How to Calm a Fussy Baby

The Myth of Spoiling

Most pediatricians and child-development experts will tell you not to ignore a crying baby - but none so adamantly as William Sears, M.D., and his wife, Martha Sears, R.N. Well known for their "attachment parenting" philosophy, the two have co-authored numerous parenting and child-development books.

They call advice that you simply let your baby cry it out "misguided," asserting that it fails to recognize the importance of communication in a baby's cry and that it "devalues" a mother's sensitivity. They dispute the notion that parents who always respond to an infant's cries are somehow spoiling him or that the child will never learn how to calm and settle himself.

Sears and other pediatricians also point to the 1970s research of Sylvia Bell and Mary Ainsworth, who studied two groups of children - those whose mothers promptly and caringly responded to their infants' cries, and those whose mothers were more restrained. Bell and Ainsworth found that the children in that first group were more securely attached to their mothers and had better communication skills than the children in the second group.

"Can you hear a small baby's cry without feeling your heart speed up, without an urge to pick that baby up and comfort her?"
- Calming Your Fussy Baby, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., and Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D.

Soothing Strategies

Some babies can frazzle even the calmest of parents with weeks of daily inconsolable crying or screaming, often worsening in the late afternoon and evening. Your physician can tell you if the cause is colic, a condition that usually starts between the baby's second and fourth weeks of life. While there is no definitive explanation for why colic occurs, it usually decreases with age, and rarely continues beyond 4 or 5 months. (See "Help for Colicky Babies")

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