Thought we'd pass along this brief article [first published in 2006] because for a number of years even Ferber himself (the 'father' of sleep training, controlled crying and leaving a baby to 'cry it out') stated he would not repeat this with his own babies given what we now know to be true about the physiological, psychological, and emotional damage that CIO has on infants, children, and human development. Unfortunately, the 'controlled crying' bandwagon that Ferber started many years ago (maybe even with good intentions?) has continued to roll out of control and parents are regularly given this very detrimental advice to ignore their baby's only means of communicating that a need has not been met - her cry.
We know there are cultures where babies' needs are met 'round the clock, and as a result, they rarely ever cry. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Why shouldn't this be the case for our little ones as well? Let's not do them any more harm. I would have to agree with the author's final statement -- there likely will come a day when we understand just how much damage we do to our babies, their neuro development and social attachment (and future children, adults, damage to even society in general) -- that we will come to see crying-it-out as another horrifying form of child abuse.
Please note, too, that holding your baby close and comforting him if he is crying and you are trying to figure out the underlying cause, is not the same as leaving a baby to cry (distressed) on his own, and abandoned. For further information, Dr. Sunderland's book is an excellent (and easily accessible) place to start.
The following by Dr. Stephen Juan
posted with permission
Experts warn that allowing a baby to "cry it out" causes extreme distress to the baby. And such extreme distress in a newborn has been found to block the full development of certain areas of the brain and causes the brain to produce extra amounts of cortisol, which can be harmful.
According to a University of Pittsburgh study by Dr. DeBellis and seven colleagues, published in Biological Psychiatry in 2004, children who suffer early trauma generally develop smaller brains.
A Harvard University study by Dr. Teicher and five colleagues, also published in Biological Psychiatry, claims that the brain areas affected by severe distress are the limbic system, the left hemisphere, and the corpus callosum. Additional areas that may be involved are the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex.
The Science of Parenting (2006) by Dr. Margot Sunderland points out some of the brain damaging effects that can occur if parents fail to properly nurture a baby -- and that includes forcing them to "cry it out." Dr. Sunderland, who is the director of education and training at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, draws upon work in neuroscience to come to her conclusions and recommendations about parenting practice.
In the first parenting book to link parent behavior with infant brain development, Dr. Sunderland describes how the infant brain is still being "sculpted" after birth. Parents have a major role in this brain "sculpting" process.
Dr. Sunderland argues that it is crucial that parents meet the reasonable emotional needs of the infant. This is helped along by providing a continuously emotionally nurturant environment for the infant.
Allowing a baby to “cry it out” when they are upset will probably be regarded as child abuse by future generations.
Additional information on sleep training, cry-it-out, and controlled crying, as well as healthy alternatives at: Sleep Training Review of Research
1) The Continuum Concept
2) Why Love Matters
3) Our Babies, Ourselves
4) The Biology of Love
5) The Vital Touch
"Crying-it-out does not lead to 'sleeping through the night' - it results in learned helplessness."
~ Danelle Frisbie
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