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Monday, September 7, 2009

On a loved baby and a contented grandpa...

Well, Fiona is home and, for the most part, she is a contented baby. She makes funny faces, she waves her arms wildly enjoying her freedom and sometimes she cries. So far, when she cries someone usually picks her up and she mellows out.

Is this wise? I don't follow this stuff closely, at least I didn't, but I thought we were supposed to leave a child to cry and not reward them for bugging us. But, I pick Fiona up almost every time she cries. My hold-the-baby response just seems so natural and her hold-me-and-I-stop response also seems so natural, so expected, so right.

Time for some research.

First I found lots of links to something called "Attachment Parenting." Miriam Stoppard had lots of good advice. I don't know about the accuracy of the science but the close, caring relationship she promotes surely cannot be bad. She writes, "I shrink from leaving a baby to cry for long periods." But, what is a long period of time? I moved on.

Dr. Laura Markham tells me that Fiona thinks she's in mortal danger unless she's in some one's arms. I don't think so. Lay Fiona down and she's cool. Honest. When Markham told me to keep the baby close by, " . . . in the same bed," it was time to move on. This advice can be deadly.

Parents should never sleep in the same bed with infants or toddlers under the age of 2, the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned. Sleeping in the same bed with your newborn poses a significant risk of accidental smothering or strangling.

"Don't sleep with your baby or put the baby down to sleep in an adult bed," Ann Brown, the commission's chairwoman, counsels parents. According to an agency study and published by the American Medical Association (A.M.A.), over an eight-year period 515 children under 2 – an average of 64 a year – died as a result of sleeping in a bed with an adult or much older person.

A safer option is a co-sleeper bassinet which is attached to the bed of the parents but allows the child to sleep in a separate, protected space.

So much for attachment parenting. I went looking for university sponsored sites.

I found the following on a site run by the University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF): "Babies cry one to four hours a day. Sometimes they cry because they are hungry, tired, have a dirty diaper or just want to be held. Sometimes babies cry for no known reason. Many babies cry more in the early evening -- just when you're trying to have dinner. Babies cry the most between the ages of 6 to 8 weeks."

O.K. We're in agreement: babies cry; it's normal. But, should we pick 'em up the moment they burst into tears?

I clicked on Soothing Your Crying Infant on the UCSF website.

I learned:

"When your baby is crying, you can try:

  • Changing your baby's diaper
  • Changing his or her clothes or blankets to see if your baby is too hot or cold
  • Feeding your baby to see if he or she is hungry
  • Checking your baby for anything that might cause pain, like an open diaper pin.

If your baby keeps crying, you may want to:

  • Rock your baby in a rocking chair or swing
  • Gently stroke your baby's head
  • Try offering your baby a pacifier
  • Take your baby for a walk or a ride in the car
  • Try giving your baby a warm bath
  • Play soft music
  • Ask a friend or relative to help you

If your baby continues to cry, understand that babies are exposed to many new sights, sounds, touches, tastes and smells -- all of which can be quite overwhelming. Crying is the only way babies have to release tension. Therefore your baby may be telling you that he or she needs to be left alone. Try swaddling your baby snugly in a blanket and lay him or her in a crib in a quiet, dark room.

Allow your baby to cry for 10 to 15 minutes. You may need to go to another room and shut the door during this time, but remember you are not being mean to your baby by allowing him or her some time to cry. Also, remember to consider whether your baby might be sick."

Did you notice that? Buried in all this advice it says, ". . . your baby may be telling you that he or she needs to be left alone . . . you are not being mean to your baby by allowing him or her time to cry."

Yesterday Fiona was supposed to be sleeping but she didn't seem to know it. She was oh-so-alert. And then she started to cry. But, her crying didn't seem to have depth. This wasn't anguish from deep within. She almost seemed to be crying to just get some low level practice. I didn't pick her up. She soon stopped and looked quite content.

I feel vindicated. I did the right thing.

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Addendum:

After writing the above, I found a bit more on the topic. I really liked the tone of this writing.

If you want to pick up your infant almost immediately, and do it, don't feel guilty. A loved baby is a contented baby. They feel confident and safe in their surroundings. I personally could not go more than five minutes without cuddling Fiona when she cries.

A loved baby is a contented baby and such a loved baby makes for a contented grandpa.

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