Nothing creates anxiety like the sound of your baby’s cry. Parenting advice on how to reduce crying is abundant, and can be very confusing.
Crying increases at about two weeks of age, peaks at about 6 weeks, and decreases by about 3 months. Experts tell us a baby cries an average of three hours a day. In reality, babies cry more in some cultures, and much less in others. In cultures where babies are carried or worn most of the time, they don’t cry much at all.
Why do babies cry? Newborns instinctively know it is not safe to be alone, which explains why it is so difficult to put a newborn down. In fact, babies that are held skin to skin at birth and in the first few days of their lives cry less then as well as weeks and months later. Your newborn knows you have everything she needs—safety, warmth, security and food. She doesn’t know where you are if she is not in your arms.
I am often asked if holding, carrying and/or wearing a baby too much will “spoil” the baby. Good news–babies don’t spoil! The newborn period is a time for cuddling. Holding and wearing your baby in the early weeks teaches trust, and is one of the most effective ways to reduce crying.
Newborns will cry if their early hunger signs go unrecognized. A baby that is opening his mouth, sucking his fingers, or rooting is ready to eat. Feeding at the first signs of hunger will help your baby to feed better and will reduce crying. Frequent breastfeeding and sucking are normal and help to build a robust milk supply.
Overstimulation can also be a source of crying. An overstimulated baby may look away to regroup, may become fussy, or may appear sleepy. Reducing light and noise levels can reduce stimulation, allowing your baby to regain control. Sucking can be calming, and swaddling can help to reduce crying, too.
Babies often have difficulty transitioning from wake to sleep and fussy to calm. Early babies have more difficulty with transitions than term babies. If you baby is crying, first check all the obvious reasons, like hunger, wet, too cold, or too hot. Holding your baby close and talking or singing to your baby may be enough distraction to reduce crying. Try patting, walking and swaying.
Child development experts do not recommend allowing a baby to “cry it out”. When left to cry unattended for extended periods of time, babies experience increased levels of stress hormones. Anxiety increases, learning ceases, and bonding can be negatively impacted. Giving babies the attention they need leads to the development of trust and independence.
A baby that cries more than normal should be evaluated by your pediatrician to rule out any health conditions.
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