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Recent Study Claiming ‘Cry It Out Best for Babies’ Lacks Proof

Let me start by saying that while I do not agree with using cry it out (CIO) methods for my children, my purpose for this post is not to bash it or those who practice it.

In the past couple of days I’ve read a few posts with headlines stating cry it out is proved to be best for getting babies to sleep through the night. I had to read them because I had a hard time believing several other studies were suddenly overturned. Regardless of my views on it, I was curious about the study and the science. Whatever the results I doubted I would change my parenting style based on one research study..,but might as well see what’s going on, right?

crying infant - fdp

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Figures never lie, but liars can figure.” I learned real quick while on the debate team in high school that one can find “facts” and “studies” to back up almost any claim out there. The quality varies with some sources more trusted than others while other times it’s a matter of context. Well, this recent study by Dr. Weinraub at Temple University isn’t even a case of liars who can figure. It’s more like “here’s some data and here’s what I think about something remotely related but not actually proved in my research at all.”

Yeah, the conclusion to this study is not fact based at all. Yes, they analyzed data about sleep/wake cycles of babies and toddlers and different intervals, but no where did this project actually study crying it out or the effect it has on children. But somehow they jumped to the conclusion that crying it out is best. Umm, that’s just the researcher’s opinion without any facts to back it up. Like, none. At all.

No where IN the study do I see anything about cry it out mentioned, yet she draws the conclusion that it is the best option for new parents?

Publishing a conclusion that is not actually proved by the study is dangerous and irresponsible. How many people have bothered to actually read the study? Not many…including the people reporting on it! Sites like The Stir (see: Study Shows ‘Crying It Out’ Is Best for Babies)are taking the findings at face value and further speeding misinformation that this study proves CIO is fine, better, best, etc. when in fact it does not prove anything except some children still wake at night while others are sleeping through the night by 6 months old. And you know what? Night waking in babies and toddlers is normal.

“If you measure them while they are sleeping, all babies — like all adults — move through a sleep cycle every 1 1/2 to 2 hours where they wake up and then return to sleep,” said Weinraub. “Some of them do cry and call out when they awaken, and that is called ‘not sleeping through the night.’”

Source: Let crying babes lie: Study supports notion of leaving infants to cry themselves back to sleep

Umm, “sleeping through the night” is defined by a stretch of 5 hours of sleep, not whether or not a child cries when they wake up. The waking data was reported by the mothers but as far as I can tell, we have no idea which babies were left to cry it out – if any were at all. Plus, CIO isn’t even supposed to be done before 6 months of age according to the Farber Method so the 66% of 6 month olds sleeping through the night didn’t learn to sleep or soothe themselves from crying it out….

So, yes, I fully believe that publishing misleading and misinformed articles about this study’s “claim” is dangerous and irresponsible. Now more of the general public is taking the headline at face value. They further spread this false information as they try to convince others that CIO really is what everyone needs to do. And many of those who practice it take this as “told you so!” proof of their choice being “the right one.”

If people choose to utilize CIO that’s their business but I don’t think a study that doesn’t prove anything should be their justification. I saw a comment of a woman saying everyone could “suck it” because this proved it was the right thing to do…but she didn’t read the actual study…just the post about it by a blogger who didn’t look at the study either before reporting on it.

Seriously, anyone reporting this claim as proof didn’t actually look at the research or didn’t understand the information. The first time I looked at it I felt like I had to be missing something. It really doesn’t prove anything…nothing new anyway. So, yeah, babies and toddlers vary on their sleep development and patterns. Yeah, breastfed babies tend to wake in the night more than formula feed babies…it still doesn’t prove how crying it out is best….

I’d love to break the study down better for you, but someone else already did a fantastic job of that. I recommend reading John Hoffman’s post Self-soothing. Possibly the biggest lie ever foisted on parents. He also talks about how self-soothing is a parental myth – it originated as a research term. There apparently aren’t any studies out there that prove anything about babies learning “self-soothing” either.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

No matter which side of the baby sleep fence you sit on, I just urge you to look further into stories like these before believing them. It’s misinformation like this that can rattle an unsure first time mom, making things even harder on her as she tries to navigate motherhood.

And for those wondering… both my kids started sleeping through the night fairly early with normal night waking to nurse…and no, I don’t let them cry it out.


Image courtesy of [Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot] /


Monday 7th of January 2013

It's been awhile since I was "in the trenches" with a colicky baby and was reading articles and studies and blogs and comments and anything I could get my hands on about baby sleep. Those were truly delirous days, with neither my baby nor me getting more than 40 minutes of sleep at a stretch at any point during the day or night -- for almost nine months straight. Exhaustion can do a real number on people. Full disclosure, after exhausting all other avenues, we finally did a modified "sleep training" program. We even paid for some costly consultations and tried to get an appointment with the infamous Dr. Weissbluth. I agree with what you're saying here. Tired moms and dads don't need one more piece of flaming-hot biased research on their plates. There's so much already, and in the end, it's all just more of the same. You're going to do what you can stomach, and most people start with the gentlest approach possible and end with the gentlest approach they can handle. At least that's what I'd like to believe based on our own experience. I feel so bad for parents who have filled in my place in the trenches I was finally able to leave. Controversial studies like these just make them more bananas!


Tuesday 8th of January 2013

It seems like new parents nowadays are hit with this stuff more now because of social media and how fast info travels. Unfortunately I think there's less fact checking with the rush to be first.

I think you are right that we try the gentlest options first and have to decide to do what works for our own families.

Thanks for commenting!