Baby’s Brain in Week 13
Your mother notices how you attend to your child when he cries. Once screeching starts, you check on him to determine if he’s crying because he’s hungry or because he’s distressed from too much sensory stimulation.
After observing your interactions, Gram comes right out and says, “Your baby is crying because he wants you to pick him up. If you do, you’ll be spoiling him.”
Now you’re worried. You thought you were just being attentive and attuned and, well, a good mom. But will all your responsive care lead to a child who is demanding and spoiled?
What the Research Shows
Research related to the theory of attachment tells moms and dads that actually the opposite is true. By picking up a crying baby and attending to his needs responsively, he’ll soon cry less. So there’s no need to ration your attention. It’s the infant who isn’t attended to who cries more, louder, and longer. (Can you imagine the poor researchers who had to endure these crying studies?)
Since your baby can’t talk, he communicates with cries, movements, and facial expressions. Once you determine what your baby needs—feeding, sleeping, or comforting—by all means, indulge him. You’ll be bringing you both pleasure and building his trust in you.
What does trust mean to an infant? That someone is available on a predictable basis. When your baby knows this, he relaxes. An infant without an attentive parent is stressed, which works against his brain and body developing optimally. Children who feel secure actually explore more and feel safe to satisfy their curiosity.
Week 13 Brain Booster
Soon your infant will graduate to short periods of contentment without you. You’ll walk into the nursery and he’ll be watching the mobile overhead. Only a month ago you thought your child would be tattooed to your arm forever, yet there he is occupying himself.
Then one day, as you put your sleepy baby in his crib, he’ll whimper but not erupt into a full cry. You’ll ask yourself, “Should I pick him up or offer him the opportunity to settle himself to sleep?” It’s your call.
Responding immediately to milder cries may reinforce crying, but only you can decide whether to side with reassurance or reinforcement. The best parenting rule of thumb is to pick up the baby when his whimpers turn into wails.