Cry it Out (CIO) is Child Abuse

The Cry it Out method is widely accepted

Cry It Out is child abuse. Please feel free to quote me.

This post is probably going to hurt some feelings. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings. But if I sound judgmental, it’s because when it comes to child abuse, I am.

I am really really mad right now. My 11-month-old daughter woke up at 3 am and didn’t go back to sleep for a few hours. My partner who got up with her, played for a while and then rocked her to sleep before bringing her back to the bed that we all sleep in. It was a big fat pain in his butt, but it happens. Sometimes he gets up with her at night and sometimes I do. Then we both get up for work the next day. It doesn’t happen every night, but when it happens, we deal with it, because we are parents and parenting DOES NOT END because the lights are off. But that’s not why I’m really really mad. (And no, I’m not writing this to say I’m a better mother than you because I rock my kid to sleep at night and you don’t.)

I went to get my daughter from daycare this afternoon and walked into a heartbreaking conversation. The mother who was there to get her 10-month-old was enthusiastically explaining to the daycare provider how wonderful it is that her daughter sleeps through the night. All she has to do is let her cry for 15 minutes straight, then go in and check on her, then let her cry for 10, then 5 minutes. And voila! She’s asleep for the night. What a good girl.

Maybe that doesn’t sound bad to you. You’ve heard of this method before. Maybe you’ve done it. What’s the big deal?

WHAT? The big deal is babies cry when they need something. They don’t talk. They cry to communicate. We are sending a baby very bad messages when we INTENTIONALLY ignore their cries. Common sense should tell us that there will be repercussions later in life. Shouldn’t it? At the end of the day, it’s HUGE disrespect to the child, and it’s just plain not nice.

If I went into the daycare and said, “My daughter is such a good girl, all I have to do is smack her ass really hard and then she sleeps for the rest of the night,” what do you think the reaction would be? Is spanking a baby and letting a baby scream herself to sleep at night very different? No way.

We live in a society where it is completely unacceptable to spank our children (I’m okay with that, because I do not believe it is okay to purposely inflict violence on a baby–or any human of any age, for that matter….) YET, our society, with arms WIDE open accepts this “Cry it Out” bullshit. Yes, bullshit. I don’t usually swear on this blog, but as I said, I am very very mad.

Is it my business that this woman, or anyone reading this blog lets their kid cry all alone before falling asleep at night? Yes, just like it would be your business if you saw me swat my kid in the face in the supermarket.

I was interviewed on CBC in September about this blog and some of my views on parenting, and I got talking a little about the Cry it Out thing. I walked out of the interview a little sheepish, feeling I was being too harsh and too judgmental, and thinking that I might have come off as a crazy person. Maybe I’ll feel the same once I publish this post. But I’ll try not to feel bad. Because I firmly believe this method of “sleep training” has to stop.

Our babies cry because they cannot yet talk. When we leave them alone to cry we are abandoning them. We are abusing them.

I don’t think the mothers who “use this method” are bad people. I don’t think they are stupid. I do think they have been mislead by “experts” into thinking that this is somehow normal and acceptable. It’s not. It’s abuse.

The daycare provider kind of shrugged when I pried for her to tell me what the beginning of the conversation was (I walked in at the end) all she really said was that the kids were super happy. Super happy kids must mean that CIO is not harmful, right?

There are some things I can’t talk about in a calm, diplomatic way. This is one of them. But who am I to talk to you like this? What gives me the right? What gives any author the right to call himself an expert and tell you how to train your kid by letting him cry himself to sleep?

If you let your kid CIO and are actually still reading this post, I’m sorry if you feel bad now. I really urge you to look into gentler methods with subsequent kids.

Here are a couple more-eloquently-written pieces on why CIO is not a good idea (or why holding your baby is)

Crying for Comfort: Distressed Babies Need to be Held by Aletha Solter, Ph.D.

Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us PhD in Parenting

” Dangers of “Crying It Out”: Damaging children and their relationships for the longterm by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D.

This entry was posted in Cry It Out, Scary $h*te, Sleep. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Enza

    Jenn

    I could feel your angry and I totally agree with you. I have been told to do the same by other parents/professional because “it really works” It breaks my heart to imagine a small helpless baby crying for hours seeking their parents comfort and than finally realizing that they are on their own. I hate the sound of a baby’s cry it hurts my ears and mostly my heart. Yes,my baby has cried for more than a few seconds and yes I have had to walk out due to fustration but I have never or will ever ignore her when she is communicating with me…I try my best to be there for her and her needs

    Thank you for posting :-) <3

    • http://www.jennhardy.com Jenn

      Oh Enza, we bleeding hearts awake every few hours to comfort our babies. Courage, mama! Let this be a safe haven for you every time you feel alone in the wee hours. Chances are, many of us are awake too… :)

  • http://www.onequartermama.ca Kelly @LifeOptimist

    My son’s first doctor told me to start doing CIO with him when he was 9 months old. Despite a doctor shortage here, I moved his file to another doctor and never went back to her office again.

