All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Modern Parenting Techniques, Leaving Infants to Cry & Depressed Toddlers?

"Oh you're such an earth mother" gushed an acquaintance not so long ago - you're obviously very maternal.  I had to stifle a chuckle because as someone who cared more about shoes and handbags than mother earth pre children, and who upon having a baby couldn't even fasten the (disposable) nappy on properly - it's not something I would have at one time ever thought I would be called!

So let's look at what I do that makes me an "earth mother"; I breastfed, co-cot slept with my second - first was moses basket and cot and I couldn't cope with being that exhausted again!  Plus I had read material from McKenna and felt as I was breastfeeding, baby was safer with me and at increased risk of SIDS sole sleeping in a cot.  I try to parent respectfully, with my second I used a sling - but heck that was sheer practicality; with an older toddler to chase after, having babe held close whilst I had hands free was genius - not least as it prevented "prodding baby awake to play".  I also found the hours of rocking, colic and fussing were removed by using the sling - hello why would I not use one?  I could never leave either of them to "cry it out" and recently I've got quite good at baking the odd biscuit  - not quite managed this lentil knitting yet though I hear so much about.

Did I have a pram? yes, a baby swing? yep and a bouncy chair - quick call the Attached Parenting Police quick!  Because that's another label I've apparently earned "Attached Parent".  This phrase confused me for quite a while - because what is the opposite, the "Detached Parent"?

Here is the "official definition" of an attached parent:
  • Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting - I went to a couple of antenatal classes, before dropping out due to a lack of parking and bought some babygrows, not entirely sure that's what is meant though - so I guess a fail here for me.  If you could have a first time again however, I would have definitely done a bit more prep!
  • Feed with Love and Respect
  • Respond with Sensitivity
  • Use Nurturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
  • Provide Consistent Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life (note "strive" not always achieve!)
OK, so I guess I sorta take that label then - although I prefer to call it evidence based parenting.  Because that's what I discovered pretty quickly into my parenting journey - the books full of advice from "baby tamers" are just one person's opinion.  They are not fact, not based on any evidence - just the ideas of someone who perhaps doesn't even have their own children.  Does the latter matter? absolutely!  pre children I would likely have backed "control crying" as something essential to get a child to sleep.  Once it's your child you have to leave screaming - all sorts of hormones and instincts kick in, the ones that are there ultimately to protect your baby.  Furthermore there is evidence some techniques encouraged may actually cause harm - as I will come onto in a moment.

"Attached parenting" is most aligned with what a large body of evidence tells us - and not just from a particular field.  When we examine physical, psychological and emotional evidence from different quarters, it demonstrates a human infant is designed to be kept close to and nurtured by it's mother; that pregnancy, birth and immediately post partum are in fact one long intricately linked continuum.  Babies have certain expectations - parents have others, whether the two meet is another question; like anything else when we veer from this norm, there can be undesirable consequences.

"Controlled crying" (Perhaps the most ironically termed practice) "cry it out", or whatever new fashionable term has been applied to "leaving a baby to scream", have been shown to flood the brain with Cortisol (a stress hormone) and Adrenalin; which has amongst other things been linked to depression, anxiety and violence in later life.  If the child is comforted, these levels then drop rapidly - if left uncomforted, although the child may eventually stop crying - the levels remain elevated and drop slowly.

Sears has provided a whole evidence based handout (with references) highlighting various risks:
One study showed infants who experienced persistent crying episodes were 10 times more likely to have ADHD as a child, along with poor school performance and antisocial behavior.14  Dr. Bruce Perry, researcher at Baylor University found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem, and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times. 6
Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain. In addition, when the portions of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional control are not stimulated during infancy, these sections of the brain will not develop.  He concludes that the sensitivity and responsiveness of a parent stimulates and shapes the nerve connections in key sections of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional well-being. 7, 8  
Infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, concluding that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.”
There's a lot more information including details of physical impact and references on the official handout here.

