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Should You Let Your Baby Cry?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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There is considerable debate about whether you should let your baby cry at night, or for a short period of time during the day. An old wives tale was that babies had to cry a certain amount of time every day in order to help them expand their lungs. This is not true, and babies that have normal development tend to have healthy lungs. Instead the focus of the debate on whether you should let your baby cry is whether you are creating dependence and inhibiting their ability to learn ways of self-comfort.

Advocates of child-rearing methods that suggest you should let your baby cry tend to range from those who staunchly believe you should never comfort a crying baby to those who take a more middle of the road approach. Some of the arguments forwarded for allowing babies to cry include that especially at night, babies won’t sleep through the night or have healthy sleep patterns when they get older if they don’t learn how to go back to sleep on their own. This is a little harsh, since babies can cry for many different reasons.

Such reasons include hunger, boredom, wet clothing, uncomfortable tummies or fear. If your baby is bored, it may not be a bad idea to allow crying for a few minutes to see if the baby will settle down. However, most young babies are looking for certain things when they cry, like food or relief from discomfort. You can’t always know what a baby needs unless you check on the baby. Crying over a wet or messy diaper, hunger or the need to be burped should be addressed, and it’s a good idea not to let your baby cry if it is expressing a clear need.

There are many books that discuss the cry it out method for teaching babies to learn to sleep. Many of these have exceptions when you think the baby is crying out of some need that you must satisfy. You can certainly try these methods and determine if it feels right for you to let your baby cry. It’s important to go with your gut, and if it doesn’t feel right, recognize there is another school of thought on whether babies should be allowed to cry.

This second school of thought is that babies cry for reasons and ignoring this cry may be ignoring the needs of your child. If parents want to foster strong bonds with children, the last thing they should do is abandon them in their hour of need. Picking up a baby who cries even out of boredom or loneliness may teach that child that asking for help is a good idea, and that they have the full support of parents. This may not lead to children who are overly dependent but instead may encourage independence as children grow because of full support of parents.

These schools of thought are often in direct opposition to each other. Parents who use one method or another often vouch for that method, which can certainly confuse new parents having to make this decision. It really may help to read up on cry it out and baby comfort methods to see how you feel. Also, you may want to decide to try one method and then the other if one method doesn’t appear to be working.

If you let your baby cry for a few minutes while you take a shower or go the bathroom, is it damaging forever? No! Most babies do cry and some even cry after you pick them up. This is about the only way a young baby has to express itself, and some parents get very good at figuring out what each cry means. There is also some psychological importance to encouraging crying as emotional relief. Trying to stop a baby from crying might convey the idea that crying is unacceptable under any circumstances, and psychologists would argue that the ability to cry in later life may be of significant benefit to most people.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By bbpuff — On Oct 02, 2010

@Pimiento - My best friend and I had babies that were only a few months apart (hers in February and mine in April) I adopted the method in the article above and she adopted your method. I am not saying that letting your baby cry when they are genuinely in need is the right thing to do. Like Parmnparsley said you should tend to them if they have a genuine physical need like hunger or cleanliness.

However, my friend adopted your method of sleeping with her child and she could not get him out of her bed OR room even after she bought him one of those cute little race car beds. She still has trouble with him now and he will be three soon.

By Pimiento — On Oct 02, 2010

@BelugaWhale - I am on the other side of the fence when it comes to how to put baby to sleep. We let our son sleep with us for about the first year and when it was time for him to get in a toddler bed in his own room he did just fine. I know a lot of women have had issues with this and see the cry it out solution, literally, as torture or just plain cruelty. I think it's one of those things where you are either on board or not. I just couldn't let my child cry like that.

By BelugaWhale — On Oct 02, 2010

@parmnparsley - It's always great when you have a self controlled child or one that will gladly do what you ask. A lot of people believe that the cry it out method is a good way to help baby sleep and that's fine. We used it for both of our children, but also in addition to that, we didn't let them sleep with us - they slept in their crib from day one - which I felt was very important in helping to develop their individuality.

By parmnparsley — On Jun 02, 2010

This article was very interesting. Our approach has been the middle of the road approach. If she has a physical need we tend to it right away, but if her crying is out of protest, emotion, or frustration we sit down with her and coach her through the problem. In these situations we do not automatically pick her up, and I think it has helped her become a better listener and a more independent toddler. As a side note, we let her cry the first few times while we were getting her on her nap schedule. Now she sleeps without a problem, and her regular naps during the day help her sleep through the night. All I have to do is ask her if she wants to take a nap and she happily walks to her crib and waits for me to lay her down.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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