Responding To Crying

"I would like to hear opinions on letting a baby cry at various ages for things like: When you know he's tired but he won't take a nap. Or, he won't go to sleep in his crib at night when you've held him, fed him, changed him, played with him in the swing, etc., and still he just cries. Thank you!"

"It helps to have both mom and dad in agreement. If one parent thinks crying is healthy and the other isn't comfortable with `letting baby cry,' tension is built up and I think baby can sense that. Compromise on a time limit that is acceptable. Sometimes babies do need to cry to let out tension (after having lost o activity) but I'm not comfortable with baby crying until I know all of her needs are met."

"There are times when you can't stop the crying, but don't abandon your baby! Just keep holding him, and talking to him, and walking...or even go for a drive in the car. I also recommend reading NIGHTTIME PARENTING, and THE FUSSY BABY, both by Dr. William Sears."

"Once you've checked everything and made certain there's no physical discomfort, you can put the baby in the crib as usual (using a set routine is helpful). Then leave the room, going back at set intervals (use a timer if you have to) of whatever length of time you can bear to listen to the crying - say, 2 to 5 minutes. Then go in and comfort the child - but don't pick him up - just talk and pat and lay him back down. Then leave. Keep extending the time you stay out of the room. It may take a couple of nights, but this method worked well for me."

"My eight week old goes through this from time to time too. I've found several things that work. Rocking in my arms or his infant seat, a stroller ride or the baby swing, a pacifier (or if that is rejected, my clean finger). Sometime a little sucking makes him drowsy. A few rounds of `Rock-A-Bye-Baby on the mobile helps too. I try to vary my approaches to crying and fussiness to keep them fresh, but I think he' still too young to leave him to `cry it out.' He looks so tiny and frightened when he's crying alone in his crib. It is very exhausting to tend to him all day and all night, but if he's awake, I'm awake. If I can calm him down we may both get to sleep sooner."

"I think under 6 months old, you can't really spoil a child. Older than 6 months you should think about establishing patterns and routines. If you want her to fall asleep on her own, she may need to cry. If you want her to fall asleep in your arms or in the car, let her, but no matter what your routine is, remember that illness and certain experiences (even holidays) are times when flexibility is best."

"My daughter is 17 months old and once in a while she will cry when I put her in her crib for the night. Following our usual calming routine of reading books, singing and rocking, I tell her about the big day she will have tomorrow, talk about what we're going to do, tell her mommy and daddy lover her very much, and then say good night. This seems to give her something else to think about and she goes down fine."

"I set a timer for 10 or 15 minute and let my daughter cry. If I know that all her other needs are met, then maybe she just needs to `cry it out.' I set the timer for a lesser time when she was really little. The only time I went in before the timer went off was when her cries were really hard. I have even had to take the timer with me outside because I could not listen to her cry. It did seem to help. Usually before the timer went off she would be asleep."

"A baby at least 3 months old might enjoy a tape of lullabies or need to have his back rubbed or patted. Picking up a small infant after 5 minutes of crying and doing some rocking lets him know you love him. Lay him down for 5 or 10 minutes then do it again. Make sure there is adequate stimulation during awake times."

"This question has been very much on my mind. In particular, our baby (now 2 1/2 months old) was not sleeping all night - getting up to eat about 2 to 3 a.m. and then again at 5 to 6 a.m. At his 2 month check-up, the Dr. said he should be sleeping through the night and we should let him cry (he said to pat him and tell him it's okay and he'd be used to it in 3 or 4 days). I was very reluctant to do this. I told the doctor that my family wanted me to feed him cereal. The pediatrician said it wouldn't help. Well, I started about 3 baby spoonfuls in his bottle and the same night he did not need to eat, although he did use the pacifier (I had previously been giving him the pacifier, but he always still rejected it after 15 to 30 minutes and he wanted food). Then after he had no side effects I started oatmeal on the spoon, plus in the bottles. That night he slept without the pacifier and he's been doing it for a week now."

"I have 4 children under the age of 5 and the first three all went through a stage of where I had to let them cry. It was very difficult to do, but I used a method that I can't remember the name, but it really works. (I used this between the ages of 12 and 18 months.) After being sure that he is not wet, dirty or hungry: Do not remove him from the crib - simply hug or pat him, and reassure him that your are near and everything is OK, then leave the room promptly. Wait 5 minutes. If he is still crying, return and reassure the child again, then leave promptly. Next wait 10 minutes, then 15, then 20 minutes and so on. Remember, do not pick the child up or take him out of his bed and remain just long enough to show him that you are near and aware of his need for reassurance. This took anywhere from 3 to 6 nights depending on the child, but the time of crying got less and less each night and it really works if you're persistent. Remember, it will be harder on you, the parent, than your child."