Penelope Leach, author of "The Essential First Year" examined more than 150 scientific sources and quotes study after study, including one in which three sets of parents looked after babies in different ways.
The first group fed their children on demand, carried them around with them, slept with them, and responded instantly to their crying. The second group was attentive but strove for the beginnings of some separation. And the third operated on the Fordesque “controlled crying” basis, only picking children up to be fed when the routine allowed

"At three months the distribution of crying was as you would predict,” says Leach. “The babies who were picked up most, cried less.”
“Brains that are growing and developing are very sensitive to an overload of cortisol,” Leach says. And, apparently, high levels of cortisol that build up over time can be toxic to a young baby’s rapidly developing brain
Dr Leach suggested unattended extreme crying bouts of 30 minutes or more could be damaging to babies.
"If you do not respond, the baby learns no response is coming," she added.
"The reason that a baby stops crying after fifteen minutes, half an hour, three-quarters of an hour or an hour is that it has given up and that its expectations have been altered.
"I've heard it said that babies stop crying because they have learned that mummy wants them to go back to sleep.
"Babies are not capable of that sort of learning."  
You can read more in the article "It’s dangerous to leave them crying, mum"

What many parents don't realise is that whilst they understand baby is safe in a cosy house, a baby's brain functions on a different level:
Our kids don't know they've been born into a loving family in the 21st century- for all they know it's the 2nd century and they are in a cave surrounded by tigers. Our instinctive behaviors as baby humans need to help us stay protected.
And the tigers. What about them? Define "tiger" however you want. But if you are baby with no skills in self-protection, staying with mom, having a grasp reflex, and a startle reflex that helps you grab onto your mom, especially if she's hairy, makes sense. Babies know the difference between a bassinette and a human chest. When infants are separated from their mothers, they have a "despair- withdrawal" respone.
 Hmmmm not sure I remember any of that being covered in any of those parenting manuals?

Some infants will quite quickly accept nobody is coming and sleep - thus reinforcing belief the technique "worked".  Others will fight and keep on a yelling - much like some toddlers will happily sit by if someone pinches their toy, whilst others will hang on screeching for dear life!  But even if there hasn't been high stress and hormone surges - is a child realising nobody will come when they cry (the only tool they have given they can't yell out - hey mum my gums are throbbing, or heck I'm a bit worried you've left me behind and need a cuddle) a great outcome?  what are the possible implications of this longer term psychologically? 

There is absolutely a difference between an older infant who needs to have a bit of a whinge before they can sleep (and my experience is some do) and one crying in distress   I also believe mothers often know the difference - one is a low pitched stop and start "noise", and often the stops get longer until they are asleep.  The other is a high pitched distress cry that makes the mother want to respond NOW.

So what is the long term impact of detached parenting?

Well if we know elevated cortisol levels are linked with depression, perhaps it goes some way to explaining why toddlers and children are more depressed than ever before.  In the last forty to fifty years rates have increased rapidly, prompting a major Surgeon General report on children’s mental health, and sending the USA's behavioral health caseload soaring to record highs.

Contrary to the popular perception of toddlers as "carefree", new research shows clinical depression knows no age. Depression and even thoughts of suicide are as likely to affect toddlers and adolescents as they are adults, and chronic depression can affect children as young as 2 or 3.

In an ongoing National Institute of Mental Health study, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine revealed that children experience the same symptoms of depression often found in adults, and with the same severity.

According to the National Mental Health Association, one in three American children suffers from depression. Magellan Behavior Health, the leading mental health provider in the United States, reports that more than 3,500 of its nearly 149,000 members with depressive disorders are under age 10.
In spite of the staggering statistics, depression remains the most under-diagnosed and under-treated illness among children and adolescents. Unlike the reddish, raised bumps of chickenpox or the leaky nose of the common cold, the symptoms of depression are not so concrete and, consequently, often go unnoticed by unsuspecting parents.

Of course the most severe levels of depression are found in children who are bereaved or who have a depressed mother, lifestyle may impact - perhaps spending hours watching tv or gaming; but the fact remains early infancy is crucial developmentally, and evidence is showing us how we parent can have a significant impact.
So next time someone suggests you train your baby or promotes such a parenting book - ask them to provide the evidence it's safe for your baby....


  1. Excellent post. Thank you! Will share with DBM just as soon as FB decides to work...

  2. interesting artical, will be sending to my pregnant friends :)

  3. Thank you for this post. I've been suspect of the long term physiological effects of this parenting norm. I've fought depression all my life and I have a much better understanding now of why. It's nice to know I can do something, like respond lovingly to my child that can help them to possibly not suffer as I have.

  4. Cheers :) Rane dae it's sad it's such a norm isn't it :(
    Ah 36D it's FB in general is it? I thought it was my PC having a strop lol

  5. While I do think this is a brilliant article and I am def. going to share, I do want to point out that it ~may~ be that kids who end up eventually being labeled ADHD are harder to soothe due to genetic differences in temperament from day one, culminating in their parents resorting to CIO. Some kids are just very hard to soothe even with attachment parenting (I have one!!) and I can understand how a frustrated parent might think, "this isn't working" and try a different approach.

