Estella on CIO

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a controversial topic that really gets me HEATED. I frequently run across this issue on the net. An example of what I am referring to is copied below. This is taken from an enormous thread on, where mothers seek advice on this very subject:

“HELP! my now 6 week old was born just before the christmas guests arrived…and was rocked and held to sleep almost everytime over the holiday season. after having so much success with babywise with my first child (now 18 months) i am determined to get her falling asleep on her own…however, she screams for an hour (sometimes more) and maybe sleeps for 10 minutes here and there, and continues to wake up screaming throughout what is supposed to be sleep time. This continues and eventually 2 1/2 or 3 hours has passed and its time for another feed. I am feeling stressed and guilty and i can’t seem to focus on anything while she is in her room screaming.”

Ladies, gentleman, mothers, fathers, parents-to-be and friends of parents or parents-to-be. Everyone. Listen up.

There are basically two different sets of beliefs when it comes to an infant’s sleep habits. In one corner, you’ve got some older folks who believe in letting a baby “cry it out” or CIO. These people will also generally subscribe to scheduled feedings and tend to be hardcore on other issues such as hand smacking, spankings, and religion. This camp is led by none other than Gary Ezzo and his wife. Here, you’ll find a book entitled Babywise where Ezzo will teach you how to schedule your baby’s feedings and his sleep periods. Let it be known that Gary Ezzo has no qualifications besides being a parent himself (and we all know that even the world’s biggest moron can procreate.) Secondly, virtually every health organization in the nation has discredited Ezzo’s methods. Parents were found to be literally starving their children in an attempt to follow Ezzo’s advice on scheduled feedings.

In the opposite corner, we have Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha. Dr. Sears is an acclaimed pediatrician and his wife is a nurse. Their credentials can be found here. They have over 30 years of experience in pediatrics and have raised 8 of their own children. Together, they have written countless books on pregnancy, labor, birth, infant care, and parenting. Dr. Sears does not believe that it is healthy to let an infant “cry it out.”

I’ve recently read a blog where Dr. Sears followers were being poked fun at. The author writes, “If you’re reading this and gloating because you breastfeed your own reiki-loving free range chickens, give birth unassisted in a strawberry patch and spring up moments later to bake a pie, and then you gather wool to weave slings for orphans in Tibet and to clothe your 14 unschooled, indigo children well, then good for you. Maybe Dr. Sears will come join your drum circle and help you tarpaper your outhouse and can beets.Probably you’re a better mother than I am, but I’m just crazy enough not to care anymore.”

I admit that I laughed at this. It’s funny. But seriously–who do you trust? Gary Ezzo, Babywise, and your grandmother who was knocked out cold during birth, who took a shot to dry up her breasts because she thought that infant formula was superior to breastmilk? Or are you going to have a little faith in the professionals who can provide you with cold, hard evidence? Because here’s what the professionals say:

-An infant’s cry is specifically designed for its own survival. Because an infant is unable to verbalize what it wants, it uses its cry as a signal to it’s mother that it has a need. Perhaps the baby is hungry, or wet and needs to be fed or changed. Or perhaps the baby is lonely and needs to be held and comforted. Just like you, a baby has emotional needs too. The baby who is picked up and held when they are upset will not grow to be a spoiled brat. He will grow into a child that trusts his caregivers and is confident and secure with himself and the world around him.

-The infant’s cry is also used to develop its mother’s parenting skills. When a mother hears her baby cry, the blood flow to her breasts increases, and her body physically urges her to go to her child and nurse, or comfort her baby. What happens when a mother purposefully ignores her baby’s cries? She goes against her very nature, casting off her instincts and ultimately losing touch with her ability to nurture and care for her own child.

-A young infant does not have the ability to maniupulate it’s parent. As Dr. Sears writes, “Baby does not ponder in his little mind, “It’s 3:00 a.m. and I think I’ll wake up mommy for a little snack.” No! That faulty reasoning is placing an adult interpretation on a tiny infant. Also, babies do not have the mental acuity to figure out why a parent would respond to their cries at three in the afternoon, but not at three in the morning. The newborn who cries is saying: “I need something; something is not right here. Please make it right.”

