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Do Some People Really Believe That Babies Should be Forced to Cry?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2017
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When a baby is born, a lusty cry is rated as an important factor. Children with weak cries score lower on the APGAR scale. A baby's cry will normally improve within a few minutes, and is noted when the APGAR test is redone when the baby is five minutes old. This test of a baby’s cry helps determine development of the lungs, and has for many years contributed to an old wives tale that forcing babies to cry, after they are born will give rise to healthier lungs.

It’s actually quite common to hear references to forcing babies to cry. For example in the early 20th century novel Rilla of Ingleside, Rilla adopts a war baby and explains how her parenting book tells her she would have to force the baby to cry if he didn’t cry on his own. The outdated attitude that babies should be forced to cry, if they don’t cry at least ten minutes a day, is without medical proof or truth.

Finding the origins of the belief that forcing babies is beneficial is challenging. However, some grandparents in particular, may look critically upon parents who pick their babies up at the first cry, claiming this behavior will not only spoil the baby but is simply unhealthy. More modern ideas on the matter generally endorse the practice that forcing babies to cry is not only unhealthful, but also abusive.

Naturally a child who never makes a sound should be evaluated for ability to make sounds, and for hearing. However, forcing babies to cry by scaring them, hurting them, or not seeing to their needs is highly questionable. Some physicians advocate that while forcing babies to cry is not good for babies, letting babies cry allows them to learn to self-soothe.

This is part and parcel of the "cry it out" method advocated by some pediatricians and many families. The goal is to have an infant go to sleep on its own, stay asleep, and fall back to sleep alone without making nighttime interruptions. This is not in reality forcing babies to cry, but is rather allowing babies to cry.

Some pediatricians, on the other hand, feel that crying is the principal means by which a baby communicates prior to attaining language. Ignoring such communication, it is argued, means essentially conveying a message to the child that its needs are unimportant. Also, crying can mean several things like, “I’m hungry,” “I’m lonely,” “I’m cold,” or “My diaper is really soaked!” Ignoring a cry may mean failing to attend to a baby’s real needs.

There is considerable dispute over whether the cry it out process is the best way to go. Many pediatricians feel that parents should follow their instincts in this matter. However, it is quite clear that forcing babies to cry serves no purpose, and picking up a crying baby seems to do little harm. Both cry it out babies, and babies who are picked up at the first cry seem to have extremely well developed lungs, barring complications in health.

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