Think Cry-It-Out Is Cruel? Here’s What Scientists Can Now Confirm

For new parents struggling through yet another sleepless night, the cry-it-out method — in which babies are allowed to cry themselves to sleep — might seem alluring . . . until you research it online and read countless testimonials of fellow moms calling it cruel and swearing it causes permanent emotional damage.

Thankfully, scientists can now assuage your fears with new research that the method is not only effective but that it doesn’t cause stress or lasting problems for babies.

The Australian study featured 43 sets of parents with a shared complaint — their babies, ranging in age from 6 months to 16 months, had problems sleeping. Researchers broke the families into three groups. One group, the control, was given no intervention. The remaining two groups were each taught a different strategy:

  1. Gradual extinction. This form of controlled crying, often referred to as the cry-it-out method, specifically had parents leave the room within a minute of putting their child to bed and slowly extend the amount of time they waited — two minutes before the initial check-in, then four minutes, then six — before going back in to comfort them.
  2. Bedtime fading. This gentler method asked parents to put their infant…

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