By now, I think I have heard it all… Babies cry to exercise their lungs for example or “I don’t want hear my baby to cry at all, because it’s damaging for them”.
One of my questions of the sleep questionnaire is “Are you comfortable with age appropriate amount of crying?”, the answers vary.
The understanding of why babies cry varies greatly among the parents as well. I always try to explain why babies cry, because understanding it is much more important than not letting your baby to cry. And by cry I don’t mean “cry it out”, when you leave your baby alone to cry to fall asleep from exhaustion.
So lets clear something here – babies don’t cry to manipulate you, they are not exercising their lungs by crying or just because they have nothing else to do.
Crying is your baby’s first language, their way to communicate with you. I don’t think they should not be allowed to have their say. I don’t think you would say to your toddler “just be quiet” when they complained they are hungry, bored, too hot… You would do something about their discomfort, right?
Well, it’s the same with babies, there are endless reasons why they cry
- dirty nappy
- tummy ache
- too bright
- too cold
- too hot
- too loud
- too fast
and what they need is for you to help them to meet their physical or emotional needs. You need to learn how to recognise their cries and respond accordingly. It might be difficult at the beginning, as babies don’t use words, but the cries are different and not every cry means that they need to be fed.
What about the stress hormones? Those chemicals are not dangerous in themselves and will not damage your baby’s brain, they are much needed in humans to ensure the correct reaction. When your baby cries, they are letting you know they need something and you respond and meet their need, it could be taking your baby to a quieter room, or helping your baby to go to sleep. The level of the stress hormones will go down.
Prolonged periods of crying, when you leave your baby until they stop crying by themselves can result in negative changes in a baby’s brain, overtime they can become withdrawn, however the level of stress hormones will remain high. They will not respond by crying, which is their way of communicating with you.
What I’m trying to say is let your baby communicate with you but also communicate back and respond to what your baby is trying to tell you. It’s a process, something your learn and get better at recognising your baby first language.