Crying and Babies go hand-in –hand. In fact, the very sign of life in a new born baby is supposed to the loud cry. As babies grow into infants, crying starts to signify their needs such as hunger, thirst, discomfort or so on. So if they need another feed or they are wet and need a nappy/diaper change; they will cry to seek their mother’s attention. Sometimes, when they are left to sleep alone for a long time in the crib and do not feel the warmth of their mother’s body they start crying. As toddlers when they grow up and experience physical pain when they fall down or get hurt they start crying.
Mothers or parents in general apply two kinds of approaches to handle crying in children: the primitive cry-it out approach or the crying-in-arms approach. While the cry-it-out approach has existed predominantly in Western countries, it refers to letting the baby cry-it-out loud for a long time before it settles down. The crying-in –arms approach is considered to be more recent and similar to the attachment approach followed by modern parents. Let’s take a look at both the approaches one by one and the advantages they have.
The term “cry it out” refers to the practice of leaving babies in their cribs without picking them up, and letting them cry themselves to sleep. Babies who are left to cry it out alone may fail to develop a basic sense of trust or an understanding of themselves as a causal agent, possibly leading to feelings of powerlessness, low self-esteem, and chronic anxiety later in life. The cry-it-out approach undermines the very basis of secure attachment, which requires prompt responsiveness and sensitive attunement during the first year after birth.
Parents living in big houses moved cradles and cribs to a separate room. With the infants sleeping alone in another room, it was easy for parents to follow the cry-it-out advice, even if it went against their gut instincts. The decline in breastfeeding further contributed to the separation of mothers and infants. With bottle-feeding from birth on, the last remaining link to the mother’s body was removed, resulting in the detached methods of child-rearing that were predominant in Western civilizations during the 20th century.
On the other hand, in the crying-in-arms approach, the first thing parents do when the baby cries is they look for all possible needs. When all immediate needs are filled and the baby is still crying, even though the mother is holding her lovingly in her arms, a helpful response is to continue holding her while trying to relax. They understand that this is not the time to continue searching frantically for one remedy after another to stop the crying. Instead, take your baby to a peaceful room and hold her calmly in a position that is comfortable for both of you. Look into her eyes and talk to her gently and reassuringly while expressing the deep love you have for her. Try to surrender to her need to release stress through crying, and listen respectfully to what she is “telling” you.
Your baby will probably welcome the opportunity to have a good cry.The success of the crying-in-arms approach lies in correctly interpreting your baby’s cues. Obviously, you don’t want to overlook legitimate needs by assuming that your baby “just needs to have a good cry.” For some crying there is no immediate remedy and it is not your fault. Once you begin to view crying in this way, you will learn to read your babies’ cues more accurately, to recognize the need for stress-release crying, and to relax when it occurs. This approach can even help prevent child abuse as it always creates a feeling of trust and confidence in each other. It boosts the self-esteem of the child and reduces the feeling of insecurity.
It is important to emphasize that the crying-in-arms approach is totally different from the cry-it-out approach: Your baby is with you at all times, so s/he will not experience any stress from separation. If you feel that you cannot respond compassionately to your baby’s crying, try to find someone else to hold him rather than leaving him to cry alone. Your baby will not cry indefinitely. After the crying has run its course, your baby will probably fall asleep peacefully, or become calm and alert.
Parents need not to feel guilty about how others will judge them if they have some crying babies. Because, some crying can mean purely medical symptoms such as crying caused due to allergies or food sensitivities. It is definitely worth checking into all possible causes for crying and searching for remedies. However, if there is no medical reason for the crying, it is likely that your baby simply needs to release stress.
Sqn Ldr Vidula Abhyankar (retd) A SSC Officer of Indian Air Force, having background of a linguist in English Language (ELT) has worked for last 17 years in the field of education, training and development of Air warriors and their families.