Some people advise parents to let their babies cry, otherwise they run the risk of spoiling them. Phrases such as “let him cry” and “let him cry that widens his lungs” are common, to the point that some parents wonder if they should calm their babies or if, on the contrary, they should ignore him and let them calm themselves.
In fact, this popular idea has found resonance in the Estivill method , a proposal to put babies and children to sleep in a general sense by the American pediatrician Richard Ferber, director of the Pediatric Center for Sleep Disorders at the Boston Children’s Hospital, which in Spain it has spread from the hand of doctor Eduard Estivill.
According to this method, you should not listen to the child, you must let him cry to calm himself. When the child begins to cry, the parents should only comfort him for a short period of time and should resist the temptation to pick him up. They should then leave you in the room while you are still awake, to sleep alone. However, the truth is that more and more research indicates that the classic advice “let him cry” is not as good an idea as it seems.
Crying affects brain development
Psychologists and neuroscientists are convinced that when babies cry and parents ignore them, they suffer a state of anxiety that causes their brain to be flooded with cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones. And if these hormones are extremely harmful to adults, their effect on a developing brain is even more dire, especially if that pattern of inattention repeats itself over time. In fact, elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline can end up taking a toll on neural connections.
In this sense, a study carried out at Yale University showed that when children are exposed to great stress from their first years of life, changes in brain biochemistry occur, specifically at the level of neurotransmitters.
Another study by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire revealed that babies who are allowed to cry a lot during their first months of life have a 10 times higher risk of ADHD and conduct disorder. On the other hand, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered that when parents let babies cry, at 10 months they already have problems controlling their emotions and are much more difficult to calm down.
Neuroscientists explain that these changes are due to stress causing overstimulation of areas of the brain linked to analysis and emotional regulation. As a result, the child will develop a hyperactive nervous system, which produces a large amount of adrenaline, which leads him to show impulsive behaviors and overreact to environmental stimuli.
On the other hand, it has also been appreciated that children subjected to a lot of stress show a very low level of growth hormone, which could inhibit the development of some areas of the brain and slow growth in general.