So what happens when a baby is left in his crib because “it’s 7PM and it’s time for bed”. What happens to that baby who is alone, frightened, who craves to be comforted and held or rocked, who wants the warmth of his mother’s arms? What happens to the baby whose cries are ignored so that “mommy can get some rest”, or so that “baby gets on a schedule and doesn’t become spoiled”?

At first, that baby will cry harder. He will cry his little body ragged, waiting for Mama to come help, to fix his problem. He will eventually succumb to exhaustion and will fitfully sleep, small gasps escaping from his lips every few seconds. The next night, the same. But eventually, that baby will learn that no matter how loudly he cries, no one will come. His parents will brag to others, they will say “our baby is so good, he sleeps through the night and doesn’t even cry when we put him down for bed anymore.” They will beam and smile and believe that they are capable parents, that they have done the right thing by their child. And yet, their baby would tell us a different story. He would tell us that he doesn’t trust his parents, that he is discouraged because no one listens. He has lost his ability to communicate, to make his needs be known. He will have learned that even though he hurts, he cannot ever let anyone know about it.

Placing your baby in a crib as far away from you as possible, so that you don’t hear her cries at night, in order to get some sleep, is what I consider CHILD ABUSE. I’ve admitted before on this blog that I haven’t always been the perfect parent. I smoked cigarettes and marijuana while I was pregnant with my 2nd child. And yes, I now lump these actions into the “child abuse category.”

If you can’t spend one year (give or take) of your life with less than your perfectly uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep each night, then DON’T HAVE A CHILD. If you can bring yourself to put earplugs in while your newborn babe is in the other room screaming and gasping for air, then there is something fundamentally wrong with your psychological makeup and you need to seek professional help. And then get your tubes tied. It’s a fucking outrage that this is happening. It’s even more of an outrage that parents who practice CIO are fiercely defending their actions. It’s disgusting that there are so many children out there with parents who will flat out ignore good, sound advice and refuse their own instincts in exchange for a well behaved baby, and a convenient, silent night.

22 Responses to “Estella on CIO”

  1. 1 Anon January 20, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly, I think it is shamefully cruel and inhuman to just let a baby cry and cry. I also agree that to say a baby is manipulative and selfish is effectively to transpose our own faults onto the baby.

    You’re a caring mum, keep up the good work.

  2. 2 TulipGirl January 21, 2007 at 4:43 am

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read on CIO.

  3. 3 Mamasita January 22, 2007 at 1:12 am

    The baby sleep discussion in the states has always frightened the bejeezus out of me. Here in Europe we generally go for the “Whatever works for your family” method. Babies usually sleep in the same room as their parents for the first year or two and there are none of the ridgid ‘party’ lines that you get in the states. We are first and foremost told that we should do what is good for our baby. So far- thats working for us!
    Here’s to more parents giving up rigid ‘programs’ for their children- and just doing things naturally 🙂

  4. 4 peggykerroll January 22, 2007 at 2:05 am

    I think Ezzo and Sears are two different extremes and most parents have to do what is right for them given their circumstances. Yes, it’s better to respond to a baby’s cries as soon as possible. But when you’re sleep deprived for weeks on end and your mental health is at risk and you have no one to help you, you might have to find a compromise once in a while.

    So many women deal with depression during this time period–and they need the help of another adult to cope. Or two. Or three. But that requires another person stepping up and providing that assistance. It requires someone else DO something. That isn’t always going to work.

    You’re being very judgemental yourself here in associating CIO with spanking and religion. Take a step back. Not everyone fits that stereotype.

  5. 5 mrshavisham January 22, 2007 at 3:18 am

    I’m not religious, I don’t follow any Holy Book, so I’m allowed to be judgmental. Also, it’s my blog.

