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02nd May 2016

Irish Clinical Psychologist Says Crying It Out is “Very Harsh”

During an interview with Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1 this morning, clinical psychologist, David Coleman spoke about his opinions on sleep training technique ‘crying it out’.

Interviewer, O’ Rourke, questioned the psychologist and author on what to do with a baby who doesn’t settle after being put to bed.

“If that was me and that was a young baby, I would just take them into my bed because chances are that they’re going to settle and sleep for longer with that comfort you provide. It sounds like that’s what they’re relying on in that moment. They need their parent there.”

“If they’re a bit older, maybe 3 or 4, you probably want to ween them off the need to have you there because it is good for children to learn to soothe themselves… but that becomes a process rather than an event. If you rely on things like controlled crying or crying it out – those are very harsh.”

While Coleman criticises sleep training techniques like crying it out he didn’t criticise parents saying, “ultimately, I suppose, it is each to their own.”

“I would never recommend leaving a child to cry it out because you have to remember what a child’s cry is all about.”

“When you have a baby or a young child, crying is the only way they have to let you know that something isn’t right in their world. So if you’re allowing them to cry, you’re knowingly leaving them in some kind of distress.”

“I don’t believe that we should leave children in that state to cry and so I think that if you are relying on crying it out and waiting an extra five minutes or an extra ten minutes, I think that is emotionally stressful for kids.”

“If they want your company to soothe, then offer your company to soothe. It’s not necessarily that they’re hungry or that they have a dirty nappy. They simply want the presence of an adult there.”

One listener got in touch via text to express her opinion on the subject:

“This is absolute nonsense. There’s no empirical evidence to suggest that leaving your child to cry for a few minutes to settle themselves is a problem. By David’s logic we should all be zombies including the child who is getting constantly interrupted sleep because the parents are pulling them up and down all the time.”

Coleman’s response was characteristically measured:

“It’s not about being dictatorial in any way. You do what’s right for you and for your child. I’m certainly giving what I would do. Which is that I’d pick a child up if they’re crying I don’t see any reason to leave them to cry.”

“It’s (crying it out) is not about your normal minute or two, this is about an intent to leave your child cry. Every parent is going to judge it themselves and if they think that this is just the last yowl before they go off or if their habit is that they do cry for a minute or two to settle themselves then that’s fine. That works for you.”

What’s YOUR take on this? Let us know in the comments…

Visit here for HSE approved infant sleep guidelines.