How long can you let a baby cry (it out)? Here, the mom of a 7-month-old baby asks, because she got the advice from the health nurse, to simply let her baby cry it out if she wakes up too early.

There are, of course, no set rules for how to deal with this situation, but I share my thoughts, and invite you to share yours as well!

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Mom’s Question:
My daughter is 7 months old, and I’m wondering how long it is ok to let her cry when I know she’s not hungry, wet, tired, and just wants to be held.

I’m trying not to get her in the habit of being held all the time, and I want her to learn how to self-soothe. I’m also trying to get her to take longer naps, and the nurse at my doc office told me just to let her cry so she knows it’s not play time yet when she wakes up too early, but she stands up now in her crib so I just get nervous that she’s going to hit her face on the crib and I don’t know how long I’m supposed to let her go for. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!



Letting A 7-Month-Old Cry It Out – Yes Or No?

Well, you’re probably asking the whimpiest mom on the planet… I’ve always had a hard time letting my babies cry for long periods (it is easier when they get older, and you know for sure the crying is about some disagreement.)

“Just Wants To Be Held”

You mention that you would like to let your baby cry when she is not hungry, tired, etc., but “just want to be held”. When a baby is at around 7 months old both stranger and separation anxiety often set in, and a baby can really need to be close to their parents a lot. This can go on for a few months. Both these anxieties are typical for the development phase they are in, which is when they start to realize that they are separate beings from their mom. Some babies will go through this without the parents hardly noticing, while for other babies, it is a very frightening discovery, and they need a lot of comfort to get through it. So, just like hunger or being tired are needs, being held due to fear of being alone is a real need for babies at this age.

Spoiling or helping?

I know there are many proponents of simply letting the babies cry until they stop, either to allow some rest for the parent or to avoid “spoiling” the baby. I do understand the resting argument, although the crying is probably just as stressful as having to carry the baby around nonstop. The spoiling argument is actually not correct. Babies do not get spoilt into wanting to be carried forever by picking them up during this period, but rather the opposite. If picked up, they learn to trust that Mom or Dad is around for them, and this helps them through the stage of separation anxiety and on to new adventures!

Attention when happy

In addition to the fact that picking your baby up will speed up the process towards independence, the crying is their way of communicating, and I find it hard to simply ignore it; they do cry for a reason, and we want to teach our children that their feelings matter.

One thing, though, is to make sure to give your baby attention and pick her up often while NOT crying, too, to avoid reinforcing the crying as the only way to get mom to pick her up! You’ll want to give her lots of attention when happy, too!

Other ways to teach your baby to self-soothe

So, in short, I don’t agree with the nurse who told you to let her simply stand there and cry, but I understand your frustration regarding the naps. Have you tried letting your girl sleep in the stroller under supervision and simply start rocking it the minute she is showing signs of waking up? That can be a very effective way to teach a baby to take longer naps. (Just make sure you don’t leave her alone in the stroller EVER so that she can fall out!)

Also, you can always review her sleep schedule to see if you can find any clues to why her naps are short. Maybe she needs to take fewer naps, for example? I have also tried to get my babies to go back to sleep after a nap, but once they are wide awake, I’ve never succeeded. You need to catch her just before she actually wakes up to have a chance to help her back to sleep. A baby that stands up is definitely awake. ;-)

If you want to teach your baby to self-soothe, then baby steps will be much more efficient. Once the worst separation anxiety has started to subdue, you can start working on teaching your baby to fall asleep on her own – first, maybe next to you in your bed, then close to you, but in her crib. It takes a while, and most children have periods of waking up for many years, no matter how good sleepers they are during other periods.

I really wish you good luck!


More Babies With Separation Anxiety

Hey, parents, what are your views on letting a baby cry? Share your comments below.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Abe

    I’m a dad to my 7month old little girl….talk about tough!! We’ve made the mistake of allowing our daughter to sleep with us these past seceral months. Everyone told us not to do it. Of course we didn’t listen. We’re literally going through the process of trying to get her to sleep in the crib and “be happy about it”. My wife is a nurse at a childrens hospital. All her nurse friends who are moms have said to keep her in the crib and don’t pick her up (of course with her being fed, changed and loved). But they also said to stay next her quietly and pat her on the back or to do what you know will calm your baby (sing,smile,etc..). We’ve been doing this.

    It’s been a little rough to see and hear her upset but seems to be working better and better each time. We don’t want her to think everytime she cries she gets what she wants. Even though at this point she pretty much does…. it’s to hard not to. I honestly believe its harder on the parent then the baby. Good luck to everyone out there!!! And thanks for all the input on this site. Very helpful!

