Crying it out harms babies’ brains

Here’s a link on crying it out, and why leaving your baby to cry isn’t a great idea:

BBC News: Crying-it-out ‘harms baby brains’

I really hesitated to post this because honestly, parents can be blamed for a lot. There are times when it feels the entire weight of the world rests on our shoulders… oh and speaking of rest, we aren’t getting any. There’s certainly the temptation to let a baby cry it out a little if that means that we’ll get some sleep – and our baby will get some sleep! I had triplets, and believe me, I couldn’t physically answer each baby’s cry immediately – there were two others to attend to. So news like this can honestly wear me down and make me think no matter what I did, it wasn’t going to be good enough.

But the reason I’m posting this isn’t just about that sleep technique of crying it out. I do believe that babies cry for a reason and that babies become emotionally and physically healthy when we respond to them in a timely way and with loving, nurturing care. And when we leave our babies to cry – not once or twice, but regularly, and hard, and for long periods of time, it isn’t good for the baby.

It says in the article:

Recent scientific tests show high levels of the stress hormone cortisol develop in babies when no one answers their cries… Dr Leach suggested unattended extreme crying bouts of 30 minutes or more could be damaging to babies… Dr Leach told the BBC News website: “We are talking about the release of stress chemicals. The best known of them is cortisol, which is produced under extreme stress.”

“One is not talking about a wakeful baby lying there gurgling, one is talking about a baby that is crying hard and nobody is responding. When that happens, and particularly if it happens over a long period, the brain chemical system releases cortisol and that is very bad for brain development. Some neuroscientists describe it as toxic.”

I am interested in this news because again there is scientific evidence that we must nurture our babies and respond to them. If a parent regularly chooses not to respond to a baby’s cries, a baby’s brain chemistry changes from the neglect and there are well-documented, lifelong effects.

Why would parents not respond to their baby? Some parents don’t know it’s important, some are emotionally unable to respond because of depression or other factors, some are too self-absorbed to attend to someone else’s needs, some are purposefully abusive/neglectful and some are unable due to factors such as alcohol or drug abuse. But the latter shouldn’t be an excuse for centres likeĀ Discovery Point Retreat, in Dallas Texas, offer high quality addiction treatment services for drugs and alcohol. One can see how such patterns can repeat through generations, however – with each generation leaving the next with additional challenges caused by early neglect and abuse.

In closing on this last day of April, I’d like to share this article with you: Blue Ribbon Campaign Means April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. We’ve seen this information before, but it’s a really good write-up of the issues, and again says home visiting programs (such as Open Arms) work at reducing childhood abuse and neglect.

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