The topic of sleep and the amount of crying that a parent will allow is something that is talked about at baby check-ups, play dates, or anywhere a mother and baby can be found.
There are articles that explain why crying is not harmful...but there are also articles about how you should NEVER let your baby cry.
It's way too confusing if you ask me!
What Crying Is
Crying is the way your baby communicates that they are uncomfortable or unhappy with a situation. It is normal and I would be alarmed if a baby did not cry at all. Some babies cry very little while unfortunately some babies cry A LOT! Are those that cry a lot going to be damaged for life?…not that I have seen. In fact, I personally know a baby that was colicky for 3 solid months. That child is now the happiest toddler I have ever seen. Damaged? Nope!
To be clear: Every cry from a newborn (day or night) should be addressed. It’s an opportunity for bonding and it's likely they have basic need and your help is crucial. What I’m talking about below is crying in older babies and toddlers-- when their basic needs are met yet they cry because of a change in routine or when they've developed a habit that is no longer met.
Reframing the Conversation About Crying
I’d like you to look at this topic in a different way. As parents, it is our job to provide our children with their basic biological needs. Nutrition, sleep, safety, etc.
These three things (nutrition, sleep, and safety) are ALL very important and necessary for survival, proper growth, and proper development. Yet MOST babies cry for some reason or another when parents are trying to provide all three of these biological needs.
For example, many babies do not like their car seats. They cry. Sometimes they cry every time they are put in the car. BUT….do you get them out and let them crawl around the car? Nope. You keep them in their seat until you arrive at your destination safely, even if they're crying.
How about proper nutrition? Some toddlers are VERY picky eaters…and you know what, they would LOVE to eat cookies for dinner. And they may actually cry to have cookies for dinner. But are you going to give your child cookies for dinner? NOPE! You are hopefully going to offer them healthier options night after night until the crying stops and they learn what a proper dinner looks like. So you may you let your child cry for 30 minutes at the dinner table? Yep! And are they damaged for life? Nope. Instead, you are teaching your child how to eat a healthy meal to sustain proper growth and development.
Crying can be a teaching moment-- emotions are good! They are part of being a human. It is not about rescuing your children every time they cry just to get them to stop crying…this can create really bad habits and in the scenarios above, affect their health and safety. Instead, it’s about supporting your children through those tears. Let them have their emotions when they don’t like something, but their not liking it doesn't mean you stop doing what you feel is best for their development.
Night Crying is Not the Enemy
Night crying while sleep training (at 4 months or older) is not going to make or break your child's attachment. A few nights of crying while learning a new skill may very well be less crying than occurs with month after month of crying out in order to be rocked, bounced or nursed back to sleep (which can take hours).
And please know that there are a few different sleep training methods that you can use depending on your parenting style and what level of night crying you're comfortable with. If what you are doing is working then absolutely keep doing it! If it is not and you are in need of a “sleep makeover,” please do not avoid getting help for fear of a little nighttime crying.
We must change our mindset and think about sleep choices as an opportunity to support our kids through a change, hard as it may be. This is a skill you'll need often throughout your years as a parent! If you remain calm and consistent with your approach they will feel safe and supported.
Love those kiddos…nurture those kiddos…and teach those kiddos about staying safe, healthy eating, AND healthy sleeping.
A well rested family is a happy and healthy family.
Danielle is a certified child sleep consultant with The Family Sleep Institute and the founder of Dream Little One Family Sleep Consulting. After struggling with sleep with 2 of her 3 kids, she is definitely the "sleep police" in her house! She has helped hundreds of families since 2014, and has a passion for teaching parents about sleep.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.