  6. Soooo sad that people really do this. I don't get it. I've never left my babies to cry (except the "whininess" in older babies, like 10+ months) and I just rocked my 17-month-old to sleep, and after reading this I STILL want to go in and just hug my babies. How can people do that? It's just awful.

  7. There's a difference between letting your baby cry for 30 minutes straight and letting them cry for 5 minutes. My DS (now 13 months) went through a phase when he was about 8 months old for about a week or so where he didn't want to go to bed; it was obvious he was tired, but he was unwilling to be separated from us. Cry it out was our last resort because I was unwilling to become his crutch to soothe himself to sleep (as what happened with me for my mother--she wound up doing CIO and for the record, I'm not ADHD and the only times I've been depressed have been when I've taken hormonal birth control.) We did it no more than 5 minutes at a time, and after three nights he snuggled up with his blanket and fell straight to sleep. He was a great sleeper before, and he still will regularly sleep for 12 hours at night. As with everything, using CIO in moderation is fine.

  8. KristinDogGirl - Absolutely. There are strong links with genetics etc too I think ADD/ADHD is on a scale/spectrum - a lot of people have say a few mild traits - at the far end are a lot of intense traits, many many people will sit somewhere on that scale, with diagnosis of a condition occuring at a particular point when enough traits with enough intensity are present. So, I think it's also feasible that how we parent in early childhood could impact on this - influencing severity rather than present or not? The Sears link I left I think covers in more detail.

    I read something similar about autism recently and those parented as responsively as possible - still were defined as autistic, but had improved empathy, social skills etc - although perhaps that should be phrased in reverse that those NOT met with sensitivity had a more severe outcome.

    Anon - that's why I did pop in the article that 5 minutes of whinging in an older infant is different to leaving a child to scream for a long period of time.
    I wouldn't consider this CIO?

    Although with my second I didn't buy into the making a prop lark often promoted in books etc and my DS is a fantastic sleeper. With my first I thought she didn't want to go to bed etc, but now I'm not entirely sure an 8 mth old processes on this level? (theres a great diagram in science of parenting showing brain connections linking upper and lower thinking etc) so with my second I figured there was a reason he was struggling to sleep - perhaps he needed a lil more reassurance or perhaps he was a bit overtired that also releases chemicals that then make it harder to settle.

    But I also agree diff children need different things - I don't recon long amounts of screaming are ok in moderation personally, because there's no evidence to suggest this is positive?

  9. I just think it is sad when the last thing a baby or child did was to cry before they fall asleep, how cruel.

    Children cry for reasons, so what if it is because they don't want to be separated from you, I think that is very sweet and should be enjoyed as long as it lasts because when that child is a teen and the only thing they want is to be separated you will miss the days when they just wanted to be snuggled up with you.

    Children need to know when they need you you are there for them no matter what the reason is for them needing you even if it is just for a cuddle. This will help them to trust you in the future with any problems they might have.

    I know of people who even do control crying with children that are teething or that's got a cold and I feel so sorry for those children because it is cruel.

    I agree that its not that the control crying works its that the babies/toddlers stop crying because they realised no one cares if I cry so why am I wasting my time.

    I will let my little one cuddle up with me as much as she wants and I will treasure it for a life time

  10. I ran out of say you like to focus on evidenced based parenting but as far as the Sears link is concerned, the evidence, as presented is misleading (if not actually false).

    I have yet to look at the Leach evidence.

    Furthermore, your skepticism of parenting manuals is noted. Yet if one looks at the Sears website, they are in the business of promoting a range of parenting manuals as well as slings, vitamins and toddler food, to list only a few of their products. I have looked extensively into nutrition and I am very skeptical myself that there is much evidence that toddlers need special food - almost everything that I have read (research based) indicates a balanced range of home cooked, normal, healthy family foods are the best option for almost every toddler.

    Evidence for need of toddler vitamins in otherwise healthy children is also lacking.

    If Sears et al are so evidenced based and authoratitive, then why are they not endorsed by health authorities, the Amercian Pediatric organisations etc. As far as I can see from their website their biggest endorsements are Oprah and Dr Phil!

    I just wonder if you would like to reconsider some of the claims made in your article, with reference to the Sears document in particular.

