After the birth of my 4th baby, I was exhausted. My first child was born when I was 18 years old, full term natural birth, breastfed with no problems and he basically had all my attention. Holding him was never an issue so I didn’t let him cry without picking him up. My twins were born via c-section when I was 26. They were 6 weeks early and in the NICU for 3 weeks. By the time I had brought them home, the nurses already had them into a ‘routine’, feeding them my expressed milk and formula every 3-4 hours meant they didn’t really cry as they were always asleep, stuffed full of milk!
Aside from that, I think they quickly learnt that they couldn’t have my full attention all of the time. So here I am at 35 years old, am now a qualified midwife (since the twins were 1) with a 12 week old baby. He is the most demanding of them all! He was born after an intense 1 hour labour and we struggled with feeding initially. He latched on and fed but it was pure agony for days. I used all of my own advice on positioning and attachment to no avail until I decided to examine his mouth myself on day 5 and found a posterior tongue tie (one which is not instantly visible but can usually only be detected by feeling under the tongue). It was corrected the following day by an infant feeding specialist which made feeding easier but he just loved to cry when he wasn’t being held. I got nothing done, I mean nothing.
Cooking dinner was impossible and my family had to wait until daddy came home from work so he could help. I felt like I was going mad and getting no where fast so I decided to let my baby cry it out one afternoon. After 6 minutes of the loudest screaming, he was gasping for air and spent the next 10 minutes whimpering in my arms and “hiccuping” from the upset. My instincts were gnawing at me to go to him the whole time, but at the same time I needed to get the washing on. I wish I could have been logical, recalled my studies and acted with the knowledge I already had. Pick up any child development textbook and you’ll read that between 2-3 months the infant begins figuring out it is a separate being from it’s mother. With this awareness comes separation anxiety or the fear that the mother will never come back. (This lasts from 2-4 months.) This is made worse by the fact that infants cannot yet recall the past. They don’t remember that LAST TIME you came back. They only know you set them down and are leaving them NOW and are unsure of the future so they cry because they truly do NEED you. I knew all of this but my need to put the washing on made me dismiss my natural instincts and knowledge for 6 full minutes! Ridiculous. I will not and will NEVER be a cry-it-out parent. Temporary emotional abandonment is not my style. Besides, infants really and truly cannot be spoiled if they are younger than 4 months. They simply cannot yet learn that crying fits get them attention.
When I hear mothers who have practised the cry it out method say ” I let my baby cry it out and now they sleep 12 hours a night”, I want to scream ” Yes because all they have learnt is to stop bothering trying to get you to comfort them as there is no hope”. They have basically given up. Also it is not normal for a small baby who is a few weeks old to sleep 12 hours straight. Studies have shown that waking up regularly through the night actually reduces the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
Studies have also shown that babies who are left to cry excessively have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood which has been linked to emotional and attachment issues later in life for SOME of these babies.
Now there may be times when you have to put your baby down to cry for a minute or two so that you can use the toilet but in general go on and comfort your infant. Your gut and your instincts are screaming at you to do so and it is because they need help navigating the changes their brain is going through at this time. What we need to remember is that this phase is temporary. Your baby will soon learn to speak and communicate in other non verbal forms so the need to cry will reduce so hang in there, get as much help as possible around the house and prioritise. Does it really need doing or can it wait?