32 answers

At What Age Do You Let a Baby 'Cry It Out'?

I have a 7 week old son who was held day and night by his well-intentioned grandmothers for the first 5 weeks. While we greatly appreciated their help, they are now gone and our son wants to be held in order to go to sleep. He won't go to sleep unless he is in his swing (another one of their practices) or in someone's arms. After he has fallen asleep we have to lay him down with the greatest of care and pray that he doens't wake up. We have tried laying him down while he was drowsy but not completely asleep and it fails miserably every time. At what age is it too early to start trying some of the suggested methods for getting them to sleep on their own (including letting them cry it out). Is it too early? I love holding him but I don't want to create a problem that will be incredibly painful to remedy later on. I've read horror stories of babies who won't sleep on their own for several years and I can't imagine that. But he seems so little and so needy right now that I feel it's too early for the 'tough love' approach. Am I wrong? I would love to hear what has worked for others, especially in regards to what age you worked on this issue.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for your thoughtful responses! You gave me a wealth of information to draw from. We started by reading the books everyone suggested and in the end we didn't have to take much of a 'tough love' approach. (Thank goodness!) Everyone's suggestions and all the readings helped us figure out a 'middle ground' we felt comfortable with. The best part was getting feedback from people who have tried different methods and were supportive of finding what worked for us. I've spoken to people who thought we were awful for even considering letting him cry but most of the Mamasource responses were far more thoughtful. While they did lean away from the 'cry it out' method, they reassured us that we weren't going to 'ruin' our baby! Sometimes he will cry just a little when he goes down for a nap (no more than 3 -4 minutes) but it doesn't happen with every nap or when he goes down for the night. You have no idea how much your suggestions and support helped my family through a difficult time.

More Answers

Imagine being paralyzed and completely dependent on other people to care for your every need. Imagine how vulnerable you would probably feel if you could not even sit yourself upright, much less nourish yourself. Imagine how frightening it would be if your caretakers refused to acknowledge your requests for food or comfort so that you could learn that you must be "independent."

Our children have a very unique needs-based relationship with us. There are many studies that show that crying it out actually has a very negative impact on children. In one, primitive women in Africa were shown a video of an American mother letting her child cry it out. They were horrified and asked why she wasn't taking care of her baby.

Another study showed that permenent negative changes occured to the baby's brain when left to cry it out.

Infants cry to communicate.

I have two children, one three years old and one three months old. I have never let them cry it out. My oldest son is very independent. His first day at daycare he ran off to play without a backward glance in my direction! He readily spends the entire night with his grandparents and potty trained himself on his own initiative at 15 months. People comment on his self-assuredness.

Obviously independence comes from feeling secure. Children who know their needs will be met are less likely to be clingly.

I suggest looking into obtaining a good baby carrier. I use a Maya Wrap and an Ergo, but there are many different kinds of baby wraps availible online. When you wear your baby, it is easy for them to nurse or sleep while you have your hands free to do other things.

Babies love to be carried. Did you notice when you were pregnant that your baby would start kicking when you settled down? They like to be moving around with you. It stimulates their inner ear and actually helps their brain develop. They are close to you, and so feel secure.

These are innate desires--in human history, babies were always carried on their mothers. It has been shown that babies who are carried walk sooner than those who are set down or put in strollers.

The reasons to heed your baby's crying and your own mothering insticts are numerous.

Good luck! They grow up so fast--it's only a few months that they are so dependant on you. It seems like an age in the moment, but it really is not a very long time!

Angie Minno

2 moms found this helpful

Hi A.,

Tough love is not appropriate for an infant. Of course your son wants to be held all the time, he just came out of your womb---this is natural. Crying is his way of saying help me, I'm scared, hungry, tired, my tummy hurts... Imagine how different being out in the world is compared to being wrapped up tight in your belly. My daughter is now 6 months and the first 2 months were really hard. She would only sleep ontop of one of us and had colic. I know friends who had a very easy time of it, and then others that had experiences like mine. It is very tough, and will sap a lot of your energy. But, it doesn't last too long and you will have a happier well adjusted baby if you can meet his needs.
My recommendation is to buy a sling. I liked Infantino. It was a life saver for me. When my daughter was upset, I would put her in the sling with a pacifier and she was content (it mimicks the womb). Harder for you, but again, it won't last forever.
Different things work for different babies/parents. But, I truly do not believe you will create any problem by holding your son, he needs it. He just entered a cold bright scary world and needs you to comfort him.
Best of luck,
39 y.o. mom of a 6 monhth old baby girl