    Kind regards,
    Steph Pearce

  11. Hi Steph
    Thanks for your comments :)
    Firstly let me clarify I am not merely linking crying with the above - other sources have, but my post is intended to be a much more general food for thought view of parenting styles of which CIO/CC is one aspect.

    Cotisol levels are not measured via blood or IV, they are measured via saliva. Salivary cortisol levels have been shown to be a more accurate hormonal index.

    The Sears page is one I mentioned along with others - my blog is labelled "food for thought" so those with a special interest can go and hunt out more info. If you disagree with the Sears sheet - maybe email Sears, or all the doctors he quotes? (who do appear to specifically refer to cio/cc) I would encourage this as absolutely we should discuss and question.

    QUOTE I have yet to look at the Leach evidence.

    Along with looking at this, do you have evidence to present that CIO/CC does no harm? If so you are welcome to post that here so readers can consider it too. But we know it elevates cortisol, and most evidence suggests this is probably not great - you can read more here:

    or by googling effects high cortisol.

    I personally don't have time to check out the 150 studied Leach states she used, but again you're welcome to go through etc and perhaps contact her if you disagree with her statements?

    I'm really not sure what the Sears website has to do with anything? I don't myself like prescriptive parenting books that are simply made up on one persons opinion and encourage training babies, with no references or evidence base to even discuss. Nor am I presenting Sears as "someone who must be obeyed" lol (I haven't read his book, nor his website beyond specific articles) I presented his information alongside that from others as something to consider.

    I didn't make claims in my article beyond quoting specific people - if you disagree with their statements, you are welcome to take it up with them. If they withdraw their quotes I will of course revise the article. Theres more info on Leach's opinion here:

  12. I have carefully studied your article. The title 'leaving infants to cry', the 2nd paragraph mentions 'cry it out' the 4th paragraph 'controlled crying', the 6th is solely about CIO/CC. I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that this article focuses on CIO/CC as compared to attached/close parenting. And furthermore, the idea promoted is that crying is physically and emotionally damaging.

    This is all followed by endorsement/reference to the Sears article "a whole evidence based handout (with references) highlighting various risks......There's a lot more information including details of physical impact and references on the official handout here." (your words).

    Yet when reading your selected quotes, and the whole handout, it is never made clear that the 'links' between cortisol and infants are in fact rats, and non-human primates. There is no concrete reference given to the cortisol statements which actually proves it in humans. This in itself is not necessarily irrelevant, but do you not agree that it is somewhat misleading to say infants and parents without mentioning that the 'science' is actually refering to animals and not humans?

    Clearly in both YOUR article and the factsheet/sears reference, crying is strongly linked to cortisol (without mention that this appears to be only proven in animals) and then linked to ADHD, depression, and childhood suicide among other things. I am merely trying to point out that the connection does not appear to have strong scientific proof, in human infants.

    Likewise, the research which you rely on to make your links between an often repeated parenting method (CC/CIO) and negative health effects, appears to come from violence/abuse situations (from reading the titles of the references which refer to maltreatment, violence etc) not from studies of normal loving parenting, with some boundaries/stricter methods such as CC.

    In other words, if you present research which proves leaving your child in the sun for most of the day is likely to burn and seriously damage them , you can not then state that leaving them for 10 mins will have the same effect. Yet that appears to be the situation here - persisent violence and abuse and even 'persistent' crying is highly likely to cause serious damage, but is there proof in the sears document that shorter periods definitely do the same thing? No there is not.

    I don't really need to follow it up with Sears, it is you who is relying on it, and promoting it as good evidence, therefore I am taking it up with you!

    The reference is made to the website, because I was so appalled at how misleading and biased this so called scientific 'fact sheet' was that I looked into who the author was. I was surprised to find that he is the head of a major company that seems to specialise in promoting the idea that attachment parenting is scientifically proven. Although I state now that I haven't read any of their books, if the fact sheet you have provided demonstrates their level of 'evidence', then it leaves a lot to be desired. He appears to be just another person making money out of trying to push his opinion onto vunerable parents (who are very scared of ADHD etc). The kind of person who promotes the manuals you make reference to in your article as not being worthwhile.

  13. Hi again Steph
    The title of the article is "MODERN OARENTING TECHNIQUES, Leaving Infants to Cry & Depressed Toddlers?" The article is looking at attached v "detached" ? parenting as per paragraphs 1,2,3,4,5 & 6 - I then look at ONE EXAMPLE in which detached parenting may have a negative impact. I don't state that's the ONLY difference nor as far as I'm aware imply this.

