So I was reading some Attachment Parenting (AP) articles today on Mothering Magazine and came across one discussing “Cry It Out” (CIO) and how it likely came to be popular in parenting circles. It then, given the AP nature of the article, goes on to talk about how CIO is not exactly terrific for babies (at least for babies who cry alone) as they exhibit an increase in cortisol which is a known stress hormone. This after just 5 minutes of crying alone. I recalled as I read this that I had also seen some research elsewhere that high cortisol levels in adults may also be linked to heart attacks. Yikes!
Well I must admit I have considered from time to time whether I should use “CIO” to help my daughter to sleep better for longer at night. Sleep deprivation means you will consider all kinds of things to get more sleep. But I haven’t been willing or able to listen to her cry yet. So I have been using more “gentle” methods to get her to sleep and have found that AP really fits with most of my thinking on this and many other things.
But one thing I hadn’t read about or considered before was the potential power of crying for babies.
Now I am not talking about just letting a baby cry for hours on their own. But the article talks about allowing a baby to cry “in arms”. It was a new thought to me that babies might have experienced trauma at birth, and may be stressed out or frustrated by things in their life such that they may just need a good cry now and then.
I’m not sure why this thought never occurred to me before, but it hadn’t. It is strange, really, considering that for many years I have known the power of a good cry for myself. In fact, I am not ashamed to admit it, but I used to watch “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” every Sunday night just so that I could have a good cry to release any pent up stress and or frustrations in my life. I knew that they would showcase some poor family who had fostered 20 kids, many disabled, were living in a run-down house that was unsafe, and would build them a terrific new home that would thrill everyone to pieces. Always a great tear-jerker moment for me to see these families rewarded for all the love and support they have given to these kids and their communities over the years.
In any case, I have had a very demanding career for the last 15 years. Somehow I always seemed to end up working in a job where lots of unpaid overtime was required to get the job done. It took a toll on my stress levels. I would wake up at night with a thought about something I needed to do work-wise or a change to an Excel spreadsheet that I should make based on something I dreamt. I would pick up my cell phone and call my office and leave myself a voicemail. Yup. That was what it was like for many years.
But those Sunday nights I could count on Ty Pennington and crew to make me sob like a baby. And feel immense relief at the physical release of a good cry. I always felt so much better, and like the world was a more manageable and friendly place after that cry.
So why would it be foreign that a baby might also get release and return to homeostasis from a good cry? In fact, I kind of love this idea. That perhaps my baby girl might sometimes have all her immediate needs met (food, breastfeeding, clean diaper, shelter, not too warm or cold, etc) but still need a good cry? What must it be like when trying to master a new milestone? Learning how to stand and being frustrated at times that your own limbs do not always cooperate when you want to do something new? It might just be a little annoying to my baby girl. So if she needs a good cry, and her needs are met, I am going to do my best to remember to honor her in the way this article suggests.
I will hold her, look into her eyes, tell her I love her. And I will let her cry. In my arms. She will come to know that all her emotions are safe with me. That my love for her will not change. And she can “tell” me anything whether it is good or bad.
Sometimes you just need a good cry.