news item: “crying it out”

As of the writing of this post, my DH and I are parents to a 2 month and 16 day old baby girl. What this means along with all the joy, excitement and love, is we are, quite frankly, exhausted.  We’re tired.  We knew this would be the case, we have raised two foster infants prior to welcoming our own little bundle.  It’s just a part of the newborn phase, these first few months are hard but worth it.  But when cruising the internet, during an interlude when Stella was actually sleeping in her crib, I saw a story blurb on that showed a picture of an infant crying and the title: “Study, ok to cry it out”

Now immediately my skeptic mind was sensing ‘shenanigans’.  I figured I’d click on the video and it would say something like, “Haha tired new parent, we meant it’s ok to cry it out when they’re FIVE!”  But no, Bryan Williams introduces the piece saying no psychological damage or lasting effects were found from a long-term study done by Australian researchers. The video plays showing in every other shot pictures of newborns in hospitals, crying.  Then it interviews the Mom of a toddler who used cry-it-out (CIO) effectively.  NOWHERE in the video does it say what age it’s ok to CIO or what age of child the study looked out.  In fact with its many shots of newborns in the hospital, it implies that it is ok to CIO from day one. I’m literally shaking as I watch the video, watching day old newborns cry gets my Mommy emotions pumping.  And because with our experience in foster care I know there are parents out there, who through just not knowing, will see this video, and it’s implications about newborns, and think it is ok to let a newborn CIO.  Here’s the video:

Study: Ok to cry it out

So of course, being the person who has read no less than 27 books on parenting, child raising, and infant care, (I have a background in child care, took child-development courses in college, specifically about infants, and as a foster parent I wanted to learn even more about child development), I looked up the study.  And, my shenanigans-sensing was correct.  A “Time” article on the study had this to say:

“a new study in Pediatrics has some good news: strategies that let babies cry it out for limited periods while teaching them to sleep on their own can help families sleep better…”

“The new study by Australian researchers involved 326 children who had parent-reported sleep problems at 7 months.”

The first quotes makes an important distinction the video clip glosses over, that CIO is done for limited time periods, not just letting your kid scream all night.  The second quote points out the blatant irresponsibility that NBC committed in airing this piece:  The study involved children who were at an age developmentally and psychologically that it is ok to let them CIO!  The video mentions this NOWHERE.  And by “ok to let them CIO” I mean, from a scientific standpoint babies can begin to learn to self-soothe between 3-6 months of age*.  This means, if you choose to try CIO, that a baby could help themselves to self-soothe at this age.  Prior to that crying is the only method for a baby to convey it needs something, usually food.  (I want to  make clear, I am not advocating for CIO or for not-CIO.)

I know this is a ‘hot-topic’ issue and I really don’t think there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to whether you never let your older baby cry, or you let your older baby start to fuss a little to try to get them to self-soothe.  However it is NEVER ok to let a days old infant CIO, which is what is so upsetting about the news clip that was aired.

To read the ‘Time’ article click here:


What are your thoughts on the study?

What are your thoughts on the video clip from ‘NBC Nightly News’ (for our non-American readers this is the top rated evening news program in the United States).

Do you have a post about CIO or how the media reports on parenting topics?


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  1. It is not ok to cry it out. (ok I am a new mom and I may resort there if desperate) I wrote a post recently that touched on this and gave a link for “wait it out” (it’s such a small portion of our lives to wait it out).

  2. I think it is important that each parent have a definition of what CIO means to them before declaring CIO as “right” or “wrong” for everyone. It isn’t a black or white issue, and there are many, many methods to help children learn to sleep. I sleep-trained using Ferber quite effectively and have absolutely no qualms about that. I had my own personal limitations as to the waiting periods, etc. and modified it to suit my child. However, I generally only discuss the specific of my experience with it when asked.

    Not having seen the actual published study (and I have LOTS to say about the media reporting “a study” on any topic as the harbinger of zeitgeist shift…why so SERIOUS in the face, Williams? Geez.) I will only comment on what I see as Chandra’s focus here: media literacy and responsible reporting. Does the majority of the viewing audience of this program have sufficient media literacy to see that one study does not a fact make, and therefore should(n’t) dictate parenting practice? I don’t know. Is it irresponsible to overlay the message of this report with stock footage of screaming newborns? Yes. Yes indeed. I refuse to believe that NBC does not own footage of older babies trying to sleep, or have the means to purchase 45 seconds of said footage.

    It is also important to point out that the Time link is a popular media summary of the peer-reviewed study, and not the study itself. As someone who writes these summaries for a living (albeit for a different audience than the general public), while the basics must be correct, the “messaging” is always suited to the needs of the publication. Food for thought on any article, on any topic, referring to any study. 😉

    • Thank you SRB for reaching into my brain and stealing my answer, exactly word for word, down to the dig on Bryan Williams (except ya know, the man needs to maintain decorum at all times so as to not lose credibility. Credible people don’t laugh. Or smile. Or have lines in their faces. Ever.) Oh, actually, I guess I have more thoughts on this that I’ll add below 😉

      • Ditto to everything SRB said as well 🙂

        Anytime I read anything that starts with “leading experts say/suggest/believe” I know whatever I’m going to read is more than likely going to be bullshit.

        We CIO at 5 months and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I did what worked for our family as safely and thought out as I could – and it worked.

