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So, this question is inspired somewhat by Do we Need to help a baby learn to soothe itself? as well as my own experience with other people's children and my own.

Many mothers are reluctant to let their children cry at all, but there are times when a child just isn't consolable, there is sleep training that includes letting them cry and a host of times when a parent might just need to take a deep breath and a minute or two in order to regain patience for listening to a baby cry such as a colicky baby and step away for a bit to calm themselves. I generally felt that it was my job to teach my baby I was there for her and that meant responding in some way when she cried - even if my response didn't always stop the crying, but I don't remember reading anything that made me "know" that.

It seems to me there are a lot of beliefs around how much crying a baby should be allowed to do, or not. While I don't buy into this line specifically (considering it an old wife's tale), I've even heard, "let her cry, it'll help her lungs develop" from my mother in law.

What is actually known about when babies should be allowed to cry without consoling (I know sleep training methods all pretty much agree never before six months - but why six months and not seven? What is the developmental sign they are ready to cry a little without consoling?). Even then, for how long should they be allowed to cry? Are there scientific studies that show certain lengths of time at certain ages to either be helpful or harmful? What can a mother of a child that just can't be soothed be told in regard to how much crying is okay and how much is too much?

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Lungs develop? That's a new one... –  Joe Feb 1 at 3:19
    
@Joe my mother in law is a piece of work. :-) –  balanced mama Feb 1 at 15:46
    
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2 Answers

Before the age of about 6 months a child cries to communicate a need. It is important to address that need rather than let the child cry. Most, but not all, children have a need that can be sorted. Maybe the child is too hot or hungry or uncomfortable or has wind. Parents learn a variety of techniques to cope with these, such as "tiger in the tree" holds or swaddling.

After the age of about 6 months children start to learn that crying brings a response, so if a parent is going to try any controlled crying technique it is important that they must wait until after this time.

We know that over-fussy parents can be psychologically harmful to children.

We know that good bond is pretty important and that is hindered by not addressing crying.

I'm stop here because I have strong opinions but you haven't asked for that. I will post links later - im on mobile and it's weirdly hard to do so.

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I'm a grandmother. When I had my babies, my pediatrician was a wonderful, Dr. Welby-type doctor who was in his fifties. He was extremely helpful and very responsive to all of my children's issues, and every bit of his advice was right on the money. For each and every problem that I had, he had specific suggestions for dealing with it and they worked like a charm. He said that after about six months old, if your baby is not sleeping through the night or finds it difficult to fall asleep at nap time, he said that the first thing you should do is rule out any issues, such as, soiled diaper, hunger, pain, etc, etc. After all else is ruled out and baby is still crying, lay baby down in the crib and gently rub it's back. If that doesn't work, then let baby cry for a bit, but no longer than 10 minutes before going in and picking him up and cuddling him for a few minutes. Then immediately lay him back down. If he continues to cry, then wait another 10 minutes and then go back in and pick him up again and cuddle for a few minutes, and then lay him back down. Usually, a baby who is just sleepy and having a difficult time settling itself down will fall asleep after about 10 or 15 minutes of crying because he wears himself out. He said that crying does not harm a baby. Crying is what babies do. He said that sometimes crying helps clear airways. But don't let them cry for more than 10 minutes without comforting him. I followed his advice precisely and it always worked for me.

I am not recommend this for everyone else because so much has changed since I was having babies. But I it worked wonderfully for my children. If this is something that you would like to try, be sure to talk it over with your pediatrician first.

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