Friday, October 15, 2010

Maybe Letting Them Cry Is Not a Good Thing?

My son is now five so my wife and I don’t have to worry about crying at night, but I remember we had the debate when he was an infant. Should we comfort him or let him cry? Friends and pediatricians alike said that we should let him cry and after that happened for a while he would stop and we would have a better night sleep. My wife was totally against it. She had to comfort him. Me? I was noncommittal (I love a good night sleep), but I went along. We paid for it because my infant son expected to be comforted at night whenever he cried. Turns out my wife did the right thing.

I read this article called Is it time to return to caveman parenting? Stone Age families didn't spank and relied on multiple caregivers to raise their kids, research claims on It discussed three new studies which found that our hunter-gatherer ancestors got it right when it came to raising well-adjusted, empathetic children:

Hunter-gatherers , the human way of life until the agricultural revolution about 8,000 years ago, were responsive caregivers, who didn’t let a baby cry it out. Moms breast-fed, probably for about five or six years. Cave kids had hours of unstructured free play, with children of all ages. And the little Pebbles and Bamm-Bamms of that Paleolithic period probably had multiple caregivers who provided nurturing and love. Cavemoms and dads didn’t spank their kids. Rather, they were the first adopters of positive touch, constantly carrying, cuddling and holding their children.

The article further explained the benefit of comforting a crying child:

When born, a baby is “a big bundle of nerves and sensory systems,” with little regulation for self-control, says [lead researcher Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame]. Because babies are “experience dependent,” caregivers become “external psychobiological regulators,” helping shape the babies brain to better deal with stress. As the brain matures, this so-called “external, caregiver based regulation” gives way to internal regulation, as the baby learns to comfort itself.

“Babies that learn that their distress is soothed don’t develop a pattern of very extreme emotional shifts as they mature,” Narvaez says. “Their brains aren’t stressed.”
So for those exhausted parents out there with a newborn, comfort the child when he or she is crying at night. Those lost hours of sleep can’t compare to the benefits of making your child a better human being.