    Yes there's a Sears handout, with a link so parents can read it and make a call for themselves :)

    I am not relying on anything, but presented that information alongside that from others. The doctors made statements linking uncomforted crying - therefore I added them. If you don't agree with the basis for their claims email them? As I've said before, my blog isn't a manual to tell people what to do (or not) but food for thought - I don't have time to obtain and evaluate the full paper for every study mentioned (and when discussing Leach and 150 that would take a years worth of blog entries) that's not the point of my blog?

    Making the decision to leave a child to cry uncomforted or walk in, ignore them and walk out, has long been puahed as acceptable. Did you enquire and demand research proving this to be safe? Demand that the effect in rats wasn't replicated in a human infant? Demand proof it wouldn't cause undue stress to baby (which the screaming and even being sick by some would clearly seem to suggest!) proving there was no risk to this? MPO is AP is absolutely the closest "parenting technique" to what evidence from all quarters shows us human infants need and expect.

    Unless of course you are suggesting CIO/CC is a biological norm and our children expect us to sleep train them - ergo not doing so has harmful results?

  14. I'm not saying it is safe to use CIO/CC. I am saying that I don't think there is significant, conclusive proof to link it to ADHD, violence, and childhood suicide.
    I'm sure I could find a link somewhere linking cortisol and stress to childhood cancer, so how about adding that as a risk and damage caused by CIO?
    This article just makes me think 'quick, call the Daily Mail, this woman has found a cause of ADHD and all of toddlers ill's'.

    It has already caused alarm and guilt in mothers in the bounty thread that you linked it to.

    I have tried CIO at a young age with my son due mainly to family pressure 'it did you no harm and what you are doing is wearing you out'. I am always on the look out for well researched evidence that I can use to convince my mother that at very young ages it can be dangerous. I was quite prepared to print off your article had it been more balanced or better referenced. But as a graduate librarian, she would rip holes a mile wide in the references you are providing.

    Yesterday I showed another mother who is very anit CC the article. She has a first class degree in something to do with biology. She said if you printed that handout it wouldn't be worth the paper it was written on, and was the one who said only the daily mail would be interested.

    We both also read and found extremely valuable your article on dummies. That was a piece that was fascinating and the evidence robust. Indeed, from memory I think they also used graphics from animals to demonstrate palate positions, but the vital difference is they clearly said they were animal!

    I'm not trying to be deliberately argumentative. I will still look up the Leach references as like I say I would like to see something that at least makes slightly better claims and links.

    But as it stands I think what *you* have written is not the evidence based parenting that you claim to want to pursue. You have taken Sears unstubstatiated and loosely proven claims and then linked it to serious conditions. It causes unneccesary guilt and worry, borders on scare mongering and therefore, in my humble opinion, does not add positively to the message that closer parenting is desirable.

    With respect and kind regards
    Steph Pearce (I can't always seem to log into my google account on here).

  15. Hi Steph
    The thing about my blog is that it isn't meant to be an academic paper. Whilst some posts have some quite sciency evidence, others are purely my thoughts and musings - intended to provoke thought in others. This is why there is a question mark at the end of the title.

    In this instance I appreciate you disagree with Sears - perhaps when you read the evidence from Leach you will change your mind, perhaps not; but that s totally up to you as a reader.

    As a "musings" post I included it as something I had read, and which others may be interested in reading. If you dispute it, taking it up with him would be far more effective as other bloggers may also update their posts? Just as I included for example Leach's quotes.
    As I've mentioned for me to obtain the full papers for every quote and analyse them myself would take forever (when someone is quoting over 150) so using quotes from doctors etc is pretty standard practice? When presenting something as an undisputable fact (ie not using the wording "perhaps" or "linked with" but "causes or strongly associated with"), I do indeed disect the research.

    It was Sears that made the ADHD claim (and I responded above that I didn't think it was the only cause or even causal - but there could potentially be links with exaserbating)

    I didn't at any point claim there was a concrete link between cio/cc and suicide?

    At the end of discussing detached parenting AND cio/cc I said:
    ""Well if we know elevated cortisol levels are linked with depression, perhaps it goes some way to explaining why toddlers and children are more depressed than ever before.""

