For Crying Out Loud

If your little one cries whenever you put her down, it isn’t because she is spoilt. DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON explains why and how you can change her behaviour.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Can you spoil your baby by carrying her too often? You’re concerned because now she cries whenever you try to put her down.

Don’t worry – you can hold her in your arms as long as you want. Your child thrives with your love and attention. The warmth of your touch, the feeling of comfort when she nestles against you, as well as the sound of your heartbeat, enhances her attachment with you.

So why does your baby howl the moment you put her down? Consider this: She likes being held in your arms so much, she doesn’t want that comforting feeling to stop.

Yet this also means you can never get a moment to yourself. If it’s for this reason that you want to change her behaviour, you’ll find these strategies useful.

Put her down whenever you want It’s up to you to decide if your baby has been held in your arms long enough. Even if you expect her to cry, put her down on the playmat or in her cot anyway. 

Try to stay relaxed as you do so. If you tense up in anticipation that she is going to cry, she’ll sense this and cry even harder. Have confidence in yourself as a parent.

Speak to her lovingly as you let her go Remember that your love and affection is expressed verbally as well as non-verbally. As you stop carrying your baby, speak soothingly to her so she feels reassured.

Your positive comments, your smiling face, and your continued attention and interest, will help your baby continue to feel secure even though you’ve stopped carrying her.

Distract her when she starts to complain Have a toy in one hand when you let go of her, so you can distract her attention at the same time. You’ll be surprised how quickly she becomes engaged with something else if it grabs her attention.

This technique is especially effective if you keep talking to her and smiling at her at the same time. She’ll soon forget that you held her just a few moments ago.

Don’t worry if she cries Crying is your baby’s way of communicating with you; it’s her way of making a request, complaining about something, or expressing her feelings.

So, if she wants something – for instance, to be carried by you – she asks by crying. But you don’t have to give in to her. If you decide that she has been carried long enough, stick to your decision.

Nothing terrible will happen to her if she bursts into tears.

Wait before picking her up again If you lift your baby up as soon as she cries, she’ll soon learn that she can get you to carry her again by doing this. And within a short space of time, her crying spells will probably increase. There’s no “right” amount of time to leave her in tears, however. It’s your decision how long to let her cry and when to carry her again.

Have a toy in one hand when you let go of her, so you can distract her attention at the same time.