5 Ways “Cry it Out” RUINS Your Baby’s Sleep

cry it out


5 Ways “Cry it Out” RUINS Your Baby’s Sleep

Tempted to let your little one cry it out until they sleep?

Watch out — this old-school method can backfire bigtime. (But it all depends upon how you let your baby cry it out…more on that below.)

Here are 5 ways letting your child cry alone can ruin their sleep training, plus what to do instead.

In This Article

  • What is the Cry it Out Method?
  • What About Parents Who Say “Cry it Out” Worked?
  • 5 Ways Cry it Out Can RUIN Sleep Training
  • What Should You Do Instead?
  • Help! My Baby Still Won’t Sleep

What is the Cry it Out Method?

The cry it out method doesn’t just have one definition.

Some people believe crying it out means the baby is left alone in their crib until they fall asleep. Other parents go into the nursery and speak to or pat Baby occasionally.

For the purposes of this article, I am using the phrase “crying it out” to mean leaving the child ALONE in the crib until they fall asleep, no matter how long it takes.

What About Parents Who Say “Cry it Out” Worked?

GREAT question.

You’ve probably heard from a friend that crying it out worked like a charm. Or perhaps you yourself were allowed to cry it out as a baby.

There are a few possibilities here.

  • Perhaps Mom and Dad went in every few minutes to speak softly to Baby. (Remember that in this article, we are talking about the dangers of allowing the baby to cry alone no matter how long it takes.)
  • Baby may have been allowed get unhealthily overtired before bedtime.
  • It’s possible that Mom and Dad spent weeks with this method, pounding back coffee to stay vertical through the sleepless nights.

If you see this as falling short of success, you’re in good company. Experts in the field of infant sleep agree with you that letting your child cry alone for an extended period can have harmful effects.

Here are the top 5 reasons letting your baby cry for hours could make their sleeping habits worse.

5 Ways Cry it Out Can RUIN Sleep Training


1. “Cry it Out” Teaches Your Child to Cry

Yes, you read that right! Here’s what happens:

  • You put Baby down. Baby begins to cry soon afterward.
  • The crying escalates. After all, your baby cannot reason that it’s unlikely you took off for parts unknown, leaving Baby there with no food or love. For all your child knows, you’re gone forever.
  • You either give in eventually and bring Baby out with you, or you grit your teeth and spend hours each night with the heartbreak of listening to your child scream for you. Either way, morning eventually comes, and you are suddenly there, confusing Baby.

This creates a cycle where your baby keeps herself up later and later. Remember, your baby needs sleep in order to grow. So the percentage of infants who don’t stop crying after the first night or two can experience harmful effects…including the following:

2. Crying it Out May Harm Your Child’s Brain Development

As scary as this sounds, it’s true, according to experts.

For instance, Harvard University researchers have described how ongoing anxiety can actually interrupt and even delay brain development in infants.

Experts believe this is due to the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. While short periods of stress are natural and can actually aid in development, large releases of cortisol over an extended period of time could mean trouble for your child’s neurological development.

And some children may develop mood or behavioral issues if they were allowed to cry excessively when they were babies.

3. It Increases Anxiety in the Household

Some researchers have found that even young children experience stress when a baby cries. And of course, adults do, too.

Nature gave us this little gift (thanks, nature!) in order to ensure that parents respond quickly to a baby’s cries. Unfortunately, this natural response involves the release of certain hormones, which can eventually lead to bodily imbalances.

There’s also the obvious: you’re all losing out on sleep. That can lead to a lack of harmony in the household, since you’re all existing on too little sleep and too much stress.

4. It May Harm Your Relationship With Your Baby

As I mentioned above, a baby cries to communicate with the parent. Your child can’t talk yet. Her sounds and physical posture are the only things that let you know when something is wrong. So crying is a necessary component of an infant’s life.

It’s also necessary for the connection to be made: baby cries; Mom is there. Even if you are not in the room with your baby, she needs to know you’re nearby.

If you don’t respond to your baby’s ongoing crying, that relationship is disturbed. Over time, your baby may not trust you anymore.

5. You Might Miss an Important Health Crisis

How can you tell the difference between baby “crying it out” and a health issue? The answer is easy: you can’t, if you’re used to Baby crying for hours.

If your baby is running a high fever or is in pain, her cries may sound different. But this is not a reliable measure of your baby’s health. You could be ignoring something serious that requires immediate attention.


What Should You Do Instead?

You probably don’t want to pick your baby up every hour once she reaches a certain age. Even if you did, it’s not healthy to let your baby go through their childhood with that kind of interrupted sleep.

If never picking your baby up at night is harmful, but so is reaching for your baby every time she cries, what’s the answer?

Today’s gentle sleep training methods are the way many parents are going today. By knowing the right steps, you can have a happy baby who does sleep on her own…and that can happen sooner than you think.

In my years of experience (plus sleep training my own daughter), I have found that teaching a baby to self-soothe is the best, gentlest and most effective method for most babies and parents. Check out this blog post to get started.


Help! My Baby Still Won’t Sleep

Still having trouble getting your baby to sleep, but you don’t want to use the cry it out method? Contact me! I’d love to professionally guide you to a happier, better-rested household.


There’s a Better Way.

Check Out My Sleep Packages to Learn Gentle, Effective Baby Sleep Training!

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