    "Perhaps it goes some way" is not make a concrete evidence statement? The comments re suicide etc are from orgs dealing with depression and I then go on to say:

    "Of course the most severe levels of depression are found in children who are bereaved or who have a depressed mother, lifestyle may impact - perhaps spending hours watching tv or gaming; but the fact remains early infancy is crucial developmentally, and evidence is showing us how we parent can have a significant impact."

    Again clarifying the issue of parenting not a specific act.


  16. Hi AA
    QUOTE: As I've mentioned for me to obtain the full papers for every quote and analyse them myself would take forever (when someone is quoting over 150) so using quotes from doctors etc is pretty standard practice?

    Your faith in doctors with 150 studies is surprising and unfortunately over-optimistic, if not completely naive. If it was endorsed by reputable scientific organisations or published as an academic textbook or in an academic journal then of course. But this Leach 'article' is published in The Sunday Times!!! And is probably straight from the PR department of her publishing firm who are promoting her new parenting manual. She may have 150 references and be a mother of 2, but it is really just another persons opinion of parenthood - not scientific proof.

    I am extremely surprised that you do not show more skeptism over such works.

    When you have found articles by Leach which have been independently peer reviewed and published academically which support the vague suggestions which are written in your article, then it may have merit.

    As it stands your musings are nothing except scare mongering.

    The 'proof' in your article is merely written by doctors promoting their own parenting manuals. I just can not get over the irony of you being critical of the advice of baby tamers, while at the same time quoting 2 of them! Just because their particular brand of advice is more in tune with your views, and has references, does not make it any more worthy than any of the other baby tamers. A doctor with 150 references and 2 children - well it must be true! A doctor with 8 children and a massive parenting empire - why are they not handing out a copy to every new mother he MUST be reliable?

    Food for thought indeed!
    Steph Pearce

  17. Steph I think you are missing my point - it was not that Leach used 150 studies ergo they are reliable, it was I don't have time to evaluate each one and so details were given so others could if they wanted. If I was to study each Sears paper in depth (your initial issue) I would also have to do it for all those mentioned.

    I disagree (naturally) my musings are "scare mongering", my argument is that a technique which clearly causes significant distress to some infants, yet is widely endorsed - should prove it's not harmful, not the other way around.

    There isn't "proof" in my article, but quotes from OPINIONS of others - an alternative opinion :)

  18. I left this article and responses alone for more than a day and came back to it try and have a look with a fresh view to see if I was being unreasonable. I also re-read the bounty thread. And then also had time to look at the Leach article.

    I am still just so mystified and frustrated that you can't seem to see the flaws in both the links provided and your use of them.

    Of course I am biased, but I think I have made some reasonable critiques of your work. In response you initally indicated my response my knee jerk (bounty), that I should re-read the title, read the article more carefully, and study the evidence.

    Having done all of those I found that my inital reservations about the article (that it was only loosely based on scienfic fact, jumped to massive conclusions and can easily cause alarm and guilt which is totally unneccessary) were totally founded. I have tried over and over to point out the inconsistencies in what you have written with specific reference to both the articles and your own writing.

    Your response then is that you haven't time to look at any of that in detail. It just doesn't make sense.

    I just read your blog food and the difference is incredible. Every point is either referenced to something clearly academic, or someone with significant standing in quality organisations.

    I just don't understand how you can produce works which have such quality information,
    something which is both readible and incredibly credible. And then something that that makes a mock of its own content! And yet never once seem to consider that perhaps the blog does have some errors or overstatements in content.

    You don't seem to want to encourage constructive critique of your work at all.

  19. I can't imagine leaving a baby to cry, and I really don't understand how a parent could do that. I left my daughter with a friend one time (she was napping in a playpen) while I ran to Taco Bell for some lunch. When I came back, baby was crying and alone in the playpen. I was so upset! That kind of thinking just doesn't make any sense to me, but I guess some people are OK with ignoring a child's needs.

  20. Hi Steph
    I think the issue is that we fundamentally see things very differently.

    You feel the article could easily cause alarm and guilt - and as such you feel that there should be solid proof a technique causes harm before we can suggest this to parents.

    But in this big strive for only presenting solid evidence based material before making a suggestion to parents - I wonder why there is no requirement to prove this technique is safe and doesn't cause harm before suggesting to millions of mothers in books?

    AP isn't a "parenting technique" to me as it is you, it's the closest mainstream name for evidence based parenting ie what the evidence shows us human infants expect and need. In contrast, leaving babies to cry is a specific technique devised by someone who decided it was a good idea. Many mothers feel an overwhelming urge to intervene when their baby is screaming so much they are making themselves sick, but don't because they fear they will "make a rod for their own back" or "give in" making a child demanding. This is pushed SO much in masses of mainstream material - yet there is no "solid evidence" for any of it being good for the infant!

