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Child development isn't affected when babies are left to 'cry it out'

Researchers say this method could help infants cry for shorter periods of time

Photo (c) LSOphoto - Getty Images
While many parents are conflicted when it comes to letting their infants “cry it out,” experts have found that the controversial method shouldn’t cause babies any undue stress. 

Now, researchers from the University of Warwick have found that infants are likely to develop through childhood without any adverse effects to their behavior or attachment when their parents chose the cry-it-out method. 

“We have to give more credit to parents and babies,” said researcher Dieter Wolke. “Most parents intuitively adapt over time and are attuned to their baby’s needs, wait a bit before intervening when crying, and allow their babies the opportunity to learn to self-regulate.” 

Healthy development

To better understand the effect that the cry-it-out method can have on infants’ development through childhood, the researchers had nearly 200 babies and their mothers participate in the study. 

The study spanned over the first 18 months of the infants’ lives, during which mothers reported on their typical intervention styles when their babies started crying. The mothers’ actions were evaluated when their babies were three months, six months, and then 18 months old. The researchers then evaluated the infants’ attachment style and behavioral development at the 18-month mark. 

The study findings showed that infants who were left to cry it out showed similar behavior and attachment development as those whose mothers were quick to soothe them. The researchers found that the cry-it-out method wasn’t associated with any adverse effects on development or the mother-child relationship. 

Moreover, when mothers implemented the cry-it-out method, their babies cried for shorter spurts by the time they reached 18 months old. As Wolke explained, parents often feel the need to take action when their babies are crying. However, the older infants become, the more their parents can trust that they’re equipped to adjust to changes. 

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