    I do think it’s abusive. Parenting books tell you about how important it is to build a strong bond with your child, then turn around and ignore them when they become inconvenient.
    A child will sleep through the night when they’re developmentally ready to sleep through the night. My son started at 22 months, but I still rock him to sleep at naptime and bedtime. Those moments, the tough and the tender, don’t last forever.

    • http://www.jennhardy.com Jenn

      Thanks, Kelly. I don’t really understand why doctors are advising parents to do this. A lot of pediatricians seem to, and most people (understandably) trust their doctors and then do it, and say well, the doctor said it was okay. Good for you for following your gut and getting the hell out of there! “Tough and Tender. I love it. Just popped by your blog, looking forward to reading it!

  • weegins

    This CIO thing is old school. Somehow it became the way and no one questioned it(Ferber perhaps?). Its wrong to let anyone cry alone. If you were crying I would hug you and comfort you. A baby–a human child who is at its most vulnerable, in the dark of night, alone in its crib (not us) cries and you do not offer comfort? Ignore your own heart when your instincts tell you to go to him/her…and listen to the doctor and turn up the music or get earplugs. Let them cry until the realization sinks in that no one is coming to help. Whether one thinks the crying is for a good reason or not, yeah, that child is trying to say something…i’m lonely, i’m scared, i’m unsure of this sleep thing. Life after kids will never be the same. People have to stop rushing their little babies into sleeping through the night, it makes them do crazy, inhumane things. God, I really do hope the crying it out horseshit phases out. Luv ya Jenn!

    • http://www.jennhardy.com Jenn

      Love you right back, mama. I don’t even know what to respond to this comment because I feel like I wrote it.

  • Cheryl

    We never did the CIO theory. When we were transfering Dylan to his own room/crib from our bed we simply placed him in his crib for bed, if he cried we picked him up and brought him back to our bed to sleep (maybe that’s why it took us 2 months to transfer him). But, soon the stretches got longer and longer where he’d sleep in his own crib before waking and crying. But even when he slept 6 and 8 hours in his crib, if he woke up and cried we’d go get him and bring him back to our bed. He has been in his own bed now for 8 months and we don’t take him back to our room anymore, we go in and pick him up and tell him everything is ok. We ask him if he’s ok with going back to bed, and he most of the time says yes, so we put him back to bed and he’ll go back to sleep. :) I couldn’t imagine how he’d feel, all alone in a dark room (possibly woken from a nightmare), and no one comes to confort him. :(

    • http://www.jennhardy.com Jenn

      Thanks, mama! Your kids are always inspiring. I think they have very good genes!

  • Sarah

    Thanks for another passionate post Jenn and one that comes at just the right time for me. Thanks you for re-assuring me that I am doing the right thing because we’re going through another round of up every 3hrs crying and we’re exhausted enough to cry ourselves and if I hear one more person telling me it’s my fault for spoiling him then I think I might lose my sh*t. It feels wrong to let him cry and although at 2:30 I was frustrated and at a loss for what more to do I just got up and cuddled and rocked him back asleep (AGAIN!) and that’s just what the job entails. I’m tired, cranky, I have to work with a brain that’s not quite working but you know what, my little guy woke up as happy as can be, laughing and smiling and how can I trade that for sleep? As long as he’s happy and secure then I guess it’s one more cup of coffee for mommy and daddy. The kicker is he was sleeping through on his own for about 10 days and we were all so happy and relieved (and a little vindicated that I didn’t have to let him cry to reach this point) and then he got an ear infection and was sick and now teeth so sleeping is again a thing of the past. Anyway, I’m sure I’m rambling but thank you for writing this today and making me feel better that I’m not alone and that I’m not ruining my baby or dooming myself to a lifetime of insomnia for comforting him ;-) *tear*

    • http://www.jennhardy.com Jenn

      Sarah,

      Thank YOU. This post was more intended to preach to the choir (you, other mamas who refuse to CIO) than make a group of select individuals feel guilty. Please come here anytime you need to know you’re not alone. <3

      Courage, good mama!

      • Sarah

        :) *hug* I do and I will, somedays you need a choir

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  • efm270

    Thank you for this post. I am pregnant with my first child and I have never given any thought to the crying it out method. I have seen most of my family members and the few friends of mine who have babies use it, and it never occurred to me to question this practice. I see so many people offering parents unsolicited advice on what they’re doing wrong and I think sometimes that it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern just because you feel like you have to defend all your decisions, even if you don’t know why you made them in the first place. I am glad I encountered another viewpoint on CIO in time to educate myself before I have a baby and I intend to read the links you’ve provided on this topic.

    • http://www.jennhardy.com Jenn

      Wow! THANK YOU! I think you are the reason I wrote this post! Most people don’t question it, because it is very very normal and accepted in our society. We chose “gentle” or Attachment Parenting which is pretty firmly against baby training. But we chose to follow this “way” because pretty much every element felt very natural to us. Including being against CIO. Good luck with everything and please come back again! (Also, there are all kinds of mamas that pop by here regularly that will help if you have questions at any point! Please pop by the Facebook page where there are all sorts of interesting discussions about gentle parenting! How far along are you in your pregnancy?

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  • Nick Saunders

    My dog whines when she wants to get out of her crate and barks when she really needs to. I never would let her cry/bark it out.