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Q&A: Should I let my Baby Cry?

Dr. Christine Wood, M.D


Q I am having difficulties with my 4 month old boy. He is very demanding. It all started when my parents came for a 3 week visit. They could not have him cry even for a minute and got him used to sleeping in his pram at daytime, rocking him to sleep. At night, he was sleeping next to me as it was so convenient for breastfeeding. When they left, he would not sleep in his crib anymore (which is in my bedroom), but in his pram, and I felt I had to carry him around everywhere in the house, otherwise he would just cry. Now, he is 4 months and a lot heavier. I don't want (and can't for my back's sake !) do that anymore, so I'm trying to teach him to play alone. He does, but only for a short while (10 minutes) He gets frustrated and cries. If I suspect that he is tired, I try to put him to sleep, and he cries even more. He sleeps now in his crib (I managed to get him used to that) but not without a fight both for naps and at night. Thanks for your help.

A It sounds like your son is just at a phase where he is starting to go through some separation anxiety, and this is quite normal. It may have been aggravated because your parents were with him, and holding him all the time.

At 4 months, you should be able to tell when he is crying just for attention, and when he really needs something. If he is fed, has a dry diaper and is tired, it is not a problem to let him cry. I know it is difficult, but if you continue to hold and cater to him, he will not learn otherwise. It is okay to let him cry a bit to fall asleep, or if he wakes at night, and it is too soon to feed. Most babies at this age can sleep 6-10 hour stretches.

Some of what he is going through is the normal development. He does not really want to play alone, and is not really capable of doing it for very long. He needs some variety in his activity, or just changing where he is playing can help.

Hope this helps

Christine Wood, MD

Click here to Ask Dr. Christine Wood questions about your baby's health

Dr. Christine Wood is a practicing pediatrician in Southern California. She attended the University of Detroit for her undergraduate degree in chemistry and received her medical degree from the University of Michigan. She completed her pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. She was Chief Resident there and then worked in the emergency room at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. After three years doing pediatric emergency room medicine she went into private practice. She received her lactation educator certification from the University of California, San Diego.

She is the author of "How to Get Kids to Eat Great and Love It," a book that addresses the issues of why and how to feed kids healthy. The book also covers information about environmental threats and the role of nutritional supplementation for children. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son.

Christine is also the cofounder of Call Your a website designed to give concerned parents with non-emergency medical questions, solid, no-nonsense information that can give them information in deciding when to call the doctor and some home treatment advice. You can visit her website at

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