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15 Scientific Reasons to Let Baby Cry It Out

Sleep training is a tough subject for a lot of Moms to talk about. Many feel that they can’t seem to win on either side of the debate, pro or con, in helping their child get a good night’s sleep. It's more than challenging when a child wakes up overnight many times, or when they have difficulty falling asleep at night. Parents are exhausted by the end of the day, and the fact that they have to function calmly and happily around their child, is a challenge when everyone is sleep deprived. That's why parents have to find what works for their child and their family. There is no one right way, and this is a topic ripe with controversy. In the end, parents have to listen to their gut and do what feels right for their baby. Also, when we are talking about beginning sleep training, it is NEVER suggested to try this method until baby is at least six months old. Before then, they are too young, and they don't have a predictable sleep/wake schedule in place.

Science is still studying some of the more complex things that happen in babies' brains after they have been exposed to sleep training methods like Ferber’s, and are keeping an open mind. However, there are more and more studies that show babies do develop in a healthy manner when  parents do the "crying it out” sleep method to help their children learn to get a good night’s sleep. What people do forget, however, is that there are many different variations on Ferber’s crying it out sleep method. Moms could experiment and see what works best for their child. Sometimes a little tweaking is involved, too. On that note, here are 15 scientific reasons to let baby cry it out:

15 Baby Will Learn To Self-Soothe Quicker

Although it is extremely difficult to listen to, and often painfully so for Mom, letting baby learn to handle being left alone in their crib to fall asleep without Mom’s help, will also mean that they will develop the skills in the future to be able to calm themselves down more quickly. When they are crying, it's terrible to listen to and enough to make most Moms break down and want to go in and pick them up immediately, but according to sleep training experts this will only teach baby that Mom will fix things and that they don't have the ability to do this. There are lots of ways for Moms to gradually remove themselves from the soothing equation which this method discusses, but for babies to learn appropriate self-soothing they must learn to handle their own stress and be able to fall asleep on their own.

14 Baby Will Sleep Better

Another point in favor of the “cry it out method,” is that apparently baby will sleep better afterwards. This is based on them knowing that they can eventually learn to meet their own needs independently while in their crib, and calm themselves down when they feel scared or isolated. Again, this method is not about Moms abandoning babies to crying for hours on end. Rather, parents gradually remove themselves from being present with baby in two ways. The first way is to gradually leave the room and come back for short, measured spurts only when baby cries then leave so they can learn to handle it. The second method is to stay away from baby’s room for longer periods each night. Regardless of which way is used, baby falls into a certain expectation and pattern with Mom. They will then, by this token, learn to relax and sleep better.

13 Baby Will Wake Up Less Frequently

Another good consequence of sleep training is that once babies master falling asleep on their own, they will wake up less frequently in the night if at all. Parents will usually see an improvement in sleep after one week of sleep training, and babies will routinely fall asleep within fifteen minutes of going to bed. This is the average, of course. This is evident at the three month mark after babies have learned to fall asleep on their own. The process is hard initially on Moms and babies, but with time, practice, and a stable predictable schedule, baby learns to rely on the sleep cues and feel much better going to bed on their own. They know Mom and Dad are near, but don't need parents to be soothing them to sleep. Many have found that babies learned to fall asleep quicker after any kind of sleep training, and stay asleep throughout the night, a win-win for both parents and babies.

12 Baby Will Have Less Bedtime Tantrums

The baby who learns that the sleep routine unfolds in a predictable and calm way every night, also learns that as long as they are listening and following the cues, they will have their parent-child time and everyone will sleep better. These babies and later toddlers, will usually throw less bedtime tantrums than children who did not feel as emotionally secure with their parents at bedtime, or who did not feel safe and therefore were clinging to Mom or Dad for security. Within a few months of any of the sleep training methods used, babies will usually feel secure and comforted by the steady bedtime routine and will cooperate willingly at bedtime. They will see the benefit and fun with story time and cuddling; and having the skills to comfort themselves, they will be able to handle any feelings of stress. Sleep training also stresses to parents to make sure baby is drowsy prior to starting the bedtime routine, in other words, start when they are truly tired so the whole process will be easier on everybody.

