Babies cry. It’s just a fact you’re going to live with for the next year. They can’t communicate with you any more effectively than by crying. And you will become accustomed to the sound sooner than you would have believed possible. But there is no doubt about it, as a parent, it’s incredibly heart-wrenching to listen to. Everything in your body tells you that you ought to do something in response to it right away – just stop her from crying! However, that’s ultimately the crux of the problem with other types of parenting and you, as a practical parent, have to learn how to wait and count to ten (at least ten!) before you make a decision on what to do about it.
In the first year, it’s your job as a practical parent to teach your baby how to sleep and eat, how to feel and deal with frustration, and how to gain some independence and, consequently, some confidence. Otherwise, you create a child who is literally attached to you and dependent on you to do everything for her. If you respond to her every cry right away, you are teaching your baby that she can’t rely on herself to soothe, to sleep, to play, or to do anything independently of you! When your baby is hurt, that’s a different matter — of course you should go to her, pick her up, and comfort her. But if your child is protesting a nap, crying between sleep cycles, or simply frustrated by something, it falls to you to utilize some other tool(s) to help your baby.
If your baby is crying in the crib because she’s protesting going down or waking up early from a nap, use the 15-minute rule. If your child is crying because she’s frustrated with a toy or she’s over being restrained to a car seat, play pen, or highchair, you can give her a minute to see if she can work it out and then you can offer some side-by-side soothing talk. But picking her up or removing her from the restraint right away will prove detrimental to her ability to deal! You don’t want to create a child who won’t sit in her car seat, won’t sleep without you, and/or needs you to play with her every time she plays — you don’t want to be the court jester, after all! You don’t want your baby to know that when she cries, you will rush over and remove her from the situation every time. You want her to know that you’re there but that you’re teaching her how to handle the circumstances of life.
Remind yourself of the teaching goals the next time your baby is crying:
- -I will teach my baby to become a “Rock-Star Sleeper!”
- -I will teach my baby to discover and learn through self-play.
- -I will teach my baby to comply when being restrained for her own safety.
- -I will teach my baby confidence through the successful independent activities she engages in.
Read the research debunking the science behind Dr. Sears’ claim that letting a baby cry for small amounts of time leads to higher cortisol levels and the “Pediatrics” Journal research that shows there was no difference between children who were sleep-trained as infants than those who were not in the short or long-term: “Pediatrics” Study (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)