Is a “good” baby one who sleeps a lot and doesn’t cry much? Most people say “yes,” and their answer is understandable. “Good” and “fussy” are judgmental terms people often use to describe the behavior and temperament of a baby.
Parents often believe that their child is a reflection of them. They want a content baby who’s easy to care for and who gives them a feeling of success. And many parents feel bad if their baby cries or has colic. Labeling and judging babies for their behavior isn’t useful because they’re only expressing their needs in the best way they can. When babies cry and fuss, they’re telling their parents that something’s wrong. They’re tired, hurt, uncomfortable, hungry, wet, scared, or needing to be held.
Labeling babies begins very early. One new mother was told by a maternity nurse that her hungry infant had been crying in the nursery. “What a fussy baby you have!” Out in public, a well meaning person will say, “What a good baby. Is he always like this?” Such a question can put the mother in a bind. Although she may answer “yes,” she may also remember that the previous week he cried all during a shopping trip.
One of the hardest times to deal with a crying infant is at night. After giving to your baby all day, you may feel drained and resentful when you have to give again at night. You may grit your teeth when awakened at 3 a.m. and feel overwhelmed. But if you can think of your baby as expressing needs, you may feel more accepting.
Once you understand that your baby’s crying is a kind of communication, you may find yourself responding differently, trying to understand why he cries, or why he doesn’t sleep as much as you think he should or as much as you would like. And you may also feel less harassed when your baby fusses in public. It’s easier to be comfortable with him when you no longer feel pressured to have a “good” baby.