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Babies and crying, what is OK?

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
baby sleep

I am busy writing away in my dusty writers Garrett! Yes, the baby sleep book is very nearly there so I thought it only fair that I gave you a little taster/teaser from it before it finally gives birth!

baby crying

A baby crying is a big subject and something that concerns most parents. As a baby whisperer and midwife of 27 years, I've noticed a huge paradigm shift from the controlled crying of the 60s and 70s. I think a lot of parents have been frightened into not allowing their babies to cry at any cost by all the research out there that talks about the toxic stress effects on babies' brains.

I think this issue needs a good exploration and a look at the research and some strategies of how we can help your baby cry less.

We have a fear of doing the wrong thing and so we get into the habit of stopping all baby crying at any cost.

We will do anything to achieve this and I’ve seen most of the ways this is achieved! The baby sleep industry is huge and the devices that are available to ‘help’ babies sleep is overwhelming, from white noise machines to light shows, lullabies and rocking baby chairs that have so many ‘bells and whistles’ it’s not surprising your baby will not go to sleep. I describe many of these things as the sticking plaster method. It stops the baby crying but only temporarily. Then we start doing everything in our power including using hairdryers, Swiss exercise balls, rocking, holding and feeding to sleep. The list is endless. Then we get to the point that nothing is working anymore. Our repertoire is exhausted. Then we panic. We think our life is quite possibly over because we’ve tried everything and now our baby is crying!

baby sleep

In parenting, there is often a backlash to methods that are in vogue.

We do some research and we decide no, we mustn’t do things this way and we often do the polar opposite. I think some of this is happening now. In the 1960s and 70s controlled baby crying was very much in vogue and we saw nothing wrong with it. Now we know that excessive crying is toxic for babies' brains so we stress about the crying and worry about the impact of cortisol that the nasty stress hormone has on our baby’s delicate brain. And so we cannot act because we are scared to do damage. We are sort of paralyzed with the fear of what ‘might happen’.

Instead, we need to look at the baby crying and what it means, how much is OK and when to intervene.

When we change things in a baby’s routine we create stress and babies cry when they release stress. I want you to think about crying as a stress reliever and something that takes toxins out of the baby’s body. I also want you to know a baby who is crying is a loved baby. If babies are ignored for any length of time they feel abandoned and shut down i.e. they don’t make any noise at all. We’ve all seen images of babies and children in Eastern European orphanages especially the Romanian ones in the 1980s. We were left with disturbing images of babies body rocking, crying a sad monotonous cry or sat there in their cots and cribs in silence.

Baby crying

Unfortunately in my career, working in Child Protection, I have seen those babies. I know it's too sad and these babies stay with me forever. However in my position as a baby whisperer I've never seen those babies ever. All I see are very loved and cared for babies and parents who want the best for them.

I’ve always felt that a little bit of baby crying is OK to achieve self-settling in a baby.

There has to be a finite end to how much and what volume and when we intervene and cuddle our baby. That’s what this book is hoping to do. There are some parents who will never want to sleep train and never feel OK with letting their baby crying at all and I know we may never agree on this point. I totally respect their point of view. However, I know that the majority of parents would like choice, options, and science-based knowledge to be able to make their own decisions.

I had the fortune to be directed towards a book (by a client) that examined babies and crying.

Aletha Solther

Once I’d read it I felt I’d found the Holy Grail and the evidence I so badly needed about babies and emotional health. Aletha Solter I want to thank you for writing Tears and Tantrums. Aletha Solter is a Ph.D. Psychologist and worked with Piaget.

For those of you who haven’t studied Psychology, Piaget is the father of Developmental Psychology. Most of our current theories on child development and relationships are from Piaget. Aletha you have changed my professional world for the better and the lives of a great many parents that I have since introduced to this book.

Here's a link to a free article byAletha Solter, Ph.D. on 'Understanding Tears and Tantrums' -

In future blogs, I'm going to explore this topic a little bit more and give you some strategies on how to help your baby who cries a lot.

Some further reading

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