Parents who anticipated a smiling, happy baby while pregnant are often plunged harshly into a different reality once they get their bundle of joy home from the hospital. Hours of screaming and inconsolable crying can unnerve the most patient mother or father. Is there a solution when walking, rocking and turning on the vacuum cleaner doesn’t work? How does one soothe the obviously distressed little one in your care? And, can you really spoil a baby by picking him up when he’s crying? First off, let’s get one thing straight: babies can’t be spoiled. Sure, you can apply behavioral modification techniques and extinguish any behavior after a period of time but a baby isn’t one of Pavlov’s dogs. And, listening to well-meaning family and friends whose mantra is based on myth rather than research is probably not the most productive approach to any problem.
More importantly, understanding that crying is a baby’s only mode of communication and that picking him up and trying to console is a normal and natural response. Researchers validate the “rescue” instinct and tell us that if one responds immediately to a child’s cries in the first six months of life, babies are less likely to use crying as a mode of communication in the next six months. The wonderful thing to note is that the babies in this study did not become spoiled. In fact, babies who were loved and cuddled turned out to be more confident and resilient children..
Interestingly, colic is virtually non-existent in certain cultures around the world. What’s more, in some of these cultures, babies don’t cry at all! What do these parents know that we don’t? Actually, it’s a very simple answer and involves five basic techniques that work wonders: the ancient art of swaddling, white noise which mimics the sound of blood flow gushing through the arteries of the uterus, swinging movements, side/stomach positioning and sucking. If these calming techniques are used correctly and in unison, an inconsolable baby will be transformed into the happy, contented baby which makes parenting a delight.
Martha Ogburn RN, MS, owner and resident resource at the Barefoot Baby Boutique i where she has a Sleep Center with items designed to help babies sleep. Her Chat with an Expert Series includes a seminar on Techniques to Calm a Crying Baby.