Soothe your crying baby or leave him alone?

This is a crisis on conscience that all new parents face: Should you immediately try to soothe a crying baby and pick him up, or should you fight every natural instinct and allow him to self-soothe for a bit? Parents are receiving mixed messages, and even childcare experts are divided on whether picking up a crying baby will reinforce bad behaviour or otherwise. We aim to shed some light on the subject.

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Why you should soothe a crying baby

Even if many parents feel that constantly giving in to your baby’s cries can lead to over-reliance, you can’t spoil a newborn baby. Your infant needs constant reassurance, closeness and warmth. It also needs to build a trusting bond with you. Imagine what a shock it must be for your little one to find himself alone in a strange foreign world. By responding to his cries in the first few months, you are reassuring your baby that he is completely safe and loved.

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During the first few months, you are also getting to know each other, so baby will become accustomed to your presence, your smell and your touch – which will become his safe-haven. Crying is the only way for your baby to communicate with you and grab your attention. They cry when they need something from you, and they want comfort as much as they require food or a diaper change.

Soothe a crying baby: Will this reinforce bad behavior?

There is a fine line between attentive and over-indulgent. It’s necessary to attend to your newborn in the first couple of months whenever he cries. But if this remains the same by the time your baby is six months old, you would be reinforcing his bad behaviour by picking him up. Babies are creatures of habit, and they learn behavioural patterns from their parents. At some point, he will have to learn to soothe himself.

When you should not soothe a crying baby

As your baby develops, you will learn to distinguish between different cries and to act accordingly. At times, babies cry for no obvious reason, and no matter what you do, they just seem to be inconsolable. It is during times like these, when you are frustrated and tired beyond the point of reason where both you and the baby are better off with some down time. Place your infant in his crib and gently close the door. Take a 10 or 15-minute break for yourself, and let your baby get it out of his system. Like adults, babies can be moody.

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Some babies might also find too much activity overwhelming, and moving them to a quiet spot will help to calm them down. The same can be said when it comes to nap time. When babies are overly tired, they cry too. Before you put your baby to bed, make sure all the bases are covered – he isn’t hungry, sick or wet – and leave him for a moment. If it’s a tired cry, he will be fast asleep within minutes. Swaddling can also help.

Go with your gut and pay close attention to your baby’s different cries. You will quickly learn to tell whether he needs to be consoled or simply needs to be left alone.

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