This week we get to Baby B #4: Belief in Baby's Cries. This is such a key element of Attachment Parenting because it really gets to the core of what AP is all about, forming a strong bond and solid lines of communication with your children. Crying is a baby's way to to communicate, so if you ignore that you are not encouraging the lines of communication between you and your baby.
Despite what many baby trainers will try to tell you, babies cry for a reason, not to manipulate. Talk to the parents you know that listen to and respond to their baby's cries. They will most likely tell you that they learned to distinguish their baby's different needs by their different cries. A baby's cry is a language all its own and Mom and Dad are the translators. The best way to get your baby to cry less is NOT to let them "cry it out" until they learn to "self soothe". The best way to get your baby to cry less is to learn your baby's different cries and respond quickly and appropriately.
On the "Cry it Out" note, why don't we quickly talk about what crying it out REALLY teaches your baby. Think about it this way... If your three year old came up to you crying and said he was in pain would you ignore him and wait until he "got over it"? Of course not! You would try to figure out what was wrong and help him with it. If you ignored your three year old when something was wrong he would stop coming to you for help. This is what you are actually teaching your baby when you let them "cry it out". They are not learning to self-soothe/sleep better, they are learning that crying doesn't work. It doesn't illicit the response they need so they stop trying to get your attention. They have not become a calmer baby, they have simply given up.
The fact is that some babies just cry more than others. If this is the case for you here are some tips that you can use that don't involve making them "cry it out":
1. First, and most important, look for any medical causes for the crying. Reflux and allergies (either to formula or something in your diet if breastfed) are two very common problems that fussiness in babies.
2. React calmly to your baby's crying. This is especially helpful in older babies. If your baby starts crying it isn't always best to rush over and scoop up your baby. Sometimes, the best response is to simply make eye contact with your baby and say "You're okay, Mommy's here".
3. Use your best judgement about what you can teach your baby to handle on their own. Young babies are pretty helpless, but as your baby gets older they will be more capable of handling problems on their own. Observe your baby and learn when you need to step in to help a fussing baby and when you should hold back and let your baby figure things out on their own.
4. Sometimes babies are just going to cry and there isn't much you can do about it, but it still helps a baby to know that they don't have to cry all alone. Don't take this burden alone. Let Daddy step in. or another close family member, so you can step away to calm and relax so you don't get overwhelmed by your baby crying.
Overall, the most important thing to remember is that babies cry to tell you something, so listen and respond.
Source: Attachment Parenting by Martha and William Sears
Come back next time for Baby B #5: Bedding Close to Baby