Babies can't talk, but oh can they cry. Sometimes it's shocking how a tiny human makes so much noise for so long. How do these long crying jags affect a baby, anyway? Many parents mat want to know how letting your baby cry for long periods of time affects them later in life. Unfortunately, though, research into this subject has produced mixed results.
According to some schools of thought, letting a baby cry for a long time may be damaging. For instance, long bouts of unanswered crying might result in children who are slow to trust and lacking in self-confidence, according to the website for Psychology Today. If the baby learns the caregiver will not reliably meet basic needs, then the baby might develop a general sense of mistrust. In fact, parenting experts such as Penelope Leach even claim babies left to cry for too long could develop brain damage from increased cortisol levels, according to The Guardian. Plenty of experts in the no baby, no cry camp advocate quicker response times from parents.
On the other hand, some believe lengthy crying sessions are normal and in no way damaging. As explained by a 2016 study in Pediatrics, babies left to cry in the night did not exhibit outstanding behavior or emotional issues a year later. In fact, babies left to cry tested for lower cortisol levels than those in a control group, suggesting crying bouts might not cause undue stress for babies.
So what is a concerned parent supposed to do with this conflicting information? By the time this issue is solved, your infant might be well into the teen years. Of course parents want to attend the baby's needs. But if the constant bawling is about to drive the caretaker up the walls, it is OK to let the baby hang out in a safe spot while you collect yourself, according to WebMD. (Self-care and sanity still matter, after all.) In some cases, parents may also want to have the teary baby checked out for potential health problems, just to be on the safe side. Barring any health concerns, though, the best way to manage a baby's everlasting cries is up to the caregiver.