this is draft copy. I will try to finish tonight or tomorrow but I may get suddenly interrupted when my son wakes from his nap...
The phrase "cry it out" is used to describe the very common (in the West) parenting practice of allowing infants and toddlers to sit relatively unattended and cry until they stop on their own. This practice is often associated with some kind of sleep-training program -- the most popular being that of Richard Ferber, author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. In fact, this book and Ferber's method are so popular in the US that parents refer to "ferberizing" as the process by which they train their infant to sleep without them.
The theory behind this practice is that infants need to be "trained" to sleep alone for long periods of time. The theory is that infants who are allowed to "cry it out" for slowly lengthening periods of time will learn to "self-soothe" and need the parent's intervention with less and less frequency. Proponents of this practice often voice the fear that they will "spoil" their baby if they respond to her cries too readily.
Opponents of this practice find it counter-intuitive and harsh -- even cruel. Opposing theorists presume that the infant has a genuine physiological and emotional need for frequent and prolonged contact with their primary caretaker and that an infant's cry is the only way they have to communicate their needs. Many infant-care experts now assert that it is impossible to spoil an infant under 1 year old and that no amount of affection and responsiveness is too much.