Many parents believe that it is helpful to let their baby cry. According to popular opinion, a few minutes of crying do not hurt the child but help him to find calm and sleep alone.
Thus, the technique of “progressive waiting” (also called in France “5-10-15 method”), developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, neurologist and pediatrician at Harvard University and children’s hospital from Boston, is still used today by parents around the world.
Yet almost no one really knows what’s going on in babies who continue to cry. The bodily and psychological consequences may weigh on them for their entire life.
When a baby cries without being comforted by his parents, his stress level increases. Because, through his cries, he wishes to make his parents hear something he may be hungry, or he feels pain, or he needs companionship. He is totally dependent on them and can not take care of himself.
If his calls are ignored, his body is flooded with stress hormones. Over time, this can damage the central nervous system. Its growth and learning potential may also be affected.
In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung (or SZ, the leading newspaper in southern Germany), Karl Heinrich Brisch, head of the department of psychosomatic medicine at the Children’s Hospital of the University of Munich, explains that babies who are parents let them cry “learn very early to start an emergency program in their brain, very similar to the thanatosis reflex observed in animals whose lives are threatened, and that is to simulate death.” Their brain development is affected and they do not learn to adapt to stress.
“Babies are afraid of death. “
The psychologist Katharina Saalfrank, who owes her fame to the show Super Nanny (whose German version was broadcast on RTL), goes as far as talking about “fear of death”. Thus, in 2013, she said about this so contested method: “Every second that passes, children are afraid of death. “
Fabienne Becker-Stoll, director of the Bavarian Institute for Pedagogy of Infancy, tells SZ: “Children need a physical heat they can rely on to meet their basic psychic needs and to ease their stress. Only in this way can they build safe and confident relationships with their parents and then with other people around them. “
You let baby cry? This is what happens in his body
Psychic consequences that manifest themselves into adulthood
This often results in emotional problems, which are far from being the only consequences. Sleep disorders, anxiety, addictions and depressive symptoms are also likely to occur.
To let the children cry has absolutely no educational value
Parents who do not react immediately to the signals sent by their child do no good to anyone: neither to them nor to the child. The method of “progressive waiting” has no educational value, because babies have a perception of time totally different from ours. They do not know if they cried five or ten minutes and are unable to draw any conclusions.
It is well known that babies cry for as long as their parents ignore them. British researchers have shown that infants whose needs are always satisfied cry much less in total than those who receive less attention.
The recipe for success: lots of hugs
Studies have also shown that loving and caring contacts are good for development.
Scientists at Notre Dame University in the United States have found that people who have been more often worn and cajoled in the first months of life, and have not been left alone for long periods of time, fared better in life.
Of the 600 adults tested, they were healthier, less depressed, better empathic and significantly more productive than those who had suffered from a lack of attention.
The best advice for parents is to listen to their instincts. Reacting to the cries and crying of your child is after all a perfectly natural reflex. It is therefore logical that it is also the right reflex.
This article, originally published on the German Huffington Post, was translated by Uta Becker for Fast for Word.