    As I said in my piece "Hmmmm not sure I remember any of that being covered in any of those parenting manuals" - and I feel parents SHOULD be aware there is the potential for this "technique" to impact in ways they may not have considered/been told about before.

    If I share a post that highlights others suspect this technique could be harmful (given we KNOW excessive crying causes cortisol and adrenalin and we KNOW heaps of this has been linked with negative impact) and I quote the "experts" who think that - why do I need evidence given those on the other side of the fence never present any?

    If this post gives one mum the confidence to follow her instincts - then to me it's worth it. You mention "making mums feel guilty" yet what about the mums that haven't made that choice yet, don't they have the right to know some experts feel this could cause harm?

    I think my response I don't have time to read every single study someone has based their quote upon I makes perfect sense - I don't think that therefore means I can't quote them!

    I'm not sure how someone suggesting NOT leaving your baby to cry could be considered a "baby tamer", the description fits experts who suggest enforcing schedules/rigidity/techniques to make baby behaviour suit the adult - not those who suggest being responsive to your baby.


  21. Thought this page with lots of CIO links might be of interest to some:

  22. I don't know how Steph expects to magically find extremely scientific evidence-based research on CIO in human infants. Any researcher who tried such an experiment would probably be charged with child endangerment or neglect.

    This is an issue that really requires parents to think for themselves and follow an action (or inaction) to its logical conclusion.

  23. I own the Sears Attachment Parenting book, and found it 'thin', but a better alternative to the non-qualified babytrainers who are usually followed. The Sears' commercial activities diminish their standing in my eyes, although they are at least both qualified health professionals and they do have children (8 I think?!).

    Are there ANY data to support CC/CIO being OK? It's a very recent artifact of our distorted society and I try to be closer to what my babies evolved to expect/need.

    I get frustrated with 'citations' to support AP etc that are poor science at best. But there is a need for strong proponents to argue the case, and the non-evidence-based view is the more entrenched.

    Add, of course, cognitive dissonance/guilt is a robust wall against accepting an alternative view. (I did it and my children are fine... eg, a real quote, "I left both my children to cry and one of them is not depressed".)

  24. A friend posted a link to this post and I'm so glad she did. Very very interesting, informative and helpful. I'm not a mother yet but it's something that will happen within the next 1-2 years.

    Previously, before serious thoughts of babies started floating through my brain I thought that letting a baby cry it out was genuinely the right thing to do. We can't have that small person dominating the entire household now can we?! Wow. How my mind has been changed. Now I think about it I wonder how I ever really thought that it would be a good idea. It just makes sense to me that if the baby is crying they need comfort, they're not trying to be annoying.

    Thanks for this post, I'm bookmarking your blog and coming back to it when I am eventually a Mummy.

  25. Research or no research, in my eyes it is common sense that to leave a baby to cry until it stops in despair MUST damage them in some way.

    If i were crying and my parents / friends / husband were within hearing distance and nobody came to comfort me, sure, I'd stop crying, but even as an adult it would leave me with the conclusion "nobody cares about me".

    Crying is the only method of communication a baby has. Hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely, cold, hot, pain, distress - the only thing they can do is cry out. If you ignored your older child shouting "mummy I've hurt myself" for a half hour, id say that you were neglecting them. A baby surely is deserving of even closer attention than an older child due to their innate vunerablity.

    I appreciate that CC involves going back at ever increasig periods so the baby knows you are there but NOT PICKING THEM UP, while people do CIO purely, leaving their child until they stop. I have a friend who would leave her baby from about 4 months old to cry for over an hour. He's nearly a year and a half now and STILL cries for about 40 minutes before he sleeps - proof to me that it doesn't work.

