Do you do controlled crying?
How to respond to a crying baby always divides parents. At the extreme, some believe every whimper should be responded to immediately, while others insist on leaving their child to wail away until they calm themselves down.
Given the divisiveness of this particular issue, it is little surprise to see newspapers leaping onto this latest piece of research, which suggests that babies who are left to settle themselves remain just as stressed as when they were crying.
This would appear to leave advocates of controlled crying with some questions to answer.
The basic premise of controlled crying is that, by leaving baby to settle themselves, they will eventually get used to falling asleep without needing a carer’s comfort.
Anecdotal evidence shows us that babies do indeed take less time to settle over successive nights of applying controlled crying. It was even recommended to my daughter by the midwife, although she didn’t decide to do it in the end.
But this research suggests babies are still stressed, even after they stop crying.
Now I’m not a huge fan of controlled crying, if I’m honest, although I do appreciate the thought process behind it.
The thing that worries me about this strategy is that there are clear instances when babies are in quite substantial distress, which is entirely distinguishable from a normal ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I’m tired cry’.
If mum applies controlled crying methodology uniformly for all of these different demands, then I can see how baby could very easily get stressed out.
A baby’s cry can be quite a subtle thing. And while I would be at great pains to leave a baby to settle themselves under most circumstances, I do think there are probably instances where it’s more acceptable to leave a baby to cry and whimper than others.
But then, I also appreciate why some parents may turn to controlled crying if they have a particularly demanding child who is unable to self-settle. If successful, it can certainly lift a substantial burden.
Ultimately though, this research doesn’t provide me with enough answers. For example, is baby being stressed out actually something we should be overly concerned about?
I don’t mean this to sound cruel at all. Of course we should do as much as possible to stop babies getting stressed. But it is in their nature to cry and, by extension, get stressed out now and again. Surely the important question is whether this level of ‘controlled crying’ stress is damaging?
Cry-sis offers support for families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies.