Recent research reports have encouraged mothers to not respond to their babies when they cry. In response to this advice, a panel of noted mother-baby sleep experts from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Australia have developed a free handout for parents that offers parents ways to soothe crying babies, which is available through Praeclarus Press.
“My baby is only happy in my arms. The minute I put her down she cries.”
Exhausted new parents often wonder what to do. Should they let their babies cry? “No,” says a committee of prominent experts in mother-baby sleep. Crying babies should not be ignored. This committee, representing researchers and parenting advocates from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia, has written a free handout for parents: Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby. This handout discusses current research about mother and baby’s sleep and includes specific strategies for exhausted parents.
Although having a baby who is “sleeping through the night” is something most parents aspire to, the reality is that most babies wake frequently up to 12 months of age. It is the parents’ job to help their babies return to sleep quickly. To achieve that goal, parents are often advised to let their babies cry. Unfortunately, that method is not particularly effective in helping babies settle. Rather, parents who respond to rather than ignore their babies’ cries have babies who go back to sleep more quickly.
The reason for this is that babies have immature nervous systems and need others to help them regulate their emotions. When adults hear babies crying and respond, babies develop the tools, both physiologically and emotionally, to calm themselves. Leaving babies to cry increases babies’ stress levels and often keeps them awake longer. It does not guide them emotionally or physically toward the goal of regulating their own distress and response.
The authors of Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby also suggest that parents learn to think about sleep differently when it comes to young babies. Waking is a normal part of an infant’s night that depends on many things, including how they are being fed. Breastfeeding infants usually wake more frequently than those who are mixed or formula feeding . Waking isn’t a problem just because it is happening. In fact, night waking may actually protect babies from SIDS.
Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby describes specific strategies to calm an upset baby, such as recreating the movement the baby experienced in the womb, relying on touch and skin-to-skin contact, recreating familiar sounds, and breastfeeding. Keeping babies nearby when sleeping is also helpful. Finally, parents are urged to listen their babies and trust their instincts. Parents are ultimately the best experts in caring for their babies.
Dr. Wendy Middlemiss, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of North Texas, describes the goals of Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby as follows:
The importance of calming a baby, whether during sleep or when awake, goes well beyond helping the baby stop crying. Calming contributes to infants’ socioemotional, physical, and neurological well-being. In this brief handout, we summarize why calming is such an important way to help infants grow, why some babies may need more than others, and why some types of caring interactions may be most helpful for babies. Throughout each section, our goal is to assure parents of how important is their role in helping babies experience calming and comforting care—important during these early months and essential to their healthy development.
Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby is a tool every new parent should have. Parents will learn that even normal babies to wake at night, and that night waking does not mean that they are doing something wrong. Parents will also learn that there are things they can do to help everyone in their household get a good night’s sleep.
Simple Ways to Calm a Crying Baby is available at Praeclarus Press.com. Praeclarus Press is a small press dedicated to women’s health. The handout authors include:
Sarah Ockwell-Smith (UK)
John Hoffman (Canada)
Darcia Narvaez (USA)
Wendy Middlemiss (USA), API Research Group
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (USA), API Resource Advisory Council and guest editor of the Journal of Attachment Parenting
Helen Stevens (Australia)
James McKenna (USA), API Advisory Board
Tracy Cassels (Canada)