Should I pick my baby up when she cries?

Crying is a baby’s way of communicating. Particularly in the early months, a child cries when she’s hungry, cold, wet, tired, or wants to be held and played with. Between six and nine months, she may cry – particularly at night – because she doesn’t understand that her parents exist unless she sees them. She knows the world as either pleasurable or uncomfortable; when her needs are met she feels good, and when they aren’t she feels bad and cries.

Many parents wonder how they should respond when their child cries. If they pick her up each time, will her demands increase? Is there a chance she’ll become spoiled? Parents who wish to follow their instincts and respond to their child’s tears often are confused by people who say, “Don’t pick her up, you’ll spoil her”, “Let her cry, it’s good for her lungs”, or, “You can’t always be there for her”.

The truth is that picking up a crying baby won’t spoil her. Rather, it will help her develop a sense of security that will actually make her less likely to cry in the long run. Babies whose cries bring a helpful response begin to anticipate that whenever they cry, someone will respond. This cause-and-effect connection gives a child a secure and comfortable feeling and also teaches her to trust her parents. Learning to trust is a critical part of early development. If her parents don’t respond to her cries, or respond erratically and unpredictably, she’ll quickly sense that there’s little she can do to affect her environment. In such a situation, she’ll learn to mistrust those around her.

Of course, there’s a wide range of parental behavior between the extremes of total responsiveness and unresponsiveness. No matter how hard parents try to calm and comfort their child, there’ll be times when she remains frustrated. But if they’re consistently caring during the early months, she’ll start life with a sense of trust.

Comforting a crying child is very important, but it also can be difficult, especially if she cries often or during a busy moment. If you find that your baby needs a lot of comforting during the day, you may want to try a cloth infant carrier that will let you hold her close while leaving your hands free. The contact and constant movement can be very soothing to a child.

If your baby does a lot of crying at night, you may feel frustrated and unsure about how to respond. Your natural instinct may be to pick her up, but you also may be tired and you may be getting negative advice. Your pediatrician might advise you to let your child “cry it out at night”, particularly once she turns three months old. Many people advocate ignoring a child’s cries in the hope that she’ll learn to sleep through the night. One theory says that if parents refuse to comfort or feed their child during the night, she’ll stop crying after twenty minutes to an hour and go back to sleep. After many days or weeks of this routine, she’ll no longer wake up at night.

Although the prospect of an evening of uninterrupted sleep may certainly be attractive to you, when you comfort your baby, you let her know that she can depend on you, that she’s worthwhile, and that you care about meeting her needs. Holding and soothing her, you give her a sense of security and a basis for developing trust in her world.

Picture Credit : Google