This is kind of a follow-up to my last post. When I first had Babygirl, I read up a lot on different parenting techniques and Dr. Sears really resonated with me. I liked his ideas of attachment parenting and tending to your newborn’s needs on their terms, not yours (ixnay on the Babywise). So that is what we practiced for the first few months of Babygirl’s life. There was one article in particular that I really liked, and it is also one that I have seen thrown around by those who are against the Cry It Out method. This article had study after study listed in it, supposedly highlighting the dangers of letting your baby cry. I’m all about scientific studies, man. But while trying to decide whether or not to do the graduated extinction method recommended in Dr. Weissbluth’s book, I decided to take a look at these studies myself to see if I could learn more.
I was absolutely shocked and appalled. Every single study that I was able to get my hands on (some required me to purchase them, others were too old to be available online) was taken out of context in some way.
No joke. As a journalist, I have a certain standard when it comes to using source material. My number one rule is to NEVER EVER take anything out of context to twist it for your own purposes. Drives me crazy. So here is the results of my findings based on the Dr. Sears article “Science Says: Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful.”
“Research has shown that infants who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system”
This particular section listed several studies to confirm it’s statement. I could only find a one.
The first was a study of rat pups done to confirm findings found in regard to Maternal Deprivation Syndrome, a syndrome also known as “nonorganic” failure to thrive. This basically is a result of newborns who are subjected to extreme neglect (whether intentional or unintentional). Last time I checked, Babygirl has definitely not been neglected, nor has has she “failed to thrive.” And I would venture to say that your average parent is neither neglecting their child or dealing with a child who has been diagnosed with Maternal Deprivation Syndrome.
“Researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School found that intense stress early in life can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression”
This study is referring to children suffering from abuse and maltreatment.
“Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University may explain this finding. He found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times.”
Again, talking about physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Perry even gives specific examples of feral children and Romanian orphans. Seriously? Not my child. Nor is this even the average child.
“Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol (which floods the brain during intense crying and other stressful events) actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain… “
Once again, this study is referring to abuse and neglect cases where there is an excessive amount of stressed crying because there needs are never being attended to. This represents neither myself nor the average parent.
“Dr. Rao and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health showed that infants with prolonged crying (but not due to colic) in the first 3 months of life had an average IQ 9 points lower at 5 years of age. They also showed poor fine motor development. “
In this study, the term “prolonged crying” is specified as referring to children with the tendency to continue to cry more than average after 3 months of age. Not infants who are left to cry for a prolonged period. The study postulates that the crying itself is caused by underlying developmental issues, not the other way around.
“Researchers at Pennsylvania State and Arizona State Universities found that infants with excessive crying during the early months showed more difficulty controlling their emotions and became even fussier when parents tried to consol them at 10 months.”
As mentioned previously, this particular study is discussing infants who are predisposed to crying. This one specifically uses the word “colic”. Which, as we all know, is completely different from letting your child cry in order to train them in proper sleeping habits. Not us.
“Animal and human research has shown when separated from parents, infants and children show unstable temperatures, heart arrhythmias, and decreased REM sleep (the stage of sleep that promotes brain development).”
This section listed a few studies as its sources, but I could only access a couple of them.
The first one I looked at specifically studied four preschool-aged children in institutional care. They were separated from their parents as they were being treated for cancer. Of all the studies, this one was the biggest “LOLWUT!?” moment. This obviously does not apply to our situation in any way, nor would this apply to any parent practicing either Cry It Out or a modified method (such as the one we were using).
The other one I was able to access in reference to this section, was one done on rats in which they found that maternal separation resulted in sleep disturbances. However, they found that “the infant rat’s normal sleep-wake pattern is maintained by the rhythmicity and composition of the milk delivered to it by its mother…” Which is to say, it was the content of the mother’s milk that kept the baby rat from experiencing sleep disturbances. Again. Not applicable.
Strike…wait. I’m losing count.
“Dr. Brazy at Duke University and Ludington-Hoe and colleagues at Case Western University showed in 2 separate studies how prolonged crying in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. They concluded that caregivers should answer cries swiftly, consistently, and comprehensively.”
This study done on very young infants. While a few of the things could be applicable, the one I would be most concerned about (decreasing oxygen to the brain), was only in the case of infants with respiratory problems. Which Babygirl doesn’t have.
I was able to look at 9 out of 19 studies listed. Every single one was rendered inapplicable in some way or another. At that point, I wasn’t willing to trust the other 10 studies. I am declaring this article debunked! Even if the other 10 studies somehow, miraculously actually applied to the situation of letting your child Cry It Out, I still say the article is debunked on principle alone.
I am a bad parent because I didn’t follow Dr. Sear’s parenting advice.