Dear blogging nana,
My wife and I have a 3-month old baby and disagree on how to handle her crying. I can’t bear to hear such a small child hurting, so whenever I’m home, I hold her and do my best to soothe her–I bounce her, drive her in the car, or, a new trick, blow in her face–which seems to be pretty effective. It’s exhausting, but the alternative seems worse.
My wife, on the other hand, feels that I’m spoiling her, and, if I’m not around, leaves her in her crib to cry it out. I feel really bad about this, and it’s affecting our marriage. What do you think?
tired and worried dad
Dear t & w d,
First I want to congratulate you and your wife on your new child. And for the hard and important work you are both engaged in. I think half of my first son’s life–he’s 37 now– judging by the amount of care, demanding work, and speed of time passing, was those first 3 months.
Your question is such a good one, and one that’s been confusing parents since I was new to parenting. My parents’ generation, in general, guided by their doctors, just left us to cry. For 150,000 years before that, judging by hunter-gatherer societies, parents probably held their babies all the time.
Here’s my thinking: Your policy of holding your child makes sense because you don’t leave the child alone when she is having a hard time. [Being alone in the middle of struggles is not good for anyone, whatever age.] Your wife’s position is helpful because it allows the child to release her tension, hurt, fears [it’s hard to know what they’re working on at that age] through her vigorous crying.
But there’s another way that allows for both benefits and is easier on the baby and the parents. After doing the usual checks for dirty diapers, hunger, uncomfortable clothes, just hold her while she’s crying without trying to stop her. The child can use this natural process to release those bad feelings without interruption [jiggling, blowing, etc.] but isn’t left alone while she’s feeling so bad. Hold her, listen to her, and let her know you’re there with some loving words and looks.
This takes less energy on the part of the parent than trying to stop the crying; and, though, admittedly more than leaving the child alone, I think you’ll be pleased at how relaxed your daughter will be after a good long cry with a parent’s warm attention.
questions for the blogging nana? write firstname.lastname@example.org