  6. 6 Liz January 22, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Jacob just told me the other day that his co-workers think we hold Jonas too much, and that he agreed!!!AGGGHH do you and B agree on parenting? Crap this is hard…

  7. 7 peggykerroll January 22, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Oh. “It’s my blog.” That’s such an easy answer. And not being religious makes being judgemental totally okay.

    Can’t you concede that some people need help they’re not getting and that it puts them and their children at risk? Can’t you see that some people need to compromise without having guilt thrust down their throat? You of all people should be able to see that…

    Look, just for the record: I’m against CIO and I’m against spanking or hitting of any kind. And while I didn’t have problems dealing with four of my kids, with my first I had PPD. And quite frankly, when you’re alone and you have the choice of picking up the screaming child and being tempted to smash him up against the wall, or sit in a corner covering your ears and crying, you just might be better off in the corner. At least until someone offers you respite or top shelf drugs.

    Sheesh. Not all Christians are judgemental child beating asshats. And not all atheists embrace non-violence. Try to be aware of your prejudices.

    Or, you know, tell me to fuck off. Whatever. It’s your blog.

  8. 8 karriew January 22, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I’m still wondering why my comment was not approved? Maybe it was mistakenly filed as spam? I think it is only fair if you quote someone to allow them to clarify their position. Thanks!

  9. 9 karriew January 22, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Since that went through I’ll try and summarize what I assume is a lost post:

    -CIO with infants nauseates me.Ezzo is a creep.
    -We did use some attended fussing/crying along the lines of Pantley’s Last Resort. (my husband slept on our son’s floor for a few nights when he was 13 months old. We then enjoyed a year of easy bedtimes, which helped me tremendously because my son never wakes up later than 5am.)
    -We’re co-sleeping again now, and fine with it, because my son has night terrors. I do not want him to cry alone in his room, terrified that monsters are under his bed or whatever else he is thinking is going to get him.

    I’m probably more AP-ish than other parenting philosophies, but the hardcore Mothering Dot Commune stuff just did not work for us. I was only half joking when I said it made me crazy. I live in a progressive area where an almost competitive version of attachment parenting reigns. At some point, mom’s health and sanity matter too.

  10. 10 mrshavisham January 22, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Oh my goodness, Liz! I’ll email ya personally on this one. 🙂

  11. 11 mrshavisham January 22, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Now, now, Peggy. Nobody will argue that it’s better to go all Andrea Yates on your kid than put it down safely in its crib to cry for 10 minutes while you collect yourself and breathe. But then again, my post isn’t about postpartum depression. My post is referring to parents who absolutely, 100% believe that it’s okay to regularly put their newborn baby in a crib to cry itself to sleep. And many of them don’t just think it’s “okay.” Many of them are educated people who have decided even before parenthood that it is best to systematically train a newborn baby into a little robot that will fit nicely into their established routine. It is not natural, it is not right, it is not healthy, and it has been proven to have detrimental effects.

    And Karrie–BIG difference between letting a 13 month old do some CIO than a 6 week old.

  12. 12 karriew January 22, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    There is a big difference, which is why I posted. I was poking fun at Dr. Sears, but I do not want to be taken out of context. I do not agree with sleep training infants, or letting kids of any age cry for an extended period of time.

    Plus, I’m an atheist. LOL.

  13. 13 peggykerroll January 22, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Well, exactly. You weren’t talking about PPD, but the person you quoted was. Karrie was being funny. And her post was about PPD.

    I personally don’t know anyone who has the attitude you describe. I suppose we’ve all witnessed bad parenting, but… Most people are somewhere in the middle. They don’t want to be cold and unfeeling, but sometimes they need to protect their own sanity.

    And your religious stereotypes sort of piss me off sometimes. I mean, we don’t all belong to the church of sinners in the hands of an angry god. Faith can often make you more compassionate.

  14. 14 Estella January 22, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Oh I definitely wasn’t trying to put Karrie down. I just thought it was funny and made my post a little less scientific and a little more entertaining. (Thanks Karrie!)

