Quite a lot of crying is preventable by the way that babies are looked after and responded to.
Anthropologists and psychologists have noticed the style of parenting that leads to lower levels of crying is a sensitive, baby-centred style of parenting, sometimes called ‘attachment parenting’ in the West. This style of parenting has been successful for thousands of years all around the world.
- Carrying your baby a lot
- Feeding your baby frequently
- Sleeping close to your baby
Instead of following a strict routine where babies spend lots of time separated from their parents in a nursery and feeds are scheduled, it is more responsive to a baby’s needs for closeness.
Chilled mum, chilled baby
Babies really respond to your behaviour and the tension that they feel from you when you are wound up. The calmer you can be with your baby, the less likely he is to pick up on your anxiety and stress. So when your baby’s crying, the best thing that you can do is really try and relax and breathe deeply.
Babies find it secure and soothing to spend a lot of their time in close contact with their parents. As a parent it is easier to see and respond to their needs and cues. When you are holding your baby you can sense if they’re uncomfortable and your body heat will help to regulate their temperature.
If you feed them when they show their cues of hunger, you will not wait until they get hungry and they have to cry. This can also reduce the amount of wind your baby swallows as lots of crying can mean your baby swallows lots of air and gets uncomfortable after a feed.
Sleeping close to your baby
Sleeping babies in a separate nursery is a very recent situation in terms of human history, and the Department of Health recommends having your baby in the same room as you when they sleep for the first six months, ideally in their own bed space right next to your bed. This helps to reduce the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Scientists think this might be partly because the parents’ breathing helps to regulate that of their baby, plus parents can more quickly spot if their baby is not breathing well. Also, you will sense when they move and can respond and feed them or stroke them or soothe them before they rouse themselves up and wake.
You might both find night feeds a little easier and less disruptive, especially if you are establishing breastfeeding and boosting your milk production. Of course, this is a personal choice and you should take on board any advice on offer then do what you feel works best for you and your family.
Crying babies around the world
Professor Marc Bornstein, the Head of Child and Family Research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in America, has spent his academic career looking at parenting around the world. He has reported that when mums in Kenya watch videos of American mums with their babies they were really surprised and anxious by how much crying the American babies did as they report that babies in Kenya spend much less time crying. He concludes this is largely due to the ‘attachment’ parenting which is common and traditional there.
When your baby cries in public
It can be really stressful if your baby starts crying when you are out and about. Often in the UK, if your baby starts crying when you are in public (or if you’ve got a disapproving in-law), you feel like must stop your baby crying immediately.
This can make any new mum or dad feel very uptight. Not surprisingly, when all the adults around are being uptight, a baby’s crying escalates because the baby is picking up on the tension. Many of us have seen this played out on an aeroplane or in a waiting room.
Try to focus on your baby and not any disapproving adults around you (often they may not really be disapproving and may even be trying to give you a sympathetic smile!) Relax, breathe slowly, sing or hum to your baby and you will both calm down a bit. Remember, everyone around you was a baby once! Crying babies are not spoilt, they just need a little bit of help from you.