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Experts Say It's OK To Let Your Baby Cry Itself To Sleep. Do You Agree?

Mon, November 22, 2010 9:00am EDT by 1 Comment

After watching the last week’s episode of Desperate Housewives, when Lynette Scavo let her baby cry it out during nap time (instead of soothing the screaming tot), we decided to ask the experts if she did the right thing. “Some crying is necessary,” says Dr. Jenn Berman.

HollyMoms, did you see Desperate Housewives last week? Mother-of-five Lynette Scavo (played by Felicity Huffman) is so over fretting about her kids, she doesn’t see a problem with letting her newborn daughter, Paige, cry her eyes out after she puts her down for a nap. Lynette’s friend/neighbor Susan Mayer (played by Terri Hatcher) was absolutely appalled. We had mixed reactions about it here at, so we turned to the experts to find out if it’s OK to let a baby cry instead of instantly comforting it.

“While you don’t want to become desensitized to the cues of your infant, some crying is necessary for a child to learn how to self-soothe, which is crucial to learning how to fall asleep on his own,” Los Angeles-based child therapist Dr. Jenn Berman tells “Parents should not let their child just cry for extended periods of time. Instead, they should have a plan and be consistent.”

According to her, in order for a baby to learn the necessary skills to fall back to sleep on its own, it will have to do some crying. It’s a good idea to go into your baby’s room so that they see you and don’t feel abandoned. Just be sure not to pick up the tot, so that they don’t continue the pattern of needing to be rocked to sleep.

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Dr. Berman says that a baby needs to be 4 months old and 14 pounds before parents can begin sleep training. “After that point, parents can do a lot to help their children, and themselves, get a good night’s sleep. Babies wake up to the world at this age and it is very common for sleep to be disrupted.” Once they’ve reached that milestone, you’re encouraged to place them in their crib while still awake so that they can begin to learn how to fall asleep on their own, also known as self-soothing, which is the first step in sleep training.

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“It can be challenging for parents to find the balance between responding to their child’s cues and teaching her how to self-soothe,” says Dr. Berman, who explains that during sleep training, a child generally cries for two reasons — she doesn’t yet know what to do to soothe herself, and she is protesting the change.

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Dr. Berman has some helpful advice for parents who want to encourage their bundles of joy to drift off to dreamland without tears. “First, they need to establish a nighttime sleep ritual,” she says. “Second, parents have to help the baby learn the difference between daytime and nighttime sleep.”

During nighttime feedings, keep your voice low, and feed your baby in semidarkness. Pretend it’s already the middle of the night and act accordingly. During daytime feedings, it’s fine to make some noise and let the sun shine into the room, which according to the doctor, is the best way to get your baby to understand what’s appropriate behavior.  Following these tips should ensure a more restful sleep for everyone in your family.

–Amy L. Harper

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