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The Importance of Picking Up Babies When They Cry

by Jaime Vargas-Benitez

Picking up a crying baby nurtures their sense of independence. According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, babies whose cries are sensitively responded to cry seventy percent less than those who are ignored. Soothing a crying baby translates to healthier brain development and establishes a sense of trust in the baby. A sensitive, responding parent equals a healthier, more contented baby.

Why Babies Cry

Babies cry to express their needs, such as a wet diaper, a feeling of discomfort or fatigue. It is important that parents learn how to translate their baby's cries to understand what need is being communicated. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby's hungry cry is often short, low pitched and rises and falls, while a cry indicating pain is sudden and high pitched. Parents who respond immediately to their baby's cry learn quickly how to translate the meaning of that cry. All the baby's cries are communicating a need that requires meeting.

Nurturing Leads to Independence

According to an article in "Psychology Today" by Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez, babies who are picked up when crying become toddlers who are secure in exploring their environment, because they know they have security when they return to their parents. Responding to the baby's communication sends a clear message to the baby that his needs have been heard. Holding a crying baby gives them the nurturing, comfort and security they need in order to develop independence as toddlers.

Ignoring a Crying Baby

According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, the practice of allowing a baby to "cry it out" can cause damage to a baby's developing brain. Synapses -- the inter-connectors in the brain -- are damaged when babies cry for extended periods of time. Prolonged crying can create a lack of proper oxygen levels in a baby's brain. Dr. Sears asserts that ignoring a crying baby can have undesirable physical as well as emotional consequences.

Desensitized Parents and a Lack of Trust

According to world renowned expert in human development, Erik H. Erikson, babies develop a sense of trust or mistrust in the world in the first two years of life. When a baby is left to cry on their own, the caretakers are no longer in tune with the baby's communication. By tuning out, the responsible party is rejecting potentially serious cues to a problem. The baby could be crying because they have a trapped limb in their crib, for example. This increases the risk of physical danger to the baby and sends a signal that they are not safe and the world is not to be trusted.

About the Author

Jaime Vargas-Benitez has been a parenting writer since 2010. She has worked in the child wellness field in various roles for over 20 years. Along with the experiences of raising her own kids, she has been privileged enough to participate in the raising of hundreds of other children as well.

Photo Credits

  • David Woolley/Digital Vision/Getty Images