Monday, January 4, 2010

Still Crying it Out

More on the 'crying it out rant' & its comments.

While I agree that there is more than one way to put a baby to sleep, I don’t believe in not responding to a baby’s attempt to communicate.
Ignoring your child is wrong. Period.

I have ‘successfully’ ferberized some of my own, and I feel terrible about it. It goes against the grain of parental instincts. Why didn't I listen to my inner voice that said "pick your baby up!" I convinced myself that it was "for his own good." I believed that someone else knew better. I fell victim to a decision made out of desperation. Those children did sleep through the night earlier, but I believe there are long term ramifications.

According to a study at Harvard, infants who experienced persistent crying episodes were 10 times more likely to have ADHD as a child, along with poor school performance and antisocial behavior. When babies cry alone and unattended, they experience panic and anxiety. Their bodies and brains are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones.

There is so much trauma that occurs beyond our control. Shouldn’t we do everything in our power to prevent pain and suffering?

None of us “have an hour” to put our babies to sleep, but putting a baby to sleep is part of being a parent and sometimes it takes longer than we like. The time I spend with my baby at night (until she falls asleep) is an investment in her security and my peace of mind. When I sit with my baby, I might catch up on some reading. My husband gets into bed with our 5 year old and learns Rambam until she falls asleep.

Some people call the Ferber method “sleep training”; more appropriately, “training a child to know that you will not respond”.
Richard Ferber himself recanted his statement: "Sleeping alone is an important part of [your child's] learning to be able to separate from you without anxiety and to see himself as an independent individual." He told Newsweek: "That's one sentence I wish I never wrote."

Some 200 years before Richard Ferber ever came to be the Alter Rebbe voiced his opposition at such practices. His son Reb Berel (who became the Mitteler Rebbe) was learning at night and did not hear his baby crying. The Alter Rebbe came and soothed the child and then, in a strong message to his son (and all of us) the Alter Rebbe said: “No matter how important the thing which you are engaged in is, you must always hear the cry of a child.”

I sincerely hope that when our children cry, they feel that we are responsive. I hope we all tune into our maternal instincts. If a decision to Ferberize your child comes intuitively that is far more important than the theory of others. If it’s a logical decision it might warrant some reconsideration.

Looking for other sleep methods? Check out, but mostly go with your gut.


  1. This is after all your blog so I will hold myself back with my last response.
    I know that there are many happy parents and children who have gone through the method of 'ferberizing'. I refuse to call it crying it out because that is entirely a wrong theory and the focus is on the happiness of sleep association rather than the crying.

    Dr Ferber retracted his statement saying he regretted it only BECAUSE that is all people on your side of the theory hear. Not because he doesn't believe it but because some people chose one line or piece of information and focus on that and its negative ramifications rather than being more open minded seeing the larger picture.

    The same holds true about the Alter Rebbe and his very important theory however I strongly disagree with its relevance to this conversation. The Alter rebbe's message to his son was about his constant awareness and attention to his child. We are not suggesting G-d forbid that ferberizing is a message of ignoring you child cries. Believe me every parent that goes through it hears every slight sound the child makes through it all.
    Perhaps even the message of attention and awareness to our child that the Alter Rebbe stressed brings us to realize that crying is not a horrible part in life but rather a slight detail in the real responsibilities we have as parents to bring our children in up as happy and healthy adults.
    We all have different methods of doing it but so long as our attention and goal is that (the alter Rebbe's message of constant attention and awareness of your child) than my utmost respect to the parents.
    Our children cry through shots, through receiving medicine, through the application of diaper rash cream and through many other instances. We don't shy away from these responsibilities but lovingly help them through so the overall message of 'your parents care deeply for you' comes through.
    This is another one of the processes that can be chosen. It takes a few hours of crying, much less (many parents can attest to) than children who are not ferberized cry out of frustration tiredness and crankiness even when in their parents arms.
    As for the study in Harvard I chose that as the last to respond to since there are many other studies that show otherwise. We attribute ADHD and learning disabilities to so many other things (the food we eat, the chemical we breathe, other behavioral activities). To me it is a ridiculous conclusion especially in a this conversation because the cause is mostly irrelevant.
    If ferberization is done properly the crying is not with panic and anxiety. There is much anxiety though in a child who is two/three and is so afraid to go to sleep they need their parent right next to them for an hour until they fall asleep.
    I think your conclusion is both of our main point. Maternal instinct is a precious gift given from above. If you care for your child and are doing this out of love/respect and good will for your child than kudos to you.
    There are many happy results from training your child to sleep happily alone.

  2. By definition, when a child cries it is asking for something. As a parent, you must respond. If you ignore your child (the main component of ferbrization) then you are ignoring your child. It is nothing like giving medicine or shots which – as traumatic to the child it may be – is short lived and meant to avoid much more grief c"v later. Sleeping through the night may not be in the best interest of the child – as much as the parents crave their independence and being able to leave etc.

    I do think that ferbrization can be done and still avoid leaving the child thinking he was ignored, if the parent stays in the room during these first few traumatic days. This way the child realizes that he is not abandoned.

  3. Chanie, I loved this post!

    You so articulately describe an enormously important message.

    Reading this brings to mind how throughout the years, the Rebbe's message to us is about sensitivity to others, about caring enough about another's pain to go out of our own comfort zone...and to respond!

    The only effective way to teach that to our children is by example. If a child is crying from hunger, loneliness, thirst..or even boredom, a parent may not always be able to solve the problem, but he/she can communicate one thing: I am here for you.

    Tzvi Freeman on takes note of the Torah's first parent-child conversation:"And Yitzchak said to Avraham his father, and he said 'my father', and he said 'Hineni, here I am, my son.'" If we stop right there, we have eternal lesson in this brief exchange. When the child calls, the parent can say "Hineni", "I'm here for you."

    I have never mastered the art of the 10 minute bedtime, but spending precious time in today's hurried world with babies and children, is worth more than the time I could have saved... by the time you turn around, they're all grown up!

    In The Psychology of Religion by Prof. K.M Loewenthal, the author notes that studies have shown that parent availability in the early years can affect the child's relationship with G-d. Various examples given there are on the lines of:
    1. "My mother did not respond to me"
    "I don't think G-d will listen if I pray."

    Chanie, keep writing! You're like a (healthy) breath of fresh air!

    Leah Namdar

  4. Thank you Leah! I really appreciate your feedback and your input. I especially liked the message we can send to our children: "I am here for you". I also love that study comparing not having our needs met by mom and not believing G-d will respond. Good stuff here...