11 Interrupted Sleep Is Bad Just Like No Sleep

Parents often think to themselves that it's better that their child is calm at the beginning of the night if they soothe them to sleep, and then the child doesn't get up or only gets up once at night, versus having the child crying as they fall asleep on their own, but then not getting up at night at all. The truth is, for both parents and child, interrupted sleep is bad on both sides, whether it's one or two or more times a night. It will eventually catch up with both babies and their parents. As previously mentioned, it is different for every baby and family, so parents may have to try various methods. The important thing is not to give up when one method does not work. At the beginning things will get worse before they get better, called “extinction burst,” where baby has to learn to adjust to the changes. Then, once they do, everyone is on their way to sleeping better and more soundly all night.

10 It Helps Moms With Postpartum Depression 

Moms who suffer from postpartum depression are overwhelmed and exhausted by motherhood. They often have feelings of isolation, sometimes due to not having family and friends around to help, other times due to the fact they are afraid to ask for help. They are also not getting a lot of sleep or good quality sleep due to being a mother. This is hard on them and their family. This is why having a good sleep system in place can do nothing but help Mom in the long run overcome her postpartum depression. In the short-run, there are obstacles to overcome, such as the greater stress in that first week with sleep training baby. But if she has her partner on board or another close person to help support her during this difficult time, the other effect of a happy healthy baby who is sleeping, is a happier and healthier Mom who will be sleeping and stands a greater chance of recovering from postpartum depression.

9 Babies Will Learn About Healthy Boundaries With Parents

A healthy boundary with a parent and child is extremely important in the parent/child relationship. It will affect everything onwards, and though parents always have the chance to make the bond closer and healthier, it becomes more challenging with time. The best way to have a close and healthy boundary with one’s baby is to have the relationship between mother and baby as clear as possible. Moms should always feel free to be as affectionate and loving as possible with baby. They also thrive when Mom is emotionally connected. But the danger is when Mom thinks she has to soothe away all baby’s distress and anger. Moms can hold babies, be emotionally available to them day and night, but baby needs to learn to cope with his/her emotions in order to thrive. They know the parent is there in the room or house, but they learn to handle their own feelings slowly.

8 Babies Will Avoid Greater Sleep Issues Later In Life

Many studies have shown that babies who develop healthy sleep habits and coping mechanisms for handling stress early in life, fare better down the road as far as sleep, health, and learning are concerned. Once babies learn that they are safe and secure and that their parents love them no matter what, they can handle any stress that comes their way, in most cases. There are always exceptions if there are other mental or physical health challenges going on. Still, once babies and toddlers are taught how to self-soothe and handle their own reactions to stress at bedtime and during the day, they are able to build on these skills and be happier and healthier children and adults one day. This is enough to get any parent to see the advantage of a little bit of sacrifice watching baby cry for a few days, in order to build emotional resilience later on in life. It is not easy, but parents who make the effort have seen positive changes.

7 Two Types of Training: Gradual Extinction Or Fading

Lots of attention has been paid to sleep training, and there are two different approaches one could take. Gradual Extinction sleep training means, as previously discussed, parents leave the room and can return to check on baby without a set schedule. There is no set time as when to go and come back. Parents will go in to reassure baby by talking to them but not touching them, picking them up or turning on the lights. Then they leave baby alone again to calm themselves. It's difficult to leave and return, but the logic goes that baby sees parents are present and available.

Fading is more structured and a time is set each week to fade out the parent’s presence with baby. Parents start by staying with baby in the room for twenty minutes as an example, then leave and do not go back. Then they do the same routine with fifteen minutes and then do not go back in etc. The goal is set on a chart, and with both methods parents could be followed by a sleep specialist or child psychologist who will help them track baby’s progress at self-soothing and eventually falling asleep soundly on their own.

6 Moms And Dads Will Sleep Better

Another great reason to let babies learn to cry it out is so that Moms and Dads will also learn to sleep better. This would not happen initially, of course. This would be after about a week of the sleep training. Then, Moms and Dads will see how they are not suffering from sleep deprivation, and are better able to handle things that happen in the day and night. There will be a huge improvement in their stress levels and in how they parent as well. Baby will also pick up on this positive mood and more relaxed state of being, and will be happier, healthier, and better able to learn and discover all the amazing things that are around them. The whole family will benefit from a practice that takes some investment of time, patience and sacrifice due to baby’s temporary discomfort (so goes the theory) for permanent harmony, at least most of the time, in the family.

