Cry it Out is Child Abuse

I know that this topic has a tendency to get very heated. I tend to get enraged myself when talking about the “cry it out” philosophy. I know several people who still practice CIO today. In 2012. That is insane to me! Let me be up front. I am very passionate about this subject. I make no apologies for my “opinions.” I know that my “opinions” are backed up by science. Don’t you just hate that? I know it sucks. Trying to argue with someone who has every bit of scientific research on his or her side. It must be very frustrating trying to defend a position against science. I have an idea, try listening to and following the research. Stop holding onto out dated ideas just because you do not want to deal with the fact that you made the wrong decision. You chose to not put your child first. You chose to ignore your baby’s screams for help and sent them the message, “you are not important enough to respond to.” Deal with the mistake, forgive yourself and hope that your child will forgive you and move forward by not defending it any longer.

I read yet another article today about the effects of CIO.

Babies left to cry stay unhappy hours afterwards as stress hormone remains high

There are really countless studies documenting the negative effects of CIO. Yet people still do it and doctors still recommend it. It is mind boggling to me! The biggest argument is “it worked for me and my kids are fine.” Are they really fine? Have you done brain scans before and after? And even if they are “fine” don’t you think your children deserve more than to be just “fine?” I hate that argument so much. Think of all of the things that are justified in that manner.

“My parents beat the shit out of me all of the time and I’m fine”

“I’m circumcised and I’m fine!” (both men and women)

“I’ve done drugs and I’m fine”

etc etc etc. Come on people! When new research comes out on a subject it should be reviewed and thought about. When A LOT of research is done and they all find the same thing to be true it is time to acknowledge its truth. From there new recommendations and policies need to be put in place. Just because something is not illegal doesn’t make it safe or good in any way. Look at cigarettes. They are perfectly legal and perfectly deadly.

It is unnatural for mothers to learn to ignore their children. I cannot even imagine hearing my child cry and not immediately going to them and trying to fix the problem. From an evolutionary standpoint if early humans parented the way some people parent today our species would have died out long ago. A crying baby signaled predators to the location of an easy meal. This crazy idea that children should be on a strict schedule from the second they are born even it means letting them cry is a new idea. Most parents in past generations would have thought you were crazy if you had said, “just let them cry! They are fine!” Why have mother’s today decided that ignoring your natural instincts is the way to go. Is the need to be modern and hip so ingrained that we actually choose to harm our children to keep up with the Jones’?

I believe that there are many factors of today’s society that contribute to this dangerous parenting style. For one, mothers have no support. Women are constantly told that they cannot do things still or that they should listen to the “experts” (usually male) in order to make any decision. It starts in pregnancy. Women are told for nine months (and one could argue, their entire lives) that they are incapable of delivering their baby without assistance. They are told that their bodies are broken and frail and that they just need to sit back and let other more “knowledgeable” people handle the birth of THEIR baby. They are lied to and coerced. This does not end with the birth of their baby. Every where a new mother turns she is met with someone who “knows better” because they’ve “been there.” Mothers are told to ignore their instincts and follow someone else’s ideas.

Not only does everyone around them know better than they do when it comes to THEIR baby, but working mothers are told the most important thing is getting back to work fast. Not the needs of their child, not their own wants or needs, not what would be best for their relationship. Getting back to work. The United States is awful in its world standings on maternity leave. Most other countries give mothers weeks of paid maternity leave and even more unpaid leave without fear of job loss. Some countries give mothers an entire year off to bond with their babies. Those countries see the importance of the bond between mother and baby. In the U.S. a mother is rushed back to work after only 6 weeks to bond with her new baby. Then she is expected to deal with a newborn who is not ready to do without its mother yet and is therefore very clingy trying to stay close to the mother that it misses during the day. That same baby is in no way equipped to sleep through the night and needs to nurse often throughout the day and night. So now you have a baby who is trying to adjust to not having its mother most of the day and a woman who is working all day who then has to come home and continue to “work” as a mother. She doesn’t get much sleep especially if she is having to get up several times a night and walk into another bedroom to get to her crying baby and nurse it then get it settled back to sleep in its crib. Ideally all working mothers would be able to practice Attachment Parenting including breastfeeding and co-sleeping and make their lives and their babies’ lives so much easier but alas, that is the type of thing that is thought to be an extreme idea that will cause problems later on in life and will cause the mother to be more drained than ever. Let’s see real quickly:

Option 1: Give up breastfeeding and crib train your baby… Baby cries in the middle of the night. Mom wakes up, goes to get baby, prepares bottle, finally gives the hungry baby the bottle then soothes the baby back to sleep which usually takes at least a few minutes then go back to bed and try to sleep until the process begins again.

Option 2: Breastfeed and co-sleep… Let me start by saying while I do bed-share with my children I understand that it is not for everyone. In this scenario I use the term co-sleeping to mean sleeping in the same room as your baby. Whether they are in your bed, a sidecar attached to your bed, a bassinet, or a crib as long as they are in your room. Baby wakes to eat, mom either simply offers the breast if baby hasn’t found it if bed-sharing or quickly picks baby up at the first peep even before the baby begins to actually cry and then offers the breast. Baby nurses and quickly goes back to sleep in the comfort of knowing that its mother is near and responds promptly when she is needed. Baby either goes right back to sleep where it is or is gently placed in its bed. Repeat when needed.

Now in case you still don’t believe how easy it is, let me tell you a story. When my daughter was born we had her in a bassinet right next to our bed and she occasionally, though rarely, slept in our bed. At 6 months I thought I was “supposed” to move her into a crib in her own room so we did. I would never let my baby cry it out so every time she woke I got up, walked into her room, nursed, rocked, danced, walked and did anything else that would let her get back to sleep. Then as I would set her down, she would frequently wake up again and I would start all over. When she finally did go down I stumbled back to my bed for the short amount of time between then and her next feeding. I was exhausted!! When my son was born I already planned to bed-share. Let me tell you, what a difference! I have never gotten so much sleep with a baby. We both sleep so well and he has from a much earlier age. When he is hungry he nurses and I often don’t even wake up then he slips right back into a deep sleep. If I did wake up, I fall back asleep quickly and peacefully. He is now 8mo old and I have no intention of moving him out anytime soon. I should add that my daughter was moved back into my room and sometimes my bed as well. And you know what. All 4 of us sleep better than ever! I could not be less drained!

Back to my point. When a mother becomes so exhausted that she can barely function at all and has little to no support you can see where she might want to try anything to get some sleep. Combine that with people telling her to let the baby cry it out and to think of herself first the baby will be fine and you get a recipe for abuse. Yes, I think that letting your baby cry alone is child abuse. Even Ferber the so called “father” of the cry it out movement said that knowing what he knows now he would not use that method on his own children. Think about that. The man who first championed the idea would not use it on his own children. That says something!

Now if we offered support to those women and helped them create a strong attachment and not get to burned out maybe they would not feel so desperate. Maybe if a woman felt empowered throughout her pregnancy and birthed in a strong not fearful way. Perhaps if she was given a year off to bond with her baby without fear of setting back her career or being fired, she wouldn’t be so overwhelmed and she would be able to put her baby first. The truth is that is what is most important. If you are not prepared to put a child before everything else, do not have one. Babies are time consuming. Babies need a lot. These are not secrets. The secret is that you will be all alone. No one will help you. That has to change!

Soon there will come a time when things like CIO and spanking will be legally considered child abuse. Until then the more women who can learn other ways the better. I cannot wait until these ideas are things of the past and people who practice them are thought of as low class child abusers just as people who beat children are today because to me, they are the same thing.

By Maggie Sargent


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