Is it REALLY okay to leave a baby to “Cry-it-out”?


Block your ears peeps or stock up on ear plugs.

For it seems we’re about to be hit with an influx of screaming babies, left to cry on their own, in their cots, while parents happily ignore them.

Media outlets around the world are publishing headlines such as:

“It’s OK to let your baby cry himself to sleep, study finds”

“New research says ‘Cry It Out’ baby sleep method doesn’t harm babies”

“Parents Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Training Babies to Sleep”

Media outlets are claiming ‘Cry-it-out’ is OK; that letting your precious baby cry itself to sleep causes no harm, after the American Pediatrics journal published results of decade-long Flinders University research.

According to Adelaide Now, the study’s findings fly in the face of parenting advice that generally advocates for gentler sleeping techniques, including rocking and swaddling.

The most successful technique was controlled crying, where babies learned to self soothe, which had infants falling asleep, on average, 13 minutes sooner, according to Yahoo!.

Researcher Dr Michael Gradisar said there was the added benefit that the babies “weren’t waking up so much during the night as well”.


There was no evidence to suggest the technique caused long-term problems or parent-child attachment issues.

“Dr Gradisar said the 43 participants were retested for salivary cortisol 12 months later, and again researchers couldn’t find any harmful effects on children’s behaviour or emotions,” according to Adelaide Now.

“He said that mothers of children who didn’t sleep well were at a two-times greater risk of developing maternal depression, and improving sleep through controlled crying could actually outweigh the stress some parents felt when conducting the method.

“While Dr Gradisar advocated ‘bedtime fading’ as a gentler sleep method, he said controlled crying should definitely be available for parents.

“Dr Gradisar said more research was now needed to see if the results could be replicated and parents could further rest easy.”

Such studies are fascinating for parents. The research findings are very interesting/ good to know.

I can understand why and how Controlled Crying may work for some, however, my real concern here is the media’s focus on “cry-it-out” instead of “controlled crying” and that the research relates to babies and toddlers aged from 6-16 months. Not younger than 6 months.

There’s a HUGE difference.

Consider how many sleep deprived mums are now seeing headlines pop up in their news feeds suggesting it’s OK to just leave their babies to scream until they pass out from exhaustion, with their needs unmet. Well, that really doesn’t sit well with me.

CIO = leaving bubs to cry themselves to sleep to enforce a strict routine (when baby could be crying due to hunger/ wind/ wet nappy).

CC = parent checks on bub at intervals, for example, 1 min, 2 min, 5 min, 8 min to reassure them and then starts process again.

It’s headlines like these that Lauren is talking about.


Even the researcher in charge of the study (Dr Gradisar) advocated “bedtime fading” as a gentler sleep method. NOT CIO!

It’s a shame that many people are encouraged to program their babies, these precious little humans, into becoming robots who feed and sleep at set times.

Instead of, I don’t know… FOLLOWING their needs, responding to their communication – which is in the form of crying because they can’t talk yet – and watching for their tired signs so they can tell YOU when they’re ready for sleep!

If they’re crying, it’s usually because they’re wet, dirty, hungry, thirsty, or in need of some affection.

What if I told you, you CAN have your baby sleeping well using a GENTLE approach!?

It worked for us. We had our second child sleeping through from around 4/5 months old (and was still demand breastfed in awake times) and our twins from 5 months (they were also demand-tandem breastfed).

No leaving babies to scream. Ever.

#selfie with #2 & #3 ????

A photo posted by ** Lauren – Gold Coast Mum ** (@goldcoastmumblog) on


“Bedtime fading is the more preferred technique parents choose when provided both options. … It’s a gentle technique that works quickly,” Gradisar told Fox13Now adding that the university’s website has instructions on how to carry out both sleep training methods.

What’s more, the study offers an alternative to letting babies cry it out.Dr Gradisar advocates a gentle approach, however the media are running with the ‘let your babies cry’ line without any concern regarding the huge impact this will have on many mothers around the world, who are already vulnerable in their sleep-deprived haze, and may not realise the age range (the huge impact CIO or CC could have on babies younger than 6 months!) and the differences between CIO and CC.

In her book ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ author Pinky McKay, an International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) specializing in gentle parenting techniques said controlled crying and other similar regimes may indeed work to produce a self-soothing, solitary sleeping infant.

However, the trade-off could be an anxious, clingy or hyper-vigilant child or even worse, a child whose trust is broken.

“In teaching a baby to fall asleep alone, it is due to a process that neurobiologist Bruce Perry calls the ‘defeat response’. Normally, when humans feel threatened, our bodies flood with stress hormones and we go into ‘fight’ or ‘flight’.

However, babies can’t fight and they can’t flee, so they communicate their distress by crying.


When infant cries are ignored, this trauma elicits a ‘freeze’ or ‘defeat’ response. Babies eventually abandon their crying as the nervous system shuts down the emotional pain and the striving to reach out,” Pinky’s book says.

“One explanation for the success of ‘crying it out’ is that when an infant’s defeat response is triggered often enough, the child will become habituated to this. That is, each time the child is left to cry, he ‘switches’ more quickly to this response.

This is why babies may cry for say, an hour the first night, twenty minutes the following night and fall asleep almost immediately on the third night (if you are ‘lucky’).

They are ‘switching off’ (and sleeping) more quickly, not learning a legitimate skill.”

A parenting educator I am friends with raised a valid point. “Who benefits from CIO system? Yes, sleep training practitioners. And what other impact is there? CIO is not conducive with a strong breastfeeding relationship; so who would benefit if breastfeeding is interrupted? Just saying? Why the push all of a sudden with lots of publicity?”

Apparently the real winners here are formula companies and sleep trainers such as one who advocates leaving your baby to cry even if it vomits.

To the rest of the mothers struggling to digest this new information that goes completely against your natural instincts, I say, follow your gut and respond to that baby a thousand times.

Love them, hug them, cherish them, nourish them and reassure them.

This ‘sleep deprived’ state won’t last forever, there ARE alternatives to CIO or CC (you can have your babies sleeping well by using gentle techniques I used on my own babies).

(We started putting our bubs down if they were drifting off to sleep during a feed. Soon they were able to happily self settle and could peacefully transition through sleep cycles without the need for a ‘sleep association’ – such as breast or bottle – and could sleep through. Though they do suck their finger/ thumb.)

Go to your baby, love your baby, comfort your baby. They’re not babies for long.

This post originally appeared on Gold Coast Mum. For more from Lauren you can follow her at Gold Coast Mum, on Facebook and Instagram.