Crying and Sleep

Your baby is driven by her needs.  This means that she cries because she genuinely needs something, not because she is ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ or ‘manipulative’.

Your baby is evolutionarily designed to need you close to her physically and emotionally and to cry and become distressed when she is separated from her.  It’s quite normal for her to need the soothing of breastfeeding or cuddles or simply your physical presence to get to sleep.  You will not have to do this forever – in fact being responsive to your baby’s cries is far more likely to help her develop into a good sleeper and a more emotionally secure person growing up.

Many popular parenting theories recommend letting your baby cry herself to sleep, and warn against comforting your child or supporting them in other ways such as feeding or cuddles to help them sleep.  According to these theories, if you do this you will be causing your baby to become overly dependant on you and get into bad sleep habits.  Our society values independence so much that this is a dire threat!

However the most up to date research shows that leaving babies to cry uncomforted alters the way their brain develops and leaves them less able to cope with stress and more vulnerable in the long term to a variety of physical and mental illnesses.  This research also shows that if your baby’s needs are consistently and warmly met they are much more likely to develop emotional and physical resilience and independence.

Of course you also need to allow for the fact that you have needs and will often be tired, frustrated and exhausted by a baby that won’t sleep without your effort.  This is a time for being gentle with yourself and for putting baby’s and your needs first – housework, visitors, emails, and other demands can be put aside as you focus on each other and getting through those early weeks.

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Posted on July 2, 2011, in Sleep and Crying. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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