This morning on BBC Breakfast news, following an article published in the Daily Mail (Herald Sun) yesterday, they discussed controlled crying, which really struck a nerve.

The reason I started researching the development of the human brain, over three years ago, was because of the pressure I felt from well-meaning people, encouraging me to use controlled crying with my new born baby, so that he would ‘learn’ to go to sleep when put into his cot.  I felt like by using controlled crying, I would be putting myself first, and not the needs of my baby.  I know, as well as any woman who has suffered sleep deprivation, how disabling tiredness can be.  If you drop, the whole castle falls over.  When your baby is new born, however, I believe in my heart that every parent should comfort their crying infant.

My research led me to Margot Sunderland’s book, ‘What Every Parent Should Know’[1].   It gives the results of studies which show how stressful it is for your tiny infant, to be left and ignored.  The stress hormone, cortisol, flows around your baby’s body, even when they have ‘learnt’ to stop crying.  They are still stressed at being left, but don’t cry out because they are ignored.

There are two sides to each story.  Gina Ford[2] will tell you that controlled crying and a strict routine is the way to raise your baby.  However, how can you ignore the research and test results?

Another doctor who believes that controlled crying is dangerous is Dr. Penelope Leach.  In April 2010, BBC Breakfast reported on Dr. Leach’s findings[3], which claimed that leaving your baby to cry harmed the development of your baby’s brain.  Today, BBC Breakfast news has raised the topic again, based on the Daily Mail (Herald Sun) article yesterday, which comments on Wendy Middlemiss’ research from the University of North Texas[4] .  She argues, just like Margot Sunderland, that levels of cortisol stay high in the babies a long time after they have stopped crying.

Margot Sunderland’s book also talks about the long-term side effects: addictive personality, inability to deal with stressful situations, an instinctive ‘fight or flight’ reaction to stressful situations, and attachment issues in relationships.  She argues that the babies are always trying to replace the comfort that was not there when they cried in the night, with a cuddly toy, for example.  This is why, it is argued, as adults they are more prone to having addictive personalities: they are always trying to replace that comfort.

This blog is a bit of a departure for me.  I do not believe in telling anyone what to do.  In general, I believe a happy mother means a happy baby and you must do what works for you.  However, on this matter, I have decided to be more outspoken, because of the biological facts that accompany it and because I feel so passionately that so many parents act in ignorance.  You don’t have to agree, but you should be making an informed choice, knowing the possible consequences, rather than just following the crowd.

  1. Great post – raising awareness of the potential dangers of leaving a child to cry is so important; not only for our children’s wellbeing, but also for the future of society 🙂

    • Thank you Ali. This is all about awareness, sharing information and helping others.

  2. lisa said:

    again, I feel this is taken out of context. It is about how often and how long you are leaving your baby to cry. Controlled comforting is not about leaving a baby for long periods on their own it’s about 10 minutes at most, checking, reassuring baby and letting them know you are around. Surely if a mother/parent is giving optimum cuddles, contact and love the rest of the day there is little effect on a baby, as stated in a recent study in australia. We all learn to have to stand on our own 2 feet. |It is also said that babies who are ‘pampered’ to everytime they cry grow up to be dependent on others for their needs to be met. If a mum is not getting her sleep because her baby constantly needs contact but parent has chosen not to share a bed then if she does not get her sleep she is not going to be a happy mum. There is also evidence that mothers who feel they have to be at every cry from their baby are more susceptible to postnatal depression wheras those who have a baby in routine are happier, have an improved relationship with their partner and bond with baby.

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