Is it okay to let your baby cry?
Yes, this is the age old parenting question. “Will I scar him for life if I ignore his cries?” “Will I spoil my baby if I pick him up all the time?” Let’s tackle this by age groups.
Birth to Four Months:
You can’t spoil a newborn. A baby is born with a brain that is still developing. A newborn can suck to relax, but that’s his only strategy. So when your baby cries, you’ve got to listen. That’s how he tells you he needs something.
His cries may mean, “I’m hungry” or “I have a poopie diaper” or “I am really overtired but I’m having trouble falling asleep”. In some cases, it means, “I am in pain”. For all these reasons, you cannot ignore your 0-4 month old’s cries. Help him. There is just one exception here: If you have gone through your standard troubleshooting and now you are crying, put your crying baby safely in his crib and regain your composure. If your baby is unconsolable, call your baby’s doctor.
Despite what you may hear, letting your 0-4 month old baby cry it out does not teach your baby to sleep through the night.
Four to Six Months:
Just when you get the hang of parenting a newborn, your baby grows up. Don’t get caught treating your four to six month old like a newborn—he’s not one anymore. His brain is a sponge, soaking up knowledge. He knows his parents, he knows his routine, and he knows how to calm down.
We’ll talk about sleep in next week’s newsletter, but 4-6 months of age is when sleep experts recommend letting your baby fall asleep on his own. And yes, your baby may protest (that is, cry) for a few nights. Soon, he will figure out the routine and you’ll hear him babbling on the baby monitor as he drifts off to sleep. You are not scarring him for life by letting him cry. I promise. He will be happy to see you the next morning, and you will be happy to see him.
Critics of these “cry-it-out” sleep methods claim babies who cry excessively have long-term emotional problems. Truth is, the studies they quote were done on babies with neurological problems, not on babies going through sleep training!
Six to Twelve Months:
Can you spoil a nine-month old? Yes! You no longer have a newborn. Your baby will start to test you. When you say,”No”, he may cry. You do not need to pick him up because he is crying. You are planting the seeds of discipline. Follow through, and he will learn something.