5 Babies Will Learn To Process Crying As Just Another Emotion

Another great thing about sleep training? It may sound like something weird, but it has a positive outcome. That outcome is that babies will learn to handle crying as just another emotional state of being. People, and parents especially, are so negative towards crying and will try and discourage babies, and even older children from letting out their feelings in this way. It is often seen as taboo, weak, and embarrassing. But really, crying can be cathartic for all people, babies, toddlers and adults alike. It's healthy to let themselves feel it, experience the emotions, and let it out. Sleep training does just that in letting baby sit with his/her emotions and handle the aftermath. It's not easy on them at first or on their parents to listen to and experience, but self-soothing and emotional regulation is a regular and necessary part of life. All of us have to experience it, and the sooner we learn it, the better off we are to handle bigger stresses as we get older.

4 Parents Will Be Able To Distinguish Between Several Nighttime Issues

It's not always evident at the beginning as to what type of sleep issue baby is struggling with, and sometimes it's a combination of issues. For example, some babies have trouble settling down alone at night in their cribs and will only fall asleep in their parents’ arms. This is a “settling” sleep problem and one type of sleep training can help with that. Another type of sleep problem is a baby who falls asleep with no issues at the beginning of the evening, but then will wake up once or more times in the night. This is another sleep issue that could be caused by anything from nighttime fears and anxieties to other issues that are interfering with sleep in baby. Different types of training would have to be implemented in these cases, so it's important for parents to figure out quite quickly which issue their child is dealing with. With looking at Ferber’s different methods (the most common sleep training strategies), as well as the books and articles on sleep that are out there on many reputable parenting sites, parents will know how to proceed.

3 Most Adults Today Were Sleep Trained And Are Fine Sleepers

Another thing that points to the fact that sleep training does work safely for most of the population at least, is the fact that a significant portion of adults today were sleep trained as babies or were left alone in their cribs to “cry it out.” These adults are good sleepers, emotionally sound individuals, and have no major stress associated with the evening and sleep. We all have sleep issues from time to time, adults and children alike, but most people were not “damaged” by being left to cry and sort out their emotions. This is not to say that sleep training is right for everyone, or that every family has to sleep train their child. However, scientifically a few days to a week of consistently showing the baby how to respond at bedtime to certain cues has been shown to work at decreasing baby’s and parents’ stress if everyone follows the routine and does not give up mid-way. In the end, parents have to decide what is best for them and their child.

2 Parents Learn They Can't Control Everything

Why is it good to learn that we can't control everything as parents? Well, the same reason it's good that we learn this in other areas, so when surprises happen, we can handle the aftermath better. A parent who doesn't feel one hundred percent guilty for every time his/her baby is upset and looks to swoop in and fix it, ends up being a happier and healthier person and shows their child that they can't always control everything. Children will also learn that this is ok and healthy. Parents and babies will see with sleep training that baby will learn ways to calm down and relax and regulate when consistently left on his/her own to cope. Now, parents will check in, show love, encourage and be nearby. But in the end, baby will see their power in what they can control, and their parents' reactions to outside forces. Parents will feel happy with this outcome as more pressure will be off them to be the one who has to save the child. That is not their job. Parents are there to teach, guide and love their child. The child will learn the rest.

1 Baby Learns Reasoning and Consequences

As mentioned in the point above, babies will also learn about cause and effect to their reactions, and learn how to listen more to their own inner cues as well as what is happening on the outside of the world around them. Even babies as young as six months old, can start learning these cues and picking up on what is happening around them - with parents setting the scene for bedtime in a predictable manner while playing out the various steps in a way that make it very clear for the child of where things are headed. After that part is accomplished, the baby will learn how to move through one part to the next of their sleep routine, handling being left alone and coping with that until they see their parents the next morning. Now obviously if baby is crying a lot and it's not something that normally occurs, parents ought to go into the room and tend to baby. They may be ill or unwell in some other way. But if all seems fine, parents will read the cues and baby will too, and both will cope.

Those are 15 scientific reasons to let baby cry it out. Many parents do choose this method of sleep training and find that it's safe to use and that it works. Parents can always try other methods to help baby. The important thing is that they need to feel that whatever strategies and techniques they are using are the right ones for their child and family.

Sources: Live Science, Health Blog-U of M Health, CNN, Parenting Science, Global News

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