  2. Christine

    I totally agree with the comment to “train yourself first”. I think every choice we make in parenting should be based on how we want our children to be when they are 3, 10, 15, etc. I feel that giving into every whimper now will lead to the need to give into every whimper for years to come-we all see those children at the store.

    That being said, sleep is an important factor in a child’s well-being too. If your baby is screaming in his/her crib, they probably don’t have the tools to calm themselves yet. Creating a routine before nap time and putting your child in the crib groggy and soothing without picking up unless they are hysterical, should do the trick. If you do pick them up when they are hysterical, put them back in the crib once they have returned to a calm state and continue soothing as needed. Once they have fallen asleep and rewoke, consider that the nap and try again later when they are tired. Breastfed babies are a bit trickier as they like to be soothed through nursing alot of times. My sister-in-law and I found it easier to do the nap soothing routine for eachothers’ children until they got the hang of it. In addition, another trusted person is a lot less likely to become upset and “cave” as the mother would. This is the worst mistake you can make. This is not a short process and should only be started if you intend on following through. I have yet to see it fail. I also have no doubt that a child cries because they need you but I don’t believe it always means you need to do the quickest easiest thing to stop their crying-give them the gift of coping skills instead- I mean we could all use a some.
    Best of luck but above all enjoy your little one!

  3. Nevaeh’s Mommy

    In my opinion it is ok to let your baby cry from time to time. So long as it is done in good balance and is coming from a good place in your heart. Babies are smarter than we as parents, give them credit for. They learn numerous things on their journey to development. Yes, some babies have already learned to manipulate us parents. My daughter is almost 8 months old and is a little ninny baby. She cries when i leave the room, if i change her, if i stop pushing her stroller on her daily walk, if put her shoes on, when she’s tired, if i take something away she’s not supposed to play with, and sometimes for NO REASON AT ALL!! Sometimes i have to just “walk away” and eventually teach her that this behavior is not tolerated! Eventually she will get the point, (hopefully soon. Every baby is unique in their own special way and have their own individual personalities. Every parent is different in their approach to parenting. What works for one perhaps won’t for another. There is no “OFFICIAL PARENTING HANDBOOK” in raising our babies. If you use your own personal judgment and guide from your heart…you can NEVER go wrong!! Dont’t let ANYONE tell you “you’re a bad parent” because you know your child more than anyone else and know exactly what kind of parenting they need…letting them cry, or not.

  4. Ana

    It is not generally recommended to let them sleep in car seats or strollers because their air way is constricted since their head is bent against their body (since they are receiving less air that is what makes them sleep longer.) But if the stroller is leaning back then that wouldn’t constrict their airway and may help put them back to sleep by gently pushing them back in forth (just make sure their safe :) which you already know! Sometimes we let him cry when we know he is completely safe, and has just been fed, changed, etc. because he is usually crying because he is tired so if we let him be he falls asleep shortly and if he doesn’t we go get him and give him so loving!

  5. Nadiya

    It is not ok to leave your baby crying!!!! If she is crying, then she needs something! Even if she is fed, dry and well rested she still might need something more! Like maybe some emotional contact with you or some freedom to crawl around the room and discover things! I never let my baby stay in the crib against her will! And neither do I let her cry for even one extra second! And she is 8 month old now and she is more independent than any other baby I ever saw! So here lies the paradox – in reality, the more attention you give your child, the more independent it grows and vice versa!

    Sorry, I am a little too harsh in my tone, but I just feel so sorry for all those babies left crying on their own…

  6. Ella

    Well, train yourself first! Believe me, after working in a pediatrician’s office I have seen it all! I would ask you to imagine what things may be like in 3 years if your child learns that you can be guilted into picking her up! I’ve seen many poor, tired parents virtually manipulated by their kids into giving them toys, food, and attention. Of course, your child isn’t intentionally going to make things difficult for you, but if she learns that you dependably respond to her needs, it will be difficult to extinguish this behavior.

    I’d suggest that you employ this tactic for a week straight (no exceptions!). This is my mother’s tried and true strategy for keeping us children from crying needlessly. When you hear your child crying, check the diaper, feed, and make sure everything is comfortable. Do this little routine and add a little comment, such as “You’re dry, you’re full, and you’re comfy. Be happy!” with a happy voice. Somehow this conditions the child to eventually self-soothe and even that little attention would be enough, without causing your child to expect an hour of cradling. Silly advice, but my family swears by it!