    • Yeah I didn’t post a link to the study, my bad. But I did point out that it was an article “about” the study. I didn’t want people to think that link was the actual study.

  3. I saw another video clip (different from the one you referenced) about this study online yesterday. Again, the age of the children in the study was never mentioned and they showed a montage of babies and toddlers all in full melt down mode. One thing that the video I watched spent a great deal of time on was the effect that CIO has on parents. The prolonged sound of a baby crying can be a contributing factor in depression and other mood disorders (just ask any parent of a colicky baby!). Once again, the media doesn’t tell the whole story… just grabbing a headline or a soundbite in order to gain ratings.

    I think like all parenting styles, CIO might work for some, but it certainly isn’t for every child or for every parent. We used CIO with Ginny at a certain point (certainly not when she was a newborn), and it worked for her. BUT, I can already tell you that it’s not likely going to work for Pippin.

  4. I guess I can add this: Studies can be helpful, but only if we mull them over, question them, research them, and then apply them to our lives in a way that accounts for our individual needs and our child’s abilities, temperament, developmental level, etc. While I think the media often sucks, at the end of the day I hold parents responsible for educating themselves and making the appropriate choices for themselves and their children (of course, I am well aware that many parents *don’t* do that and ultimately it’s the kids that suffer, but can we really blame the media for that?) What IS the media’s responsibility when they report “findings” of a study in a five minute clip anyway? It’s a much larger issue/question than it first appears I think…

    As far as CIO goes, I’m a pretty strong believer that it will work for some kids, but not for all. We did Ferber check and console with our girls at 6/7 months or so and they cried for less than 10 minutes each night for less than a week. Their temperaments were perfect for this method and we got really lucky. I think it’s worth a shot for many parents. But full-on CIO for a newborn? Uhhh, yah, NO.

    • I agree, we shouldn’t rely on media to tell us things like this. I just find it disturbing that they left out a critical piece of the study, that it was age-specific.

      • Maybe I’m a bit old fashioned, but I thought that the entire reason we had a popular media at all was so not everyone had to read the big bad science articles to know what’s going on. So if I can’t trust the media to tell me the real contents of an article, I personally quit paying any attention to the media source (ie television news). On the “bad media! How could you?” front, it makes me mad that we aren’t holding the media accountable for bad reporting. Report the facts, ignore “the other side” that disbelieves objective facts (HPV shot causes paralysis for example, since it doesn’t really do that… don’t say so or about anyone who thinks it might unless it’s true), include really crucial details of the story, and get on with it. Do your job, media! I suppose the corrolary to “shape up media” is also that we need to be sure students leave mandatory schooling with good media literacy sillz like SRB suggests above. When I taught, I was amazed at the complete lack of media literacy my 16 year old students had. It was often a chore to convince them to use something besides some random blog as a source in a research paper (arg). As parents and friends/families of children, be sure you are demanding your local schools teach media literacy.

        • That may have been true once, and to some degree you can expect SOME measure of truth in media reporting (an article about CIO isn’t actually going to be about comparing different kinds of popular French cheeses) but I think the best thing anyone can do is take an article, go “Hmm…”, and then go do some more research. Know your sources, and get your information from a variety of sources.

          I love your perspective here on media studies and teens. I never thought about that! I really wish high schools taught more real-world skills.

  5. Ugh, it’s just so scary to me that some well meaning, uninformed person will watch that clip and tell some overwhelmed exhausted new Momma “SEE, I told you to just let her cry!” Just awful. To CIO or not to CIO is a personal decision and one that many parents make around closer to the 6 months mark, but the thought that someone might do that do a newborn…ugh…it makes my skin crawl and my heart hurt. I want to know what parents at NBC didn’t use common sense to say HEY – let’s make sure we include the AGE information in this segment since it’s critical to proper understanding of this new “study”!

  6. OMG, are we really talking this again? 😉

    Who cares – do what’s best for you, your family, and your kid. I just don’t understand why anyone cares how other people are raising their kids. There are tons of different ways, and they’re mostly all OK. To each his own!

    • So, I kind of can’t believe I’m saying this, but there are definitely wrong ways to raise your kids. The reason I can’t believe I’m saying this because I’m really serious about defending families from invasive state intervention (aka removal and foster care), but even that being said, there are definitely, definitely things that parents do that are NOT OKAY. There are people who just let their tiny babies cry instead of changing diapers or feeding or soothing. I know that’s not what you were thinking of, but I just figured I’d drop this in there because I think that Chandra made a good point.

      • I agree that there are wrong ways to raise kids (we see it on the news every day), but that’s not what my comment is about. It’s about this technique/method versus that technique/method. I agree that they should have explained the ages of the kids studied, but honestly – this news story is a soundbite. Just like most news stories in America, it’s watered down and dumbed down enough to get the attention of mass numbers of readers. I don’t take anything like this with more than a grain of salt. I learned the hard way while working at Andersen during the Enron implosion that the media will spin any press release or study into something that will gain readership.

        Yes – they should have called out the age group but my whole point is that I’m sick to death of this debate.


  1. […] Chandra discussed the presentation (or rather, omission of key details) of the results of a new study on CIO in the popular media (NBC Nightly News). Lots of good points about media literacy and making informed parenting decisions in the comments. Check it out and add your thoughts. […]

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