Research has found that leaving an infant to cry does not have any adverse impact on their behavior development or attachment.
There is nothing more distressing to witness than the cries of a baby. It is only a natural instinct in most of us to try and comfort the baby. Parents of newborn babies may be extra cautious to ensure their baby does not suffer any inconvenience and will run to their side at the slightest peep. But turns out this may not be necessary. How little you ensure your child cries does not have a bearing on whether you are a good parent or not. Leaving your child to "cry it out" will not scar them emotionally as previously assumed. Now science is also stating that it is all well and fine for children to have a good cry.
Research has found that leaving an infant to cry it out from birth up to 18 months does not have any adverse impact on their behavior development or attachment. Researchers at the University of Warwick also found that those left to cry cried less and for a shorter duration at 18 months of age, according to Science Daily. This was the biggest concern parents had about leaving their babies without consoling them as soon as possible. Especially since this seemed to contradict the attachment theory which explains that the bond between a parent and child starts to forge within weeks of their birth.
According to Very Well Mind, the theory states that "primary caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant's needs allow the child to develop a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world." But the findings of the new research stated that not dashing to wailing infants will have no impact on their relationship with their parents. There were also people who argued that running to crying babies would reinforce their crying. But Prof Dieter Wolke, a co-author of the study said that suggests parents need not worry too much about which approach they take since it does not have lasting effects on their infant.
As part of the study, researchers followed 178 infants and their moms over 18 months and observed when the parents intervened immediately when the baby cried or let the baby let it cry out a few times or often. They found that it made little difference to the baby’s development by 18 months. They noted that the crying duration at 18 months seemed to reduce as the intervention to stop them from crying was sparse. The babies seemed to adapt to the circumstances and were able to calm themselves down.
Attachment at 18 months was assessed using a gold standard experimental procedure, the strange situation test, which assesses how securely an infant is attached to the major caregiver during separation and reunion episodes. They found that irrespective of the method the primary caregiver chose, it made no difference on the short- or longer-term relationship with them or in the infant’s behavior, as per Futurity.
“We have to give more credit to parents and babies,” Wolke stated. “Most parents intuitively adapt over time and are attuned to their baby’s needs, wait a bit before intervening when crying and allow their babies the opportunity to learn to self-regulate. Most babies develop well despite their parents intervening immediately or not to cry.” The authors made it clear that they do not recommend leaving the kids alone and neither do they encourage running to them immediately. However, he noted that letting the baby cry for a few minutes could be helpful particularly if it is not feeding time. “Then they can learn how to self-soothe themselves,” he said.