    For me, I beleive CIO and CC are potentially life threatening. My son woke in the night crying a little before his first birthday. He was in a cot by my bed and I went an stood by him and patted his back to reassuredhim etc (my son is a tummy sleeper). He still cried so I picked him up. To feel his chest sucking inwards at every inhalation. He was inconsolable, but after about 15 minutes (during which time I was franticly packing a bag, administering an inhaler (which he had for a mild cough, never before breathing problems), ringing for medical adice, then an ambulance, he had stopped crying. He was silent. Through exhaustion. At the emergency room we spent 2 hours in ressus as they administered oxygen, nebulisers, steroids. They told us he had the worst breathing problems they had ever seen in a conscious baby. Had we left him to cry, as many parents would (and many would have the child in their own room by his age), he would have fell silent and we would have patted ourselves on the back thinking he was asleep. He would have lay alone in his cot to exhausted to cry. His breathing was worsening. He would have fell unconcious as his energy waned further and he couldn't keep his oxygen levels high enough to sustain consciousness. Once unconscious he wouldnt be able to maintain his airway, compounding the problem of his lungs struggling. He would be able to take in only tiny amounts of air, if any. The next morning I would have though "oh, he's sleeping late", maybe had a quiet breakfast. By the time I found him in his CPR I would have been too late. Far too late.

    I will never leave a child to cry alone, because you cannot know that they are not calling to say "mummy, I'm really poorly and I'm struggling"

    So to heck with wether the research is on rats, wether it's reliable, whether people are trying to sell ther stuff. I saw my child blue round the lips, fighting for breath, doctors and nurses unwilling to take their eyes off him for a second because despite me responding instantly, he could STILL have died. Incidently this has happened a half dozen times now. They are querying asthma. He is 17 months and when he cries? I go to him.

  26. I am a mother.
    Sometimes when my daughter (11mths) cries I know she needs me because it breaks my heart hearing her cry. This is instint, I pick her up & comfort her.

    Sometimes when my daughter cries I know she is just messing around her cries are not destresed, just her way of saying I would much rather still be up playing, I leave her to go to sleep on her own if she settles before too long (5-10min).

    Sometimes when my daughter cries I know she needs me but I am just not strong enough to face her right away. I am a single mother & I would much rather leave my daughter safe in her cot for a few more minutes so I have time to breathe & go to her as a calm responsive mother.

    Life is a journey, we learn our leasons along the way.
    I learnt to trust my instints, and that a mothers love knows no bounds.

  27. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the psychological impact of crying when the mother IS comforting her infant. My 10 month old has always been very difficult to put down to sleep at night even when she is not overtired. It quite often takes 1-2 hours of soothing her to sleep (rocking, patting, singing, white noise) while she writhes and screams in my arms. She is perfectly content during the day, just hates bedtime with a passion!

    While it's not something I want to try, I have sometimes thought that perhaps CC would result in LESS overall crying - and therefore less cortisol in her brain - than my current apparently gentle methods of parenting.

    Articles about cortisol levels make my own cortisol levels rise because comforting your child does not always mean they stop crying. I'm sure parents of babies with colic will feel my pain here.

  28. Meryl- a number of studies have shown that crying in-arms, is NOT the same as CIO or CC. Cortisol levels are dramatically lower in children who are being held while crying vrs left alone. I recommend The Science of Parenting, it is a comprehensive parenting book, that is solely based on science and is annotated, with a huge index of sources. Steph, may find the evidence she is looking for. I know there is a picture of a brain scan of a baby without high cortisol levels and baby with normal levels.

  29. Another excellent article AA!

    Ann Sinnott
    Author, Breastfeeding Older Children

  30. Absolutely love this! It is to the point and clearly stated. I am going to send people who are even considering CIO to this page to jolt them out of their insanity.

  31. I loved your article. I think some people are getting a little overly heated about it. I took it like this: anytime I tell someone my 13 month old twins sleep in bed w/ me they scoff & I feel like I need to justify myself ("but they hysterically cried when I put them in their cribs!"). Because of your article, I will hold my head high & say it with pride. Maybe my snuggling them is the reason they rolled over, crawled & walked early even though they were premies. And as far as Steph's comment about cortisol possibly causing cancer, you were purposefully trying to be argumentative when you said that. If you have a problem with what AA writes, DON'T READ IT! Its quite simple.

  32. Whenever I deal with my daughter I always remind myself that most baby mammals come out of the womb able to move on their own. They then nurse exclusively for a period until their teeth come in, during which time they start trying their parents' food. Once they have a full set of milk teeth they then start practicing their foraging/grazing/hunting skills while still nursing for about the 1st/3rd of the ownership of these teeth. After that they ween. Once they are good with their own diet. If you correlate that to a human child you have to come to the conclusion that really if it wasn't for the fact that their heads would kill us we'd be pregnant almost 15 mo even with allowances for accelerated growth due to the perfect conditions of the womb. So every time I was able to but her down I thanked evolution that it went with pushing the baby out early instead of super sized hips! :)


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