“She cries a lot. She’s really fussy.”
A new mom was in the store this week with her 6 week old baby.
The baby was in her stroller and crying bitterly.
I mentioned that we had a nursing room. “Oh she’s already fed” said the mom.
Mom seemed genuinely distressed at her baby’s crying.
I offered that I was a Lactation Consultant and might have some ideas to help with the fussiness.
She jumped at the idea. I directed her and baby to the store nursing room.
As soon as she picked up her baby, she stopped crying.
“She seems to really like it when you hold her”.
“I know” she said, “But my mom told me that I have to train her to “self soothe”.
“Self soothing” has become one of the latest buzzwords in baby care. It’s supposed to make babies independent and not rely on their parents for comforting.
This is supposed to be a good thing.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m distressed, or lonely, I’ll usually choose to talk things through with a friend.
When my kids were young, they would wake me up in the middle of the night worried and upset, and then they’d snuggle up for comfort.
As an adult, if there isn’t anyone you can reach out to, some will eventually “self soothe”.
Among the most popular “self soothers” for adults are drugs, alcohol, compulsive eating, and mindlessly watching TV.
As a society, many tend to go for these self destructive approaches.
Yet, there are definitely healthier ways to handle stress. As adults, there is something about destructive “self soothing” that rarely feels right to us.
But what about your baby?
Babies are absolutely, totally and completely dependent.
When they are distressed and crying, they need comfort and support.
Forcing them to cry themselves to quiet – because they are exhausted and have given up – does not teach independence.
It teaches detachment, and that the world is an unreliable, uncaring place.
It also overstimulates the stress centres in their brains and makes them more prone to depression and aggression when they are older.
Is that really what you want for your baby?
Most mothers find that when their babies cry, they instinctively want to go to them, pick them up, nurse them, rock them, walk with them, sing to them – anything to make them feel better.
I told the young mom in the store that she should feel free to pick up and hold her baby.
She was so relieved.
She had been under pressure to ignore her baby’s cries and it deeply distressed her. She truly loved her baby and wanted her baby to be happy.
“Self soothing” as a trend, will probably fade away, as so many other trends have.
As I always say to moms, and this is timeless advice you’ll hear me say over and over…
“Listen to your baby, and listen to you heart”.
In time, this will become easier. And in time, you’ll gain confidence as a mom.