The practice of letting babies "cry it out" dates back to the 1880s, influenced by early medical concerns about germs and infection, which led to the idea that babies should rarely be touched. This idea persisted into the 20th century, notably promoted by behaviorist John Watson. As president of the American Psychological Association then, Watson applied behaviorist principles to childrearing, warning parents against excessive maternal affection.

A government pamphlet from that period advised that babies older than six months should be taught to sit silently in their cribs to prevent mothers from wasting their time constantly attending to them. This attitude towards childrearing, emphasizing independence at a very young age, remains familiar today. Some modern parents are still encouraged to let their babies cry themselves to sleep so they can reclaim some personal time.

However, contemporary neuroscience challenges this practice. Research confirms that allowing babies to become distressed can harm their long-term relational capacities. Contrary to behaviorist views, forcing independence on a baby can lead to greater dependence later in life. Instead, meeting a baby's needs fosters true independence as they grow.

The mother-child relationship should be seen as a mutually responsive dyad, in which both parties benefit from mutual responsiveness. This symbiotic relationship promotes health and happiness, which can extend to other caregivers as well.

The notion of letting babies "cry it out," also known as total extinction or unmodified extinction, stems from a misunderstanding of child brain development. Babies thrive when they are held, and their bodies can become maladjusted when separated from caregivers. Crying is a baby's way of indicating needs, which, if consistently ignored, can lead to long-term mistrust in relationships and the world, as well as undermine self-confidence.

During the first year of life, the infant brain undergoes rapid development, growing three times its size. Severe distress, however, can damage synapses and hinder network construction in the brain. Thus, ignoring a baby's cries during this critical period can have detrimental effects on their emotional and cognitive development.

While it is normal for babies to cry, the context and response to their crying are crucial. Providing comfort and meeting their needs supports healthy brain development and fosters a sense of security and trust in their environment.


Picture: Crying baby alone in his/her crib (Designer)