Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crying It Out Causes Brain Damage




Research suggests that allowing a baby to "cry it out" causes brain damage.

by Dr. Stephen Juan

Experts warn that allowing a baby to "cry it out" causes extreme distress to the baby. And such extreme distress in a newborn has been found to block the full development of certain areas of the brain and causes the brain to produce extra amounts of cortisol, which can be harmful.

According to a University of Pittsburgh study by Dr. DeBellis and seven colleagues, published in Biological Psychiatry in 2004, children who suffer early trauma generally develop smaller brains.

A Harvard University study by Dr. Teicher and five colleagues, also published in Biological Psychiatry, claims that the brain areas affected by severe distress are the limbic system, the left hemisphere, and the corpus callosum. Additional areas that may be involved are the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex.

The Science of Parenting (2006) by Dr. Margot Sunderland points out some of the brain damaging effects that can occur if parents fail to properly nurture a baby -- and that includes forcing them to "cry it out." Dr. Sunderland, who is the director of education and training at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London, draws upon work in neuroscience to come to her conclusions and recommendations about parenting practice.

In the first parenting book to link parent behavior with infant brain development, Dr. Sunderland describes how the infant brain is still being "sculpted" after birth. Parents have a major role in this brain "sculpting" process.

Dr. Sunderland argues that it is crucial that parents meet the reasonable emotional needs of the infant. This is helped along by providing a continuously emotionally nurturant environment for the infant.

Allowing a baby to “cry it out” when they are upset will probably be regarded as child abuse by future generations.

4 comments:

Alix said...

Sad that this short overview does not mention examples of "severe distress" that would cause the level of permanent damage suggested when a parent allows an infant to cry it out.

There are plenty of times, especially through the period of about 4-8 weeks (Mayo Clinic) when babies are particularly fussy, even when they are clean, fed, well-burped, and otherwise well-attended to. Of course the pediatric and psych community should continue to educate parents about basic parenting ("It's good to hold your child"), but to suggest that crying babies will suffer brain damage when consistently cared for by a nurturing adult is ridiculous.

Schwanker said...

In response to the previous comment:
"but to suggest that crying babies will suffer brain damage when consistently cared for by a nurturing adult is ridiculous."

I don't think it's a ridiculous conclusion that they came to at all. If an infant is forced to cry it out and can end up with negative results, why couldn't an infant, whose needs aren't being met??

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