A friend of mine posted a link today to some interesting research. One of the heartbreaking things for me when Joseph was in hospital, was hearing him cry. For the first six weeks we were not allowed to pick him up. When he cried every fibre of my being wanted to pick him up, and hold him close, and kiss the top of his head, let him breastfeed until he felt better. But I couldn't. The most I could do was stroke is foot, or do containment holding, which is lovely, but its not the same.
Joseph's cry sounded so different to other babies. He sounded a bit like a cat whose tail is trapped in a door. High pitched, alarming, a noise that demanded action. And now, it would appear that there is a scientific basis for this. No wonder I felt so trapped, and so alienated from my baby when he cried.
I often come across people who have difficulty with their baby crying, particularly when being put down to sleep. Joseph has always been a very independent sleeper. A very close friend of mine, who as best man at our wedding, who has two children of his own, once spent a long time rocking Joseph until he fell asleep, and was most put out when he put him down, that he woke up! Joseph had never been rocked to sleep so he didn't know he was meant to stay asleep.
When Joseph first came home, he felt, quite understandably, very unsettled. Night times were difficult. The flat was too quiet, too dark. No chatting nurses, or clip clopping down corridors, or the beep of machines. Joseph had got used to all that white noise, and to quite a high level of light. The ward was never dark, as babies needed to be visually monitored at all times. I felt very strongly that Joseph needed to learn to sleep in his crib. I would have loved to rock and hold him to sleep all the time, but I felt this wasn't good long term, also he used to get over stimulated and over handled, and I wanted him to be able to retreat to his cot and his crib when this happened.
I read some of the baby care books, and some of the techniques alarmed me. Leaving a small baby to "cry it out" (whatever "it" is meant to be) did not sit well with me. PUPD (pick up put down) was no good for a baby who didn't like to be over handled. So I came up with my own technique.
Joseph's crib was at the bottom of the bed. So at his bed time I'd put him down, and then I'd lie at the foot of the bed, reading a book, or a magazine. He would look over at me every now and then for reassurance, and then drift off to sleep. I didn't hold him or touch him, I was just there. There was no crying, no fear, and after 15 minutes or so he would drift off to sleep. After a while, he didn't need me any more. He would go into his crib, and just drift off to sleep without my presence. I'd like to think it was because that should he need me, he'd know I would be there in a flash.
To me, crying is communication. Yes its loud, and can be frustrating, but this little being is trying to tell us something when he/she is crying. Hunger, fear, loneliness can all be communicated in a cry. And the parent's response is vital, so the baby is secure. A baby who knows its cries are answers, does, in my opinion, become an adult who knows when they speak, they are listened to.
I don't believe you can spoil a baby, but I do believe you can harm them by ignoring their cries.