WHY DO BABIES CRY?
New parents get so much advice about how to ‘manage’ a crying baby.
New parents are often suffering from exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed, so it’s easy to accept ‘suggestions’ about how to make their newborn sleep.
They are inundated with warnings:
‘you’re making a rod for your own back’
‘teach him discipline from day 1’
‘he must learn to self settle’
‘don’t give in to his demands’
‘you are creating bad habits by giving in’
‘put baby in his own bed and own room from day 1, so he can learn’
IT BEGINS IN THE WOMB
Think about a new little being, growing beautifully in his mother’s womb, having just the right amount of nutrition, physically developing at just the right times, eyes forming, brain developing, limbs growing etc. but the other really important factor is the development of an emotional connection between parent and baby. Talking to baby in the womb, involving him in all your daily activities, reading books and looking forward to meeting on the outside. This is all happening – for 40 weeks, in the world’s most perfect environment.
Then there is the birth. A beautiful and joyful labour and birth with mother and baby working together for that most exquisite of moments – meeting and connecting on the outside. There is much research about the importance of keeping baby as close to Mum and Dad as possible. In an ideal situation, no ‘other’ hands should touch baby at birth, no ‘other’ voices should be heard, just to allow baby a very gentle immediate transition to meet his parents, on the outside.
After all that – why do many think that it is O.K. to suddenly separate a mother and baby. IT IS NOT.
CAN A BABY MANIPULATE HIS PARENTS?
Of course not! But there is this crazy idea that after all of the above, there is an urgent need for the parents to do the manipulation and get baby into a ‘routine’, before baby takes charge and starts to manipulate his parents.
BABIES CRY FOR A REASON
AND they stop crying when picked up – for a reason, as this is the biological norm. Babies and toddlers have a hugely underdeveloped neocortex in comparison to an adults’ brain. This frontal section of the brain is responsible for rational and analytical thought as well as the regulation of emotional responses. So a baby does not have the skill of emotional self-regulation, or self-soothing or self-settling.
A baby needs his mother and father to respond to his needs, and his only way of communicating is crying. To boost emotional self-regulation in an infant is to be responsive to him when he needs it, so that in time, when the brain connectivity matures it will hardwire the pathways necessary for a baby to truly self-sooth.
Mother and baby are a conjoined unit – inside the womb and on the outside. When baby cries, it is because they have a need and it is the parent’s job to work out what that need is and meet that need as soon as possible. They have no other way of communicating. They are not being manipulators. They settle best when closest to Mum/Dad, in your arms, cuddling, singing, talking and breastfeeding.
When a baby is put in a separate bed, in a separate room, surrounded by different sounds, smells and space, they will cry – simply because for them – they have lost their Mum, and that must be pretty scary.
WHERE SHOULD BABY SLEEP
For a baby to grow and develop, physically, mentally, emotionally, they MUST be as close to their primary caregiver (usually the breastfeeding mother) as possible.
Professor James J. McKenna is recognized as the world’s leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping in relationship to breastfeeding and SIDS.
He states “There is no such thing as infant sleep, there is no such thing as breastfeeding, there is only breastsleeping
McKenna says: “The worst invention culturally for all parents was the notion of the “good baby.” Good babies don’t exist because that supports the notion that only babies who sleep through the night and can self-settle are good. We know that isn’t true”.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apa.13161/abstract
Leaving a baby to cry only teaches them that the very people who are supposed to be there to love and care for them and provide comfort – don’t care anymore and they give up.
It has been scientifically proven that when a baby is left to cry for an extended period of time, their cortisol levels increase and this can have detrimental long-term effects on the child which may not be evident until later in life. https://www.google.com.au/url?(Henry & Wang 1998).
John Bowlby was a psychoanalyst who formulated an evolutionary theory of attachment that supports the concept that children come into our world biologically pre-conditioned to form attachments with others as a means for survival. At the very core, babies are born with the base need to find a secure attachment to their main caregiver that acts as their secure “base” to explore their world. Babies need to form a secure attachment to their primary caregiver before they can gradually become independent in their own identity. Secure dependence from a baby to their primary caregiver is what comes before a healthy sense of independence is formed.
How can a child form a secure base to their primary caregiver when the primary caregiver is encouraged to leave them to cry and learn to cope on their own? Simply, they can’t. This idea goes against nature and not only creates stress and harm for the mother-baby unit, it is scientifically refuted and incorrect.
Cuddle your babies and keep them close
You will be giving your baby the very best emotionally secure start in life by holding them close. Do not hesitate to comfort your baby, however you can, when he is unhappy.
You are not teaching them any bad habits, but you are reinforcing their connection and bond with you, setting them up to be well adjusted and happy adults. It is normal for babies to wake often, it is normal for babies to want to breastfeed very frequently, it is normal for babies to want to be held often.
Your child isn’t manipulating you and you’re not making any rod for your back. You’re simply being a present, and loving parent.