    And Peggy, in my experience (including 20+ years under the roof of a Baptist preacher) only Catholics are compassionate. *laughing* It’s true! Stereotypes schmereotypes.

  15. 15 Missy January 23, 2007 at 11:35 am

    (((smile))) Catholics are compassionate, yes, but I would include in that list Buddhists, Jews, Eastern Orthodox, and many mainline Protestants (Episcopals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans)… I don’t have much personal experience with other faiths such as Hindu or Muslim, so I really can’t say about them. But I would warrant a guess anyone who is not overly pious or fundamentalist or orthodox is made more compassionate by the experience of prayer and meditation. Anyone who is more concerned with their own behavior than someone elses… (That last line is key.)

  16. 16 JADEMOMMY February 1, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    hello, am a first time mommy of a 9month baby ever sence day one she coslept with us. it was so difficult because neither me or my husband or the baby were sleeping good we all had terrible night just yesterday i decided to do the CIO. but i did not neglect her i changed her fed her played with her and at nine put her in her crib. she literlly cried for 5 minutes i went in and rubbed her back and gave her a good night kiss. as i left the room she cried for two minutes and whe i knew it there was silence. she went to sleep. she gave me about fouyr hours of sleep until i heard her crya gain i went in and made shhh noises and rubbed her back and again she fell asleep. so CIO worked in out family and i hope people understand that CIO can be done in a correct way. (WITHOUT NEGLECT!!)

  17. 17 amygeekgrl February 3, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    amen, sistah. excellent post. now if only those who are in favor of CIO would actually do a little research and read all of this info that you have collected.
    p.s. am adding you to my blogroll, mama. 🙂

  18. 18 KatenMiasMama February 3, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I guess I’m not as lucky as Peggykerroll. In my world there are educated (in child psychology nonetheless) new parents who think CIO in an underweight 5 month old is the perfect solution.

    Look, we’re all going to differ on how to parent- but WHY let your child CIO when there are so many alternatives- regardless of your opinons of Dr. Sears and wether or not you have reiki-loving free range chickens?

    “It’s disgusting that there are so many children out there with parents who will flat out ignore good, sound advice and refuse their own instincts in exchange for a well behaved baby, and a convenient, silent night.”

    We live in a world of fast-food parenting. Do what feels good for now. Don’t want to breastfeed? Too hard? Too much effort? Don’t want to get up during the night? Don’t. Quit. The long term effects? Who cares!

    More people should have pet rocks.

    And more people should subscribe to your blog. 🙂 Cheers, Mama.

  19. 19 Nadia February 22, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Im a first time mommy to a 13 month old, who loves doing what he wants. SInce he was a little baby, weeks only, he sleeps in his own room, giving me and my husband time for ourselves. He now sleeps through the night, but when he wakes up in the middle of the night, I wake up with him and give him his bottle. Sometimes he just wants to take a look at me and falls asleep again, but I dont think leaving a baby to cry his heart out is the best solution. My baby is a confident baby who knows he has his own space to do things, his own bed to sleep in, but also knows that whenever he wakes, his mommy and daddy will be there to confort him. If you think that you wont listen your baby if he is in another room, get a baby monitor and you will be able to listen every breath he takes. I just cant hear my baby crying and not do anything to confort him. Perhaps those things work with some parents, but I can tell you that conforting my baby when he cries, no matter the hour makes me feel much better, since Im a working mom that has to leave him most of the day with his grandparents and feel that perhaps Im not doing enough. But those little times in which he needs to hear my heartbeats to fall asleep again are priceless.

  20. 20 camping world guide April 8, 2007 at 4:42 pm

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  21. 21 phdinparenting February 14, 2009 at 4:32 am

    I know this is an old post, but I just came across it now while looking for some info on the evils of Ezzo for a post I’m working on and wanted to say that I totally agree. I’ve written a number of posts myself on how horrible CIO is.

  1. 1 How to garner a parental resume « The Fascinating Adventures of a Domestic Diva Trackback on February 13, 2007 at 11:21 pm

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