Cry It Out Sleep Training Method Causes No Lasting Damage, But Is Still A Little Mean If You Think About It

The controversial “cry it out” method of “teaching” infants to sleep alone has adherents and naysayers in the realm of parenting schools, but a new study released says that allowing an infant to cry in their crib to become used to sleeping alone or falling asleep without assistance does not cause lasting harm to the baby.

Proponents of the “cry it out” method believe that an infant will eventually grow accustomed to sleeping alone, and while crying jags may be lengthy and unabating at the start, eventually the baby will cry less and less until they realize that no one is coming to soothe them, causing them to develop an ability to fall asleep unassisted.

Those who disagree with the method — the well-respected Dr. Sears, advocate of Attachment Parenting among them — believe that allowing an infant to cry as a form of sleep training is cruel, as babies lack the reasoning ability to understand they have not been abandoned. Critics of the cry it out method also reject the idea that infants manipulate their parents by crying to be picked up, instead positing that crying is the only way a distressed baby has to communicate needs to parents.

But a new study in Australia seems to indicate that whether or not “cry it out” sleep training is a necessarily nice thing to do, it isn’t harmful. The researchers looked at 225 babies and children from the ages of seven months to six years, determining that parents who use the method get better sleep and suffer less emotional trauma and postpartum depression overall.

Rahil D. Briggs is director of the Healthy Steps program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and Briggs says:

“While stressful for the infant, it almost certainly falls under the ‘positive stress’ heading … Positive stress creates growth in the child, in the form of coping skills and frustration tolerance that serve to be critically important throughout the life span.”

Are you a believer in the “cry it out” method of sleep training?