Should you let a baby “cry it out” to get to sleep?
Many books have been written about letting a baby “cry it out” until they fall asleep. They range from fully leaving your baby completely by themselves to cry with no interaction from the parents at all to the “controlled crying” methods where the parents gradually leave their baby for longer and longer until they finally fall asleep.
Most parents will say that they can’t bare listening to their newborn screaming for one minute let alone the time it takes them to exhaust themselves until they fall asleep. I think this natural instinct is enough to tell you that crying-it-out isn’t a natural process for a mother to let her baby go through. However, there may be some middle ground and this is individual to the baby and how effective this method will be. I also feel that there are very important factors as to whether you baby will be able to successfully self-settle at all. More about this later to follow.
There is also some studies showing that crying-it-out increases a baby’s stress hormones and seeing as it is these exact same stress hormones that are responsible for waking us up naturally in the morning it makes sense that crying-it-out is the exact opposite of what you should do to help your baby sleep. A baby left to cry is in fact becoming more awake because of these stress hormones. If they eventually do fall asleep then it is more from exhaustion than anything else and they will be very much less than happy with their parents at not coming in to comfort them.
As a naturopath treating many babies on a daily basis it is easy to see a common reason that these babies aren’t sleeping in the first place. The reason is that they are already stressed for a number of common reasons and that is why they are usually being brought to see me in the first place. The symptoms they suffer are excessive crying, reflux, a “witching hour”, constipation, being windy and not sleeping to name a few. These symptoms tend to be excessive and upsetting to both baby and parents and the parents just know their baby needs some help.
I feel that it is better to get to the root cause of why a baby isn’t sleeping rather then trying to let them cry-it-out with these other problems still an issue. Let’s take one example. A baby may not like laying on their back because of a particular sort of delivery, this is actually common after a C-section or at the other end of the spectrum a long delivery that may have been assisted with instruments. Both babies can find laying on their back uncomfortable, so they simply won’t sleep well because this is how you are told to lay them in bed, on their back. But it’s not their fault, it’s not something you can sleep train them out of. There is little point in letting them cry for ages to encourage sleep when they actually do want to sleep they are just uncomfortable on their back.
What is far, far better is to have cranial osteopathy very gently unwind the birth tensions which then naturally let your baby be comfortable on their back and then naturally fall asleep with gentle soothing and encouragement from the parents. Cranial osteopathy is fantastic at relaxing and calming babies, whatever their birth may have been like. Think of it like having a lovely massage yourself which makes you feel sleepy. Except cranial osteopathy gives a long term fix, rather than a brief benefit.
There is some middle ground that you may find with your sleeping baby after they have cranial treatment. After a baby has had the tensions relieved with cranial osteopathy they become much better at self-settling. This gives the mother the opportunity to give their baby a few minutes if they wake to see if they are able to fall back to sleep again by themselves. This is usually the case or they may only need brief shushing or stroking to send them back off. The reason they may still wake is due to habit but they won’t be waking from a discomfort.
If you would like to read more about helping upset babies then read more about Christian’s book, Calming Colic at www.calmingcolic.com