What is a parent to do when his or her child is screaming all night long? Is it best to race to their side and shower them with love? Should you let them cry it out until they tire? Sleep training is a careful balancing act which drives parents crazy. Here is why “cry it out” is not always the best option.
In 1985, pediatrician Richard Ferber released a book with what became known as “the Ferber Method.” Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems introduced “cry it out” sleep training to mixed reviews. While some parents looked to Dr. Ferder as a deity, others tossed out accusations of child abuse.
Simply put, the Ferber Method tells parents to let their baby cry himself to sleep for a few nights, so they learn to self-soothe and fall asleep without parental assistance. Scientific evidence has not supported nor discouraged the Ferber Method. In essence, its usefulness depends on the child.
One of the biggest arguments against the “cry it out” method is that babies left to cry go through unnecessary emotional turmoil. They can experience increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and increased stress hormones. Parents fear that this increased stress can lead to vomiting and possibly choke.
Outside of the physical toll on your baby, “cry it out” training could affect how parents respond to their child. Parents could become desensitized to crying and ignore the moments when their child is crying due to medical issues. The child could be crying through an ear infection and require medical attention.
Some parents use partial forms of the Ferber Method. They remain present in the room with their crying baby but slowly remove themselves from the room. Adjustments like this could work well for you, and you will know quickly if it is catching on.
Still, many argue that any sort of “cry it out” training could make anxiety in babies with strong personalities worse. Ferber himself has come down from his radical stance, claiming that what works for your child is what works for you.