Is It Good or Bad to Let a Baby Cry?

January 31, 2019
Crying is the only means for babies to communicate their needs. However, can it affect them in any way if we let them cry excessively?

Babies cry when they’re hungry, cold, need contact or feel some sort of discomfort. When babies cry, it’s clear that they’re trying to communicate their needs to us. So, is it good or bad to let a baby cry?

This can be a controversial question since there are two opposing positions: some specialists affirm that there are adverse effects to letting a baby cry, while others state that, on the contrary, it can teach children patience and how to control behavior.

We would like to address both sides of the debate, as well as the pros and cons of letting babies cry.

Is it good or bad to let a baby cry?

As previously mentioned, there are two positions on this subject. On the one hand, specialists state that letting a baby cry for a long time can trigger so much stress that it leads to neurological problems.

On the other hand, other pediatricians state that there aren’t any conclusive studies that certify that prolonged crying affects babies in any way. In fact, they believe that letting them cry allows them to open up to the world, be more independent and learn to be patient.

Of course, this last argument takes into consideration the fact that the child isn’t crying out of need, but rather on a whim.

To better illustrate the two positions, we’ll now break down the apparent benefits and contraindications of what to do when a baby cries.

Is It Good or Bad to Let a Baby Cry?

The negative side effects

When it comes to letting a baby cry, there are many negative points of view. Although there aren’t any detailed studies that can demonstrate that children can suffer, the truth is that there are several influential factors that need to be measured to state that this action is harmful.

We have to take into account that it’s not the same for a newborn baby or a child under six months old to cry for a prolonged period as it is for a two-year-old to cry on a whim.

Children’s age and their reason for crying will be, in part, the decisive factor for making correct judgments regarding this issue.

Specifically, the arguments against letting babies cry are based on the following consequences:

  • They can become less intelligent.
  • They can become nervous or suffer from anxiety.
  • They may have trouble bonding with other people.
  • They can become insecure later on.
  • According to psychosomatic medicine, children may suffer psychological problems.
  • Children may feel abandoned and allow that feeling to take root in their mind.
  • Not caring for crying children can lead them to develop an avoidant attachment.

A final argument states that, contrary to what many people believe, if children are attended to soon, their crying stops; if they’re allowed to continue crying, children will intensify their screams and frustration.

Their age and their reason for crying will be, in part, the decisive factor for making correct judgments regarding this issue.

Neutral aspects

We should commence this section by explaining that specialists who take a neutral stance don’t see a significant problem with the fact that parents let a baby cry in short absences, for example, if they have to go to the bathroom or if they’re preparing the bottle.

This doesn’t mean that they’re in favor of allowing children to cry for a long time or intentionally neglecting them.

Instead, they look at the scientific evidence and believe that there’s no conclusive evidence to serve as a valid argument to reach definitive conclusions.

Is It Good or Bad to Let a Baby Cry?

On the other hand, they agree that not pandering capricious attitudes will make children more patient and tolerant with their parents. The following aspects are also supported:

  • If parents attend capricious crying immediately, children will manipulate their parents.
  • You can allow children older than six months who have no pain, hunger or lack of sleep to cry for a few moments.
  • You can let children cry, but it should never exceed five minutes.

To conclude, it’s important to clarify that each situation is different. It’s not the same for babies to cry because they don’t want to sit in their car seats as it is for babies to cry because they’re hungry or because they need a diaper change.

In any case, use common sense, have patience, and demonstrate affection towards the little ones.

  1. Narvaez, D. Danger of crying it out. Psicology Today (2011).
  2. Solter, A. Crying for Comfort: Distressed Babies Need to be Held The harmful cry-it-out approach. Mothering Mag. (2004).