"I've never subscribed to the theory that if you hold your baby too much that he will never learn to sleep on his own. My first son was fairly easy to put to sleep. I nursed him (until he was 18 months!) and he'd fall asleep and then he'd be put in his crib. He would wake once or twice at night until he was well over a year old. We lived in an apartment so that I would never let him cry very hard or long before I went to him. I don't know if you breastfed your baby, but if you do, please accept the fact that breastfed and bottlefed babies cannot be compared. Given that background, let me tell you that my second son has been nothing like my first! I nurse him as well, and when he was a tiny baby, he slept in bed with me as he was so `wakeful' it was the only way I could manage to get some rest. I'm sure he just needed the closeness of mom more. We kept this up until he was about 6 months. I gradually began to put him into his crib - but again, being an apartment dweller, I would not let him `cry it out.' In my opinion, a baby will not learn anything by being left to `cry it out' except that no one will respond to his cries. As he got older (9 months) I felt more comfortable if he cried when put to bed - it was critical that I was aware whether he was getting tired and not let him become overtired. I found that suddenly he changed from being up until 9:30 p.m. and being cranky to going down at 7:00 p.m. in a decent mood! Many (most) evenings he would nurse, doze of and then as soon as I would put him down he would wake and cry. At that point, I was ready to help him be able to get back to sleep. So I'd reassure him with a hug and hiss and leave the room. Inevitably, he'd wail, then settle down after 5 minutes (although it seems longer when you have to listen to heart wrenching sobs). We found that if he could not settle down after about 10 minutes, my husband would go in, pat his back, and he'd be fine. However, if I were to go in to help him, he'd wail and I know he'd want to nurse again to get back to sleep. There have been many evenings and nights where daddy has had to go in 2 or 3 times before baby would be able to get to sleep. But I feel he is sleeping better, for longer stretches now. I have accepted the fact that he is different from his brother (or any `average' child for that matter). I really try to manage him so that I don't try to push back his bed time for any reason. I try to `read' him and be in tune with him to avoid over-stimulation. Should he become over tired, I have let my baby cry - for as long as 10 minutes. But I will always feel better if he doesn't need to cry at all!"

"I've always set my child in his bed and told him it's goodnight time and close his door. He has cried for an hour at a time sometimes. After a while they figure out you're not going to get them up. I usually keep the TV or radio on or make some kind of noise so he knows I'm still there, though. It doesn't hurt them to cry, it clears their lungs."

"I highly recommend Dr. Ferber's book called HOW TO SOLVE YOUR CHILD'S SLEEP PROBLEMS." His explanation of childhood sleep cycles at different age is great for help in setting a sleep schedule. Then, he has a progressive training system which really does work. He also clarifies why plain old `let the baby cry' often fails. Be aware that even good sleepers can relapse to bad habits when sick or stressed."

"If you have done all this then just put him in the crib and let him cry. It might take a week two but this was a doctor's advice and it worked."

"Babies cry because it is their only means of communicating a need. Throughout human history, babies have slept with their mothers. This fills an emotional need of an infant to be with his/her mother. By letting a baby `cry-it-out' at bedtime, he is not being taught that it is time to go to sleep, but rather that when it's dark, you won't meet his or her needs. They stop crying not because they've `learned' their lesson, but out of resignation and hopelessness. It is only in the last century or two (an historical blink of the eye) that we have decided to put adult expectations on infants. SIDS is not referred to as `Crib-Death' for no reason! A recent study at the Sleep Disorders Lab (U of C at Irvine) was highlighted in the April 1992 issue of Discover magazine. They are finding a lower incidence of SIDS deaths among babies who sleep with their moms. The researchers conclusion: `If you have a baby, sleep with it.' Other reading I would recommend: NIGHTTIME PARENTING and THE FUSSY BABY, both by Dr. William Sears, and THE FAMILY BED, by Tine Thevinen."

"Many people may disagree with letting a child cry himself to sleep, but parents have needs too. Like a few quiet moments at night, or a bed to themselves. When our son decided he wanted to sleep with us at night, here's what worked for us. One night we decided, `This is the night he sleeps in his own bed, come what may.' We tucked him in, turned on his music, said we loved him and left. And he cried - and cried. It was difficult, but we supported each other in the decision that this was the night to let him `cry it out.' About very 10 to 15 minutes, one of us went in and assured him that we were still there, we still loved him, and that he was going to sleep in his bed. Then we left without any fanfare. It took about 1 1/2 hours. But he went to sleep. And we never had a problem again. But be sure you're ready for a long night when you decide to do it - giving in after half an hour or so only guarantees you at least 45 minutes of crying the next time you try."

"After 3 months of age I always start by letting them cry only 3 minutes. Then I go and try to comfort them. After about a month I stretch it to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. By this time they rarely cry 15 minutes before settling down to sleep or play themselves to sleep. It really does work. It's been proven to me by my 1 1/2 year old and 4 month old boys."

"We all have temper tantrums, even babies. But I still think that until they are one year old you should hold them and try to figure out their needs."

"An infant's needs and wants are the same, and crying is the only way he has to let you know something needs tending to. A child learns to trust those around him when cries are responded to promptly, and he will begin to cry less. My son is 15 months, and when he's tired but won't nap, I gently but firmly hold him (so he can't run off to play), and rock, sing or nurse him to sleep. Perseverance and patience are helpful. Employing the family bed may eliminate night time crying. It can be hard on young one's to be separated from those they love at night. Or lay a mattress on the floor where you can lie with your child until he falls asleep. Then you can get up and resume your own activities. I do not believe in letting a child cry it out, especially without investigating the cause for crying. And if you can't find a cause, holding your baby is still the best way to help him through whatever ails him!"

"We let our son cry for five minutes at a time after we know that all his needs have been met. When we do check in on him after 5 minutes, we will lay him on his tummy and rub and sing to him. After a few rubs we leave again. We usually do not have to go back a second time. This has also helped him to sleep through the night."

"As a parent you need to be loving and consistent, which includes a daily schedule that you adhere or stick to. If your child becomes used to napping at 11 a.m. or whatever, and bedtime is between 7:30 - 8:00 p.m. each night, then your child knows that sleep time is coming. If you have indeed done everything mentioned in your question above, let your child cry a little. Maybe he is telling you to leave him alone since he can't tell you in words."

( What advice would you most like to give about experiencing life with a new baby?"
Send your advice via E-mail to: Editor - BABY EXPERIENCE ADVICE )

Questions and Answers Index.