What should you do when your baby cry? Is it safe to let your baby cry it out?
When it comes to responding to a baby’s cries, some prefer letting the baby cry and stop on his/her own while others prefer attending to the baby immediately. Some studies seem to support, while others oppose, letting the baby cry it out. Take a look at some of these studies!
1. Study of 43 infants noted that parents who used the “graduated extinction” method, where parents allowed their child to cry for increasing periods of time, fell asleep more quickly than those in the control group. There were no noticeable higher levels of cortisol during the treatment nor significant signs of behavioral issues in the group who practiced graduated extinction method.
2. Study of more than 600 adults and found those who were cuddled as children grew into more well-adjusted adults with less anxiety and better mental health. Conversely, letting a baby cry it out lead to them growing into adults who tend to be more stress reactive.
3. Study of 326 children found that children whose parents allow them to cry it out did not have any long-term negative impacts five years later.
There are numerous other studies, and the debate on whether the cry-it-out method is safe still remains as these studies are often being debated on whether they are truly unbiased (since the observations and execution of different methods depend on parents). In general, the arguments for and against the cry-it-out method are:
– For: Baby’s natural sleep pattern comes in cycles and when they wake up, it is helpful for them to learn to self-soothe so that they can fall asleep again faster.
– For: Cry-it-out method does not mean leaving the baby alone to cry, no matter what. It involves checking that there is no physical harm to the baby, followed by being around the baby but not holding the baby immediately (but practicing a longer waiting time).
– Against: Babies get stressed when they are not attended to, and the “success” of cry-it-out method could mean that the baby has lost hope that he will be cared for. Even if the parents are in the baby’s room but not picking her up, the baby doesn’t know that and remains stressed.
– Against: Babies lack self-soothing mechanisms and when they are attended to when they cry, they start to trust that someone loves and is there for them, leading them to be more secure and exhibit less behavioral issues when they are older.
– Against: Babies grow from being held and care for and a lack of it may affect the baby’s development; similarly, caregivers who are instructed not to attend to the baby’s cries would get unattached and be less able to bond with the baby.
Parents may practice some form of wait-and-see if the baby’s cries will stop, but varies in how long and how disciplined they carry it out. It helps though to identify the different types of baby’s cries, as certain cries necessitate action.
Different types of Baby’s Cries
If your baby sucks her fingers or looks like she is rooting for the breast, it could be that she is hungry. Hunger cries are also often repetitive and rhythmic. If your baby is hungry, respond to it quickly as the longer the cry, the more likely she will be gulping air during her feeding.
Cries of discomfort often sound nasal, and build up gradually. Your baby may also be twisting and kicking if it is a soiled diaper. Check the diaper and change if it is soiled.
If your baby cries when she is tired, it could be accompanied by eye-rubbing, yawning or inability to be engaged or stay interested. If it has been a few hours since your baby has napped, start the nap routine. Also remember to keep track of when your baby gets tired during different times of the day.
Your baby may feel overwhelmed and start to fuss, and looks away from the source of stimulation. Bring your baby to a quieter environment that is dim and less noisy. Limit stimulating activities, especially close to nap and bed times.
When your baby cries in pain, it is likely to be ear-piercing, and a sudden out-of-ordinary cry that lasts a few seconds. The baby usually needs to catch her breath, before repeating another long, sharp cry. Check if there is any object that is pressing on your baby, or any thread or object that has caught around her body. Pick your baby up and soothe her, and if she has had a feeding, it could also be colic. Put her belly on your forearm and help her relieve the gas.
When your baby is bored, she may first make some cooing sounds to get you to play with her. When unattended, it may get louder, fussier and turn into loud bursts. If your baby stops crying when someone is paying her attention, it would probably be that she just needs some interaction!
If your baby whimpers weakly, it could be that she is sick and lacks the energy to cry. Check for other symptoms like fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rashes and get your baby to the doctor if symptoms are present.
Your baby may also be crying because she is scared or worried. If your baby looks startled or gives a shriek, pick her up and calm her down.
Techniques to Sooth a Crying Baby
If there seems to be no particular reason for your baby’s cries, try different techniques to soothe her and calm her down. Here are some ways that you can explore:
– Holding your baby, carrying her in a sling/ swaddle (if you need your hands free)
– Rocking your baby or gentle swaying, either in your arms or a baby chair
– Singing or talking to your baby
– Playing soft music
– Turning on white noise
– Stroking her head or patting her back
– Walking her in a stroller
– Giving her a bath
– Massaging your baby
– Distracting your baby
In general, it is important to attend to your baby’s cries; a baby should also not be left alone to cry, especially in the first few months of age.