One of the most hotly debated topics in parenting today is how long you should let your baby cry before going to check on him. There are two main schools of thought on this. One says that you should always go to your crying baby immediately. This is believed to affirm your relationship with your child as a caregiver and nurturer. It is believed by some that if you don’t go immediately when your child is crying that the child could be damaged emotionally. On the other hand, there are some who believe that you should wait and give your baby a chance to try to soothe himself back to sleep before going to check on him. Proponents of this way of thinking claim that by immediately going to take care of baby’s needs, you not only wear yourself out, but also potentially hurt your baby’s later ability to take care of his own needs. So, which one is right?

There is a certain amount of merit to both theories, though it is doubtful that you’re doing your baby any serious harm by following either principle. What you need to do as a parent is ask yourself which approach is going to work for you. If you go to take care of your baby right away every time you hear her crying, that’s OK, as long as you understand that you’re reinforcing to her that the best way to get mom and dad’s attention is to cry. Understand that this is an idea and a habit that you will later need to break her of when she’s a toddler.

And if you make your baby wait and let him cry it out for a few minutes before going to check on him, you’re not going to emotionally scar your baby for life. He’s not going to feel unloved or uncared for, and he will still bond with you. There is some merit to the idea that allowing a baby to cry for a while before running to the rescue will help him learn to soothe himself. Ultimately, the question comes down to which you prefer as a parent. Do you want your child to learn how to soothe himself, or would you prefer to help him? Of course, no parent should sit back and do nothing while their baby cries endlessly. Often, your baby is crying because he has a legitimate need. When baby is crying, go through the mental checklist and, if it’s likely that he has a real need of feeding or changing, don’t make him wait.