Crying is a baby’s way of communicating. Particularly in the early months, a baby cries when she’s hungry, cold, wet, tired, or wants to be held and played with.
Between six and nine months, she may cry, particularly at night, because she doesn’t understand that her parents exist unless she sees them. Babies know the world as either pleasurable or uncomfortable; when their needs are met, they feel good, and when they aren’t, they feel badly and cry.
You may wonder how you should respond when your baby cries. If you pick her up each time, will her demands increase? Is there a chance she’ll become spoiled? Parents who wish to follow their instincts and respond to their baby’s tears often are confused by people who say, “Don’t pick her up; you’ll spoil her,” “Let her cry; it’s good for her lungs,” or “You can’t always be there for her.”
The truth is that picking up your crying baby won’t spoil her. Rather, it will help her develop a sense of security that will actually make her less likely to cry in the long run. Babies whose cries bring a helpful response begin to anticipate that whenever they cry, someone will respond. This cause-and-effect connection gives a baby a secure and comfortable feeling and also teaches her to trust her parents. Learning to trust is a critical part of early development. If parents respond erratically and unpredictably to their baby’s cries, their baby will sense that there’s little she can do to affect her environment. In such a situation, she’ll learn to feel insecure and mistrust those around her.
Of course, there’s a wide range of parental behavior between the extremes of total responsiveness and unresponsiveness. No matter how hard you try to calm and comfort your baby, there will be times when she’ll remain frustrated. But if you’re consistently caring during the early months, your baby will start life with a sense of trust.