Babies cannot communicate with words like we do since their brains are still developing. So, the only way for babies to communicate is to cry. And mothers are often advised by friends and even family to relax and let the baby cry or wail until s/he is tired and fall asleep. People may tell you to keep quiet despite the pangs of pain you feel when you watch your baby cry. But how long and to what extent can you keep quiet? We need to know how much crying is healthy or not dangerous for your baby. A study by neurobiologists recently says that crying for long hours increases the stress levels in babies. It is said that crying for long can raise the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, and this is toxic to the baby’s brain.
Penelope Leach, a parenting specialist is particularly against the idea of letting babies to cry themselves to sleep. In Penelope’s book, The Essential First Year – What Babies Need Parents to Know – Leach writes, “It is not an opinion but a fact that it’s potentially damaging to leave babies to cry”
Leach goes on to explain that while it isn’t the regular crying but the deprived attention to infants which increases the stress levels in the little ones.
She backs up her statement with scientific data – scientists have tested the babies’ saliva and saw an increased level of cortisol in distressed babies who were not given attention or responded to when they cried.
While these studies say that leaving your baby cry for hours can make them stressful, it doesn’t mean you should never let your baby cry. Mothers would know the difference between regular crying and crying in distress. Your infant’s brain is still in the developing stage and thus your child’s expectation levels are set. So, when your baby cries at times and their expectations are not paid heed to, your baby learns to give up and let it go. So, when parents do not respond to their baby’s incessant cries, parents feel they’ve trained their child well. However, these children grow up to be anxious adults.
Penelope Leach claims that crying is not an exercise for the baby’s lungs and that babies are too young to understand any sort of blackmail no matter what the circumstance. Paying attention to your baby’s needs and comforting him/her during times of distress is the basis of early parenting. However, the modern outlook of raising independent and strong children has got early parenting confused and on a ride. And with the growing needs of the modern world, fitting your baby’s needs have come to be an issue or disturbance for many parents. Leach says, “If you really, really don’t want a baby to make any difference, you could try not having one.”
Responding to your baby’s cries and needs gives them a secure and safe feeling. Babies feel loved and assured when they receive the attention and comfort that they crave for. Babies who are comfortable grow up to be more active, responsive, and happy on the whole. It is a known fact that as babies grow old, their need for attention too grows but so does their curiosity. Your child’s initial years are when s/he is comprehending his/her surrounding and forms an idea of life and its many offerings. Giving your child all the attention and love is the best way to raise a smart, happy, and intellectual kid.
People may tell you various things and you may yourself have many ideas about parenting. While these ideas and thoughts make life a tad bit easier for you, they are essentially against the basic nature of parenting and the parent-child bond. Loving your child and giving them the attention they need is a maternal instinct and is ingrained in each mother. It is only a matter to know when to listen to your intuition. So while people around you advise you to let your baby cry and ask you to relax and wait for your baby to calm down on their own, do what your heart tells you. Pick up your baby, comfort him/her and make sure you assure your baby of being loved and how important they are to you. And then, you can relax with your baby knowing s/he is happy and in no distress.