Is it OK to let my baby cry for a while?

You’ve fed, burped, changed, entertained, and soothed your baby, but she’s still crying. The question begs itself: should you systematically hold or rock your crying baby in that case? Or is it OK to let them cry for a while? And how much is a ‘while’?

There’s no consensus on this question from experts. What most would agree on is that it’s up to the parents and there is no evidence of immediate or long-term harm or gain to your baby whichever method you adopt. Your baby is reassured by her parents and by the rocking motion which reminds her of being in the womb. Similarly, as a new parent and a new mom in particular, holding your baby triggers the bonding process and is something you will do quite naturally. There will be times, however, when your baby’s need for comfort exceeds your capacity to follow through and drains your resources. Your character, your physical state, your lack of sleep, your level of alertness as well as your psychological state should all factor into your decision to push yourself to continue carrying your baby.

For me, my lack of experience as a mom and my tendency to over-worry meant that it was impossible for me to leave my baby crying for extended periods of time during his first couple of months. I almost systematically held or rocked my crying baby until about 3 months, pushing myself beyond my limits at times. This was partly motivated by my anxiety and my fear that I was not able to respond to his basic needs. At around 3 months, I gradually realized that my attitude is exaggerated and started to tone it down. My baby’s growing weight, his otherwise clear signs of contentment during most of the day, and my own accumulated fatigue led me to confidently start leaving him to cry for short periods of time by himself. I would recommend taking a pragmatic approach to this question as opposed to an ideological one. I would sometimes delay my basic needs such as eating or going to the toilet just to hold him. When he woke up crying, I would move as fast as I could and do whatever it takes to stop the crying. With hindsight, I don’t think that was necessary and this attitude can have numerous side-effects such as excessive fatigue, less efficient breastfeeding, lack of ability to respond to your baby’s physical needs when they emerge soon after and potentially, not allowing your baby the chance to soothe herself independently.

To sum up, do what feels right to you, but, depending on your character, keep an eye out for a natural tendency to overdo the carrying and allow yourself to experiment different techniques and to change your mind along the way.

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