The Cry-It-Out Myth

You’re a new parent, and that means you’re stuck with a tough choice.

You can leave baby Jackson (or Sophia) to cry-it-out in the nursery alone, scared, sad, abandoned and wailing, for what seems like hours…Or you can tend & pat, rock & sing, fall back to the “family bed” (ugh), or go nuclear, strapping yourself (or your wife) with the sleepy wrap, put on the exhaust fan above the stove, and bounce around in circles in the kitchen like a deranged kangaroo. Ahh…the joys of parenthood.

Unless you got an easy baby (you lucky ducks), there is no easy solution.

Look, I’m not here to tell you what to do. It’s your damn baby, and you can do as you please, to hell with Dr. Sears, your mother-in-law, the FDA, and the pediatrician. But for those struggling with this decision, let me see if I can shed some light. Before I do, for you dad’s out there, if your wife is adamantly against crying it out, don’t force the issue. You’ve got to pick your battles in marriage, and this just isn’t one of them. Go with her gut, crack a cold beer, and move on with your life. Period. End of story. Full stop.

(I hate that expression, full stop. What the f— does that mean?).

When I was little, the doctor (he looked like John Travolta in Staying Alive) said babies need to “exercise their lungs”, and thus it was not only okay, but the right thing to do, the healthy thing to do, to leave us in the crib (preferably in a soundproof room). That was a simple justification to overcome the evolutionary calling to pick up a crying baby. Thirteen years later, when my sister was born, we did the same thing, putting the nursery on the far side of the house where no one could hear her. I remember thinking (against my better judgment), well…I guess she needs to exercise her lungs.

They still pump this shit out, but today they might say babies need to “start learning independence” (as if a six-month old is capable of anything of the sort), or babies need “to be trained early-on” (umm, is it a dog, or a human?).

I’m mildly (minorly? dangerously?) educated on the subject (thanks Ashley), but mainly I use logic, and trial and error. I know what it was like to try it, albeit briefly. In a word (or two), not fun. More like EXCRUCIATING, and against every hardwired nerve in my body.

And guess what, Travolta? They’re not learning independence or exercising their lungs. They’re trying to build bonds, develop trust, and something called “attachment”. Crying is the only survival mechanism for them. It gets so loud and grating when left alone, because in their little evolutionary minds they are at risk of not surviving (being picked off by a vulture). Remember, us humans are not that far removed from Chimps-ville.

Now (in this sample of one), how am I today, this product of negligence? I’m fine, obviously, and wouldn’t describe it as negligence. I’m totally well-adjusted (he writes, self-importantly). So, I’m not telling you not to make your kids’ cry it out if you need to. But, attachment theory is a powerful and empirical school of thought, and binds well with our philosophies at Bad Daddy of using evidence and evolution to guide decision-making. Check it out, and don’t for a second feel your little ones will be any less independent or successful if you keep them close. The opposite is more likely.

(Just keep an eye on them at the airport; they might become a bit too secure).

And for all you cowboys out there that can’t stand the thought of bouncing around the stove all night, patting little Aiden’s back 1,000 times every 25 minutes, or giving in to the family bed, I can totally relate. If you get a hard baby or two, it’s a nightmare, and a few evenings alone in the crib might just do the trick. Just don’t be surprised if they get a bit insecure every time you’re late to pick them up in 10 years.

If this advice could help someone in your life, don’t miss an opportunity to share it today. And for those lucky enough to get the easy baby, cheers, and sleep tight. We’re jealous!

Recommended reading: Becoming Attached.

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