2 moms found this helpful

What age should you let a baby "cry it out"?? I say never. It's just not necessary. I know someone who did it with her daughter (she wore ear plugs and let her cry for like an hour before she fell asleep--) and her daughter still cried herself to sleep every night for quite some time. Seemed cruel and unncessary to me.

You'll get different opinions because there are different schools of thought on this. My best advice to you is the middle of the road approach taught by Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. She teaches you that you can start at BIRTH with her methods. I didn't start until my son was several months old, so I had some un-parenting to do and it took me a bit longer, which may be the case for you since he already has bad habits. To be honest, it's hard NOT to hold a teeny baby! But you're right that you don't want to be doing this when he is a toddler (which is what happened with by first born). I've heard BabyWise has a similar approach. There is way more to it so it's worth getting one of the books, but you basically only hold him until he settles down, then you put him down awake. If he cries (which he WILL), pick him up and hold him only until he stops crying-- whether it takes 3 seconds or 3 minutes to get him to stop crying-- but as soon as he isn't crying anymore, you put him down. I had to pick up/put down like 30 or more times the first few nights, then about 10 times for a little over a week. I now have the world's BEST sleeper!

1 mom found this helpful


I have a 21 month old daughter, and she was the same way when she was that age. We ignored what all of the people kept telling us about spoiling our child. We would hold her and cuddle her whenever she needed it. She is now a very independent little girl who does not cry that much anymore. You can not spoil a child at that age. They actually say that it is healthier for them to feel the comfort and security from parents at this age. It makes them into a happier baby in the end, and I believed that it works. We have really never had a problem making adjustments as she got older. She sleeps in her own crib, and she goes down just fine at bed time. We have a routine that we follow each evening and now she even request that we put her in her crib before she falls asleep. I honestly believe it is because we meet that need of holding a comforting her while she was so young.

My husband is in the military as well. Tell your husband thanks for all that he is doing for our country.

1 mom found this helpful

Baby's are made to be held. They love to be close to you. That's their "save" place and they will wonder of into the world from there. Please enjoy this time together. The dependence will gradually grow less and less but there is always a "save" place to be even when your 18 years old.

1 mom found this helpful

You have a SEVEN WEEK INFANT....a BABY...I BEG YOU TO HOLD YOUR BABY as much as you can...they crave it..they need it..IT IS WAAAAY TOO SOON to "teach" him anything...HE NEEDS to know that all of his needs will be met to survive. Please hold him..as much as he needs it..hold him. He will figure out everthing else when he's ready.
Enjoy this time with him...it will go so fast...

1 mom found this helpful

i dont think you can ever hold you baby to much. my lil guy is 19 months old now and wont let me hold him much at all. trust me you need to hold them all you can now, they dont stay little for ever. plus it is a bonding thing for you snd your baby. your baby is crying for a reason, even if it is to be held. maybe he is feeling unsecure for some reason.. i hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't like the cry it our method! If your little one needs to be held--Hold him! He is only going to be this little for a very short period of time. My advice is this- one day when you look back on this time you don't want to be filled with regrets of what you should have done. If you don't mind holding him for him to go to sleep then go ahead. Don't listen to what averyone else says to do. Do what you know is right in your heart!
I have a six year old, twin three year olds and take care of my 16 month old nephew. I have held all of them to go to sleep for nap and bedtime. They can ALL sleep on their own now and have been able to since they were months old. I liked holding them and watching them while they slept. Now, they are too big for me to hold them (not my nephew- he doesn't want to be held anymore), but I am ok with it because I know I did what they needed when they needed it.
Have you ever heard of Dr. Sears? You should read his book about getting a baby to sleep. He is wonderful!
Hope this helps. Sorry it is so long winded.

1 mom found this helpful

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