Parenting Question Answered: Picking Up Your Baby When They Cry

May 19, 2012

Q: I keep getting mixed reactions about how often I pick up my child when they are crying. They say that picking them us when they are crying is making them too dependent or spoiling them. Is this true? Am I ruining my child's development?

 

A: As a Relational Psychotherapist and a mother, I believe there is nothing wrong with picking up or soothing your child when they are crying. Its the only way they can communicate what they need. Its our job as parents to learn and help them express themselves. In fact, studies after studies will tell you the same. I recently read a study by Eleanor Maccoby. She measured how long it took for mothers to respond to infants crying and followed these mother-child dyads for several years.

 

Some of the results were:The faster moms picked up their babies, the less the babies cried overall. Babies who were picked up fast grew up to be the most independent and curious toddlers.Toddlers were more confident to explore the world as they felt safe in their environment and supported by their caregiver.

 

Toddlers felt their needs met and were more comfortable in their surroundings and themselves.

 

Dr Benjamin Spock wrote a book in regards to crying infants:"Stress in infancy, caused by leaving a young baby to cry, is particularly painful because, if ignored, it results in high levels of stress hormones that dampen the formation of a healthy brain. A baby is born expecting to have stress managed for her -- by her parents. The prefrontal cortex (the frontal lobes), the part of the brain that exerts control over emotions, is virtually non-existent at birth.

 

Stress hormones will remain low if you or your partner or another caring adult teach your baby to trust by holding, stroking, feeding, nuzzling, reassuring, whispering and laughing. However, as her emotions are unstable, those stress hormones can shoot up if there's no caring adult to calm her when she's upset.

 

The simple truth is that your baby doesn't have the equipment, anatomical or physiological, to deal with distress, because that part of the brain that would help her cope doesn't come on stream for another four to six months."

 

In conclusion, no, you're not ruining your child's development or making them too independent when you pick them up to soothe them. You should do what feels right to you, I always tell moms to go with their gut - it rarely guides you in the wrong direction. Only you know whats best for your child.

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