Leaving a baby to cry could be harmful

Expert Penelope Leach warns that letting a distressed baby cry could cause long term damage

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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. 

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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.”

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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…

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