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How much should I let my baby cry?

Parenting Styles   |   Age: 4 weeks 6 days


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How much should I let my baby cry?

Some schools of thought, including those of many parents, assert that letting a child cry is an important part of their learning and development. However, it's an issue with many different degrees of point of view, and the answer to how long to let a baby cry can vary based both on the age of the baby, her individual personality, and the needs of your family as a whole. It's true that crying is normal and will not hurt your baby, but babies generally cry to communicate needs, so ignoring a cry can mean ignoring a need for food, a diaper change, burping, or just comfort, and in extreme cases, babies left crying for long periods of time can suffer from issues with insecurity and neglect. Newborns do not cry to get attention, and paying attention to your baby's cries is an important step towards learning her needs and desires so you can avoid reaching the point where she is crying to begin with.

Why is your baby crying?

When your baby starts to cry, the first thing to do to try to comfort her is to address her obvious, physical needs. Make sure her diaper is clean and she is properly fed and burped, and then, if that doesn't help, consider whether she might be too hot or too cold, tired and ready to be soothed into a nap, bored and ready to play, or overstimulated and ready to go somewhere less interesting so she doesn't feel so overwhelmed. If you still have trouble figuring out why your baby is crying, or how to help, it could be that you and your baby just don't have the language to communicate what the problem is yet, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few other things you can try to soothe or distract her into a hopefully quieter, happier state of mind. Potential solutions then include white noise or music, rocking or walking with her, skin to skin contact, swaddling, and even driving in a car. If your baby is crying constantly, check with the doctor to make sure nothing is physically wrong. Crying could also be a sign of an underlying health issue, like a milk allergy, formula intolerance, constipation, or acid reflux.

Self-soothing

Newborns need to have their cries answered right away, but by 5 or 6 months, as they're starting to get more mobile, and to experiment with the beginnings of language and communication, many babies are ready to start learning self-soothe. Many parents begin to pause before responding, or allow children to cry during bedtime without running to their sides around this age to teach children to sleep on their own. Even using this method, many suggest that babies should not be allowed to cry for more than 10 minutes without your attention.

The bottom line

It’s your decision how to choose to handle your baby’s crying, but remember that she doesn’t cry for the sake of crying - she needs your help!


Sources
  • Harriet Hiscock, et al. “Improving infant sleep and maternal mental health: a cluster randomised trial.” Archives of Diseases in Childhood. 92(11): 952-958. Web. November 2007.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Crying baby: What to do when your newborn cries.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, September 16 2015. Web.
  • W. Middlemiss, D.A. Granger, W.A. Goldberg, L. Nathans. “Asynchrony of mother-infant hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity following extinction of infant crying responses induced during the transition to sleep.” Early Human Development. 88(4): 227-32. Web. September 23 2011.
  • “Infant Sleep Training Is Effective and Safe, Study Finds.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, September 10 2012. Web.
  • “Responding To Your Baby’s Cries.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “The Effects of Excessive Crying.” AskDrSears. AskDrSears.com, 2016. Web.

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