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Your Crying Baby Needs You

by Jeri Carr

Sometimes new parents think it'd be great if only their baby could talk. Well, babies do talk, in their own language. The most powerful and obvious component of that language is crying. Crying provides babies with the ability to communicate their needs in a way that is almost impossible to ignore, even though they can't talk or do anything for themselves.

It can be hard to know exactly what a baby wants, but one thing is certain, most new parents (especially mothers because they are biologically wired to be that way) find it difficult to hear their baby cry. Nature designed babies' cries to provoke a response. Crying is an inborn survival mechanism.

In the beginning, neither parents or their baby really understand each other very well. A baby can't understand what his parents say to him, but he can understand the good feeling he gets inside when his mother holds him. He understands things like touch, the sound of a gentle voice, and how much better his tummy feels after his mommy nurses him.

Babies enter this world helpless and totally dependent on others to meet their needs - both their physical and emotional needs. By answering their baby's cries responsively, parents help their baby learn to trust. He will begin to anticipate a response and will feel loved and secure.

By taking the time to listen to their baby, parents will begin to know their baby and become aware of pre-cry cues... little noises or movements their baby makes that signal that he needs something. Nurturing responses to these pre-cry cues encourage baby to communicate in ways other than crying and the communication between parent and child becomes more attuned to one another and baby cries less and less.

When parents don't listen to their baby's cries, his cries escalate and he becomes harder to comfort. If his cries continue to be ignored, he will cry until he becomes exhausted or gives up in despair. By ignoring their baby's cries, instead of learning to communicate better, the communication system is broken down and parents can become insensitive to their baby's needs.

Sometimes parents fear that they will create a clingy, dependent child if they don't make their child learn to self-soothe. They are afraid that too much attention will create a spoiled child. The opposite is true. Babies cannot meet their own needs, and those who have their needs met at an early age will grow into secure, independent children. And just as fruit that is left on the counter too long will spoil, babies "spoil" when parents don't give them all the love and comfort they need.

Sometimes babies cry even after all of their apparent needs have been met. When unable to find out why their baby is crying, parents sometimes take their baby's crying personally, but they shouldn't. Bad feelings can arise that make it uncomfortable for parents to be around their inconsolable baby. They may start to feel that since their presence doesn't help calm their baby, maybe he would be better off alone. Though these feelings are valid, parents can be certain that their calm presence is of vital importance to their baby. Babies become frightened when left alone to cry and begin to feel that no one cares. They may eventually stop crying when left alone (often after becoming hysterical), but at what cost? A crying baby deserves a shoulder to cry on.

This article was first published on Suite101.com.


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