the primary caregiver must respond the baby’s needs in a prompt, empathetic way consistently during the baby’s first year of life. When a baby’s cries are ignored they can believe that the world is not a dependable place and that those you care about are not dependable. These views if not resolved over time and with therapy can result in an adult who doesn’t know how to have healthy relationships and struggles with self-worth. There are hundreds of books out there about attachment theory. Brenda Hunter’s book The Power of Mother Love is quite good and so is Attachments by Dr. Tim Clinton and Sibcy. Clinton and Sibcy also go extensively into what I will talk about next in regards to how we respond to our children’s needs affects their view of God
Spiritual reasons why babies are not designed to cry it out.
As parents we are our children’s first view of who God is. I know, scary, huh? When children have been responded to in a prompt and caring way to all their needs and have the knowledge that they don’t have to fear because they are safe, it is much easier for them to then believe in a loving God who will is always there to answer when they call. Jesus tells us to love one another as He loves us. He tells us not to do anything to our little ones that would cause them to stumble in their faith or we would be better off drowning ourselves with a stone tied to our neck. I believe that the Creator in his wisdom imputed into mothers especially an instict to answer our childrens cry and to have empathy for them. He made it hard for us to leave them. Because He knew what babies really need are closeness, love, respect for their individual needs, and to meet those needs to the best of our ability in a quick manner. Whether it’s the need to be held, fed, comforted, changed, talked to, all needs are real needs worthy of our time.
In conclusion, when I tell people this is an area I have researched, I mean I have RESEARCHED it,lol. Hundreds of articles, books, in-depth scripture study to come to the conclusions that I have come to. I don’t take this lightly. Most parenting decisions, while I might have an opinion on it I am not likely to post about it… breast vs. bottle, stay at home vs. work outside home, homeschooling vs. private vs. public schools. I really think a child could probably do well in any of those, though I have made choices for my own family that I think will help my children. But with this, it’s different to me somehow. When a parenting fad threatens to do emotional, mental, physical and even spiritual harm to the children that are made to endure it, I choose to speak out and ask parents to truly do the research on it. Look at the precious gift you have been given and remember that we are to treat people the way we want to be treated.
In the chapter four of Mary Sheedy Kurcinka book Sleepless in America she recounts her search for a suitable facility for her father’s care. I remembered this recently as we were having to find a place for my in laws to go. Anyway, she tells how although she as comfortable with the daytime she was concerned about the policies that they might have night for her father who was unable to get up by himself and get a drink or use the bathroom…etc. Would they be compassionate? This led her to develop two policies a unideal one and one she would like and realizing that it’s similar to how america might handle children…..
At this facility we encourage our patients to be independent. Each individual has his or her own room and is expected to stay there all night. If the patients are mobile and try to get out, we put up a gate to stop them. Ultimately it works. If they scream loudly, we close their door, to prevent them from waking up others. We don’t let them manipulate us. If they get so upset that they vomit, we’ll clean it up in the morning. We run a tight ship here , clearly letting patients know that we are in control. There’s no codling. We can’t be running to check on them every time they want something. We;ve got other things to do. We’re not going to sit and hold their hands. They’ve got to learn to sleep through the night or at least remain quiet if they don’t. If they are hungry or wet, our staff is scheduled to begin rounds at six a.m. It’s important that they learn to wait
Every patient is unique. We never forget that. That sounds and lights here are usually very different from what they’re used to at home. Some settle right in, but others take several weeks, even months to feel comfortable. We check on them frequently. Some just need to know we are here. others want us to stop, sit with them, and hold their hand for a few minutes, or rub their backs. They need that touch, closeness. you know many are used to sleeping with someone else and they miss that sensation of warmth and touch,. We add an extra pillow or a rolled blanket if we’re not worried about them suffocating or getting caught; it gives them a little extra comfort against their body. We keep a regular routine so they know what to expect and if they call we will come. it’s important for them to know. We find they rest better, and it improves the quality of their lives. There’s no one right way that we do it here, but what you can count on is that every individual will get what he or she needs. We try to never forget to listen to our hearts. That’s why we’re in this business you know.
Which facility would you want to be in? Which would you feel comfortable putting your parents into? I believe people, whether 2 days old or 102 years, deserve to be treated with kindness, empathy, and respect for their needs.
Some sources I recommend are: Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, The No Cry sleep solution and The No Cry sleep solution for toddlers and preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley.