Leaving babies to cry is cruel!

Quite honestly, I am exasperated by a number of mantras I constantly hear about how to deal with crying babies. Let’s be honest and see the bigger picture.

“Self-soothing” is the idea that babies should learn to comfort themselves using another device like a dummy so that Baby does not need his parents to comfort him. Self-soothing almost inevitably involves leaving a baby to cry so that they can gradually learn to deal with their own emotional discomfort. Phrased like this, it almost sounds good, but in reality, it’s not at all. Women turn to their mothers, friends, doctors and clinic sisters to find solutions to crying, which is where they hear that they should not respond too quickly to their babies’ cries. Often I hear, “but I turned out fine and I was left to cry”.

Other common mantras include:

“It’s good for a baby to cry at birth because it exercises their lungs” – hogwash! Newborns cry because of the shock to their systems from the cold air after the warmth of the womb, and often because they are immediately separated from their mothers. A baby born gently and immediately drawn up onto his mother’s chest does not cry after birth.

“Babies will become spoilt and demanding children if you respond to every cry” – nonsense! 

Babies cry because they don’t have words to tell us what is wrong. They cry to communicate a need for comfort, understanding or reassurance, or they might quite simply need to suckle or be held. These are perfectly warranted physical and emotional needs and responding kindly to them has been proven to lead to greater security and confidence in children.

“It’s a harsh world and babies need to learn to cope from early on or they will become dependent, so don’t be too gentle” – untrue! The more sensitively one responds, the more rapidly little ones become used to this new world. They learn compassion and develop emotional confidence and self-esteem in this way, and research now confirms that it is precisely these little ones who need less therapy down the line and in fact, show greater independence when the time is right, than those who were left to cry it out.

Look at the state of the world. How many interpersonal relationships go pear-shaped? How many adults have ‘unhealthy comfort habits’? Think about the number of people in therapy for emotional crises. Perhaps, in light of all these, we should take a moment to reconsider these parenting mantras.

Please don’t fool yourselves.