We have several questions on this site that deal with infants and toddlers who cry a lot, for various reasons. Here is an example question and example answer, another answer. The topic was raised on the Skeptics site but no answer was provided. Perhaps we can find a good answer on our site here.
There are two basic approaches:
- Leave the child completely alone until the crying stops. <-- This is what I want to address.
- Leave the child for only a short moment and then return. Repeat with increasing absences.
Is it likely to harm an infant/a toddler to let him intensively cry until he stops on his own?
To elaborate, I have some additional questions:
- At what lower age/development limit would the practice be acceptable, and why?
- What factors could help determine whether the practice would work on a specific child?
For the purpose of this topic, let me define "crying" as real, full-strength, all-out, non-verbal mommy-daddy-come-help-me crying, not just whining or whimpering. Every parent knows his child and will recognize when the child really cries -- that is what I mean here.
Also, let me define "harmful" as not just transitory sadness but rather something where one could expect negative mid-to-long-term effects such as trauma, separation anxiety, lack/loss of trust in parents and others.
The crying could be related to bedtime/sleep but also during daytime when the parents aren't near.