Sunday, December 26, 2010

Letters from Baby: Please don't let me cry

After reading many responses to this blog post, I just want to say that it is not my intent for this to be a complete debate on the merits of "cry-it-out".  I am trying to present what experiencing "cry-it-out" may be like for a baby and hope it will encourage people to not take CIO so lightly and do more research into the subject.  To find a more logical argument against CIO, see the links I have included at the end of this post.
Dear Mom and Dad,

I'm lying here crying, waiting for you to come.  I don't know why you won't, but I feel so all alone.

I heard Grandma say to let me cry, it's good for me somehow, so you both agree not to spoil me.  Well I don't know exactly what that means, but I am sure I disagree.  All I know is that I'm cold and sad lying here alone.  So I will keep crying with the hope that you will come.

I know I just ate and now it's time to sleep, but I feel so safe when I'm in your arms and that's where I want to be.  Your body is warm, and you smell so sweet.  It's easy to fall asleep, protected by your arms and listening to the calming sounds of your breathing and heart beat when you hold me close.  I know I'm loved and cared for with you watching over me.  But I feel so sad alone in this room waiting for sleep to come.

I have no words to tell you, and so I start to cry.  It's my only way to ask for help, it's the only words I have to tell you that I need you.  I get so excited when you listen, but I just don't understand why you won't listen now.

So I keep calling for you to pick me up, but please come fast.  I'm afraid that I can't cry much longer, that I am going to give up.  That I will feel too alone to even cry and too tired to hope you will still come.  I'll feel so ignored here in this room.  So unloved, so abandoned, so alone.  It might not be true, but it's how I feel as I continue to beg for you and my cries continue to go unanswered.

Next time I will know not to cry so long.  I won't try as hard to make you hear and I'll learn faster that you will not come.  And there may even come a day when I don't cry at all.  By then I will have learned that you don't care and I will have given up on trying to communicate my needs to you.  I won't keep hoping or trust you to help me when I am sad.  Grandma will be so proud that I have learned to "self sooth", but I don't know why giving up is a good thing.  Maybe I will understand some day.

I'm finally too tired to cry, and I'm drifting off to sleep.  I'm breathing kind of funny, I still feel like I can't catch my breath.  I guess I really shouldn't have cried so long.  I'll know next time.

Your Baby

It makes me so sad to think of all the babies that are left to cry.  Like all parents, the parents of these babies love their babies dearly and just want what's best for them.  Unfortunately, main stream thinking has made us all believe that letting your child cry it out is not only okay, but actually better for them in the long run.  The truth could not be more opposite.

Leaving a baby to cry, unattended and without response by a parent is not healthy.  All the stress hormones released from prolonged crying can actually alter a baby's brain.  They can also become withdrawn and even depressed.  How your child responds to CIO depends greatly on how it is applied and the baby's personality.

Babies use crying as one of their only ways to communicate with their caregiver.  When a baby attempts to communicate over and over again and is repeatedly ignored, this baby learns that their communications will not be responded to.  They lack trust in their parent or caregiver to meet their needs.  So responding to a baby's cry is important in establishing communication and a trusting relationship with your baby.

Here are some great resources about prolonged, unattended crying:

Dr. Sears - Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful to Babies

Dr. Ben Kim - Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry

The Natural Child Project - The Con of Controlled Crying

Dr. Sears - 7 Things Parents Should Know About Baby's Cries

Dr. Stephen Juan - 'Crying it out' may damage baby's brain

PhD in Parenting - Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us

Peaceful Parenting - Should Baby Soothe Himself to Sleep?

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley is a great book if you are looking for solutions for helping your baby sleep.  I buy one for all the new moms I know!


  1. I get so heartbroken every time a friend tells me they are going to do CIO. My husband forced me to let our oldest CIO one night and she and I both cried ourselves to sleep. I vowed to never do it again and I haven't. It's just heartbreaking.

  2. Awww I almost cried reading that. I grew up in a family where letting a baby cry it out was the norm. I never thought twice about it (it was my norm after all) until I became a doula and immersed myself in the 'birth' world. Now I'm being exposed to SO MANY different parenting styles. I'm grateful to have this knowledge before I have my own children.

  3. reading this makes me so glad i have defied the flood of criticism about spoiling my baby. i never let him cry it out because with my first i did listen to all the well-meaning advice and i have regretted it.

  4. I teared up reading this. It hurts to imagine those lost, sad babies crying for the attention the crave... and deserve.

    You can't spoil a baby. My mom's favorite analogy is comparing babies to fruit. The fruit that spoils is the one that sits untended on the ground. The ripest best fruit stays on the branch until it's time.

  5. I grew up in a family who never CIO. So it was completely against my nature to even think someone would do this to their child.

    My parents had an open door policy. It did not matter the age or the rhyme or reason we were welcome to snuggle with our parents and siblings. So when it came to my children it was never a thought to CIO. When I met my daughter's father he was very main streamed and used CIO on his daughter. I converted him and his 2-year-old was never left to cry when I was around.

  6. Great post! So sad. But great reminder that listening to your baby cry feels like torture to most parents and goes against your most primal instincts. The reason - crying for prolonged stretches is not good for your baby.

  7. This grandma would NEVER advise to let any precious baby "cry it out!"

    I never let our three children cry it out and I'm so proud of our daughter who would never let her precious baby CIO, either!


  8. It is so refreshing to read all your wonderful comments! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post!

  9. That letter made me tear up. I can't stand CIO and it makes me sad when I hear people do this. I have to admit, sometimes the thought crosses my mind, " maybe those CIO-ers have the right idea. What if I am doing my baby girl a disservice in the long run?" Then I get a nice reminder like this. Thank you for this post.

  10. Great post!!! I too am against cio and have nurtured all 3 of my children till they wanted to sleep alone. I advocate when they want to sleep together in each others beds as well from all the great memories I have of doing it with my siblings. I come from a family of 6 kids and my parents NEVER did cio. Keep up the great blog!

  11. Hi there!

    This post makes me cry every time I read it. I translated it into Turkish to share with my pro-CIO friends. I hope you don't mind.

    Anne Kus

  12. Thank you Anne, that is so great that you translated it! Thanks a lot for sharing!

  13. This is exactly how I feel about the whole CIO movement. I can't even get into conversations about it anymore without things getting personal, and even though I feel extremely strongly about this, I try my hardest not to bash other parents.
    That being said, my opinion of people greatly declines when I hear they are CIO supporters. My heart breaks for all of those babies who stop crying not because they've self-soothed but because their little spirits have been broken. Sometimes I want to ask if they'd do the same to a puppy or a kitten... I can guarantee the answer is no... they'd cuddle that creature to sleep every night until it was ready to sleep on it's own.

  14. this sounds good but understand what yr baby needs is not easy. i read so many posts and i also expect to do more. however. . . . .. . so complicated !!!! or i become momy first time?

  15. i know this and i understand this my baby. but it's a bit difficult you know? please grow up quickly, learn to speak and tell me. honey <3 !!! i love my baby!! tks this letter!!

  16. omg. thats heartbreaking. i’m glad i read this tonight – my daughter has been up every 2 hours in the night for weeks and i’m at the end of my rope but this reminded me why i never have and never will leave any baby of mine to cry it out.

  17. Its great post! Thanks a lot for sharing!
    - Jennie -

  18. Post lots of emotions. Thanks for your post.