Why I Let My Kids Cry It Out: A Response
After reading Elrena Evans's thoughtful Her.meneutics post, "Should You Let Your Baby 'Cry It Out'? A Christian Response," it was clear that Evans and I absolutely agree on one thing: unfortunately the so-called "Mommy Wars" are alive and well. I firmly support Evans's decision to parent the way that works best for her family. But in a spirit of peace rather than war, I want to offer a different perspective on the cry-it-out controversy.
There are two camps that use the term "crying it out," and it's essential to distinguish between the two. One approach imposes a strict parent-driven feeding and sleeping schedule upon very young infants. The medical community by and large opposes this approach, due to the risk of stress and malnourishment for infants (see American Academy of Pediatrics abstract and article) and because of the profound discouragement it creates for many new moms. So let me be clear: When I'm talking about "crying it out," I'm not referring to this approach.
But there's a second approach to letting kids "cry it out" that's worked well for my family. The AAP advises that a parent "respond promptly to your infant whenever she cries during the first few months." When an infant younger than 4 months is crying, it's usually because she needs something. Parents ought to always do their best to respond to these cries. However, around the 4-month mark, parents can discern between a cry expressing real need ("I'm hurt! I'm hungry! I need to be changed!") and a cry of protest ...1