Expert Penelope Leach warns that letting a distressed baby cry could cause long term damage
Is it dangerous to leave a distressed baby to cry? Renowned parenting expert Penelope Leach is warning that regularly leaving a baby to cry without comforting him can lead to long-term emotional damage.
In her new book, The First Year - What Babies Need Parents to Know, Penelope claims that high levels of cortisol (which occur when a baby is very distressed) can be "toxic" to a baby's developing brain and lead to the development of an anxious child and adult.
She argues that babies cry for a reason - not just to exercise their lungs - and stresses that babies are not capable of emotional blackmail before 12-18 months.
Although Penelope doesn't mention Gina Ford, she is clearly not a fan of regimented routines, such as those featured in Gina's best-selling Contented Little Baby books, where it's advised you can leave your baby to cry for a while if you know he's clean, fed and burped.
Penelope is concerned that training a young baby into a routine promotes the idea that a baby should fit into parents' busy lives rather than parents changing their lives when a baby comes along. Her comments are likely to fuel the hot debate about routine vs on-demand.
"If there is a point to writing this book, it's so that it can be more comfortable for babies as well as parents," she told The Guardian. "That's what I don't like about the opposite school, which goes for ease for the parent."
What do you think? Is rushing to your baby every time he cries the right approach or is it pandering too much? Let us know below...
Wow, way to make you feel guilty. Heather is almost 17 months now but we definitely let her "cry it out" when she was tiny, knowing she was fed, burped, clean etc. We felt she cried then because she was tired and on her own. It was the only way she would sleep in her cot. After a while she just started going to sleep with only a small murmer and now we hardly hear from her... apart from what we call "the 10pm squawk" where she'll sometimes grumble/cry for about a minute and then nothing till morning. We didn't expect that having a baby wouldn't change our lives, but we did favour the routine side of things although I know it doens't suit everyone.
At the moment Heather is a happy, confident child who cries very little (odd tantrums aside) - she is in no way anxious at the moment so I'll hope it stays that way!
I totally agree with Penelope Leach, David Coleman who is also an "expert" mentioned this in his programme 21st century babies. How can it be ok to leave a child crying alone, his point was that the child does not learn to settle itself, but rather learns mammy/daddy has left me, I am alone, scared and falls asleep through sheer emotional exhaustion. We tend to our child when they are crying or distressed which is their only way of communication when they are small, so why think it is ok to ignore this distress at nightime/naptime? I have personally never did this with my three children, but was minding my husbands niece recently and her parents insisted I had to carry out this leaving her to cry herself asleep method, she cried and cried eventually, near to tears myself, I went into her she was standing up in her cot and putting her arms out to me, she was gagging, sweating and trembling, I cuddled her and rocked her in my arms within two minutes she was asleep. Now when her parents got home I told them how I got on and they told me that at nearly two she has done this each night since she was weeks old, how can anyone face doing this to their baby each night??? I think you should fit your routine around a baby and not the other way, but that is only my opinion!!
it's funny to read this today as just the other day I was reading an article about the difference between controlled crying and cry it out.
It makes sense to me that you may need to do a little controlled crying with your baby to teach him how to sleep at night. Just like he might need a little controlled crying when he wants sweets and he can't have them. Or when he wants to climb the stairs alone but it's not safe.
To me, controlled crying means allowing baby to have a whinge because he's not happy about the boundaries we (parents) are setting. But if he is becoming distressed, we settle him, and then start again.
That's different to saying night night and then leaving your baby to cry for hours in a dark room, alone.
I got a lot of baby sleep advice from a baby sleep forum. It was all free and there was no-one saying you should do it this way or that way,only what works for me and my baby.
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