From birth, crying is all a baby can do to communicate their wants and needs. It is important to understand that children cry for many reasons; hunger, fatigue, tummy pains, discomfort, boredom, attention, overstimulation, colic etc. It is only as they begin to acquire language acquisition, physical and cognitive development that we can begin to understand their wants and needs differently. The reality is when you are a new parent, you have a newborn baby and they cry a lot how do you begin to differentiate between those wants and needs? It is a tough one and it is only time that will allow for you to learn this as you begin to settle in as a family and establish some form of routine. In the earliest of days babies will sleep – A LOT, but as they develop and grow at times their cries will become more persistent, longer and louder as they try to communicate with you.
Babies often cry when they are learning to sleep, sleep is a life skill and they need help in achieving this. Babies are too young to learn to fall asleep independently until they are at least 3 to 4 months old and so in the early days if your baby cries a lot during sleep and wakes crying from sleep offer lots of reassurance and be mindful of their capabilities at such a young age. When a baby does cry out when they are put down it so often because they are communicating that they want to sleep but don’t know how to. Practise putting your baby down drowsy but awake can help with their crying and staying with them to offer lots of reassurance in the early days so they know you are not leaving them. A good tip to note: whatever you do to help your baby to fall asleep at the onset of sleep your baby will expect you to do this on their night waking.
I would never, ever recommend any parent to leave their child to cry it out; by this I mean leaving a child long enough that they are exhausted and the end result is they fall asleep. There are a number of reasons why this is a harsh approach, the main being it creates stress and anxiety on the child and it is so important for developmental reasons that children learn a safe and trusted attachment with their parents from the earliest age. Leaving a child to cry it out teaches them that when they cry no form of help will come and it is hugely detrimental to a secure attachment with their parents. The Australian Association of Infant Mental Health states ‘infants are more likely to form secure attachments when their distress is responded to promptly, consistently and appropriately. Secure attachments in infancy are the foundation for good adult mental health.’ This is not to say that during any form of sleep training crying is to be avoided; crying is a child’s form of communication.
It is challenging for parents because we are in tune with our children’s cries, it is like they hit a cord of fear and distress in us. No parent feels comfortable hearing their child cry even if it is a whining and meaningless cry, it is how we are wired, it is a special bond and nature’s way of telling us we need to respond and comfort them. The best but hardest advice to take is to stay as calm as you can when your child is having a long period of crying as from the earliest of ages children learn from us and our behaviour. Lots of closeness and reassurance is important to ensure a secure attachment, learning your child’s cries and what they want is hard but it is true, they don’t cry for nothing!
Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.
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