Do I let my baby “cry it out?”

Parenting January 22, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

You’re tired. Your baby is crying. You might be wondering, do I have to do something about it every time?  Aren’t we supposed to let babies “cry it out” sometimes? Here is what we really know about a baby’s cries:

Crying is a tool

In fact, crying is the only tool that your baby has to signal that she needs something from you. She does not yet have the ability to soothe herself or take care of herself. Crying is unpleasant to adults so we can be motivated to do something about it!

What we do about crying matters

From the moment your baby is born, he begins to form expectations about the world. He can learn that the world is a safe, predictable environment where growth and exploration is possible. He can also learn that the world is scary and out of control. Do parents have the power to influence this learning process? Yes!

When their cries are ignored, babies fail to learn that they have any control over how they feel. On the other hand, a consistent response teaches babies that they have some way of helping themselves feel better (getting you to respond). Your baby will learn best if you respond every time to her cries, no matter what time of day it is.. Eventually, your baby will learn to soothe herself.

Soothing a crying baby

Babies cry for lots of reasons. For example, your crying baby may be hungry, uncomfortable (too hot, too cold, dirty diaper), stirred up by to much noise or activity, ill or in pain. If you have have seen to these normal needs, but your baby is still crying, here are some suggestions:

  • Offer a soft voice, kind words, and comforting touches

  • Try rocking the baby continuously, lying across your lap

  • Swaddle baby with a warm, soft blanket wtih just the head uncovered

  • Give the baby something to suck on, like a finger or pacifier.

  • Give the baby a warm bath.

  • Go for a walk or ride with the baby to get some fresh air.

·  Click here for more tips. 

One last thing – don’t worry if you have missed your baby’s cries in the past. A few bad experiences will not hurt her. Rather, the day in, day out experience of your care will be what helps her learn to trust you. By the end of the first year of life, your baby will be finding ways to help soothe herself. At this point, you will have taught her important ways to calm herself down and regulate herself – a key characteristic of healthy people.


For Further Reading:

From University of Nevada Extension Hush Little Baby: Coping with Crying Babies

From University of Florida IFAS Extension Baby Basics: Handling the Crying Child


Author: Alexander E. Chan, Dept of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University



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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.