Published Date: 03/07/21
A Biological Need to Be Close to You
Have you ever noticed that your newborn can be sleeping comfortably on your chest but as soon as you try to sit down, they wake up crying, insisting that you stand, bounce, or walk around with them? Human nature is amazing and this response is part of the fight or flight response. If a caregiver is standing up and holding a helpless baby, they are ready in case they need to run away from danger. If they are sitting or laying down, it would take more time to get away.
Why Does Your Baby Cry When You Sit Down?
Babies feel secure when you're walking
A study was done showing how baby mice prefer to be held by the nape of their necks by their mothers, for the same reason. The mom can get them away from danger quicker. When the mother mouse picks the baby up, they go limp. It’s easier for a mouse to hold her baby when they aren’t wiggling. This is also why babies calm down when they are being held in a standing position, it’s easier for both the parent and baby to escape quickly if needed.
Being held affects a baby's heartbeat
The same study showed that infants under 6 months old who were being carried by their mother had a rapid heart decrease and stopped crying, compared to a mother who was sitting. Parents might still be stressed out at having to constant move with their newborn babe but by understanding that this behavior is part of human evolution, they can see that it’s normal and there is a reason for it.
Babies Need to Be Held....A Lot
Babies need to be held. Babies need to be touched. Hugging, holding, snuggling, babywearing, and skin-to-skin are all ways that we can love our babies and help them to feel safe and secure. It can also help to offset any newborn trauma they may have endured.
Should you use baby bouncers and swings?
In our modern world, we see ads for products that make it easy to not have to pick up your baby as often as you might without them. There are bouncy seats, swings, pack n’ plays, strollers, walkers, portable bassinets, and even car seats that turn into strollers so that you never have to pick your baby up going from car to shopping and back to car. Heck, there are even swings that turn themselves on when your baby starts to cry so that you don’t have to pick them up. Of course, as parents, we all need relief, and using these occasionally doesn’t do harm.
Humans are meant to carry their young
But humans are a carry species. We have the largest brains of any primate yet our babies rely on us for a long period of time. Human babies are in utero for nine months and once they are out in the world, they enter the fourth trimester. During this time, babies need to be held and they will often cry as soon as they are put down. This can be stressful for the parents but it’s perfectly normal. The idea that babies can self-soothe is a myth.
You can’t spoil a baby with love
After being in the comforting and warm womb for nine months (ideally), it’s no wonder that babies crave the comfort of their parents. The world is a big and scary place for a newborn. It is full of new sights, sounds, scents and it takes time to adjust. Being held and snuggled in warm, soft arms, close to the soothing beat and vibration of a heartbeat, feels more like the womb than being set down in a contraption.
So go on and snuggle your baby and don’t let anyone tell you that you will spoil them. You can’t spoil a baby with love.
FAQs About Crying Babies
Q: How can I stop my baby from crying when I put her down?A: Unfortunately, there's no magic answer here. Your baby needs you to hold her to develop a secure attachment and as she develops it, you'll be able to put her down more easily. In the meantime, enlist the help of family and friends whenever possible, and look into a hands-free baby carrier, which can be a life saver when you need to get things done.
Q: What do I do if my baby wants to be held all the time? If your baby wants to be held all the time your baby is 100% perfectly typical. We've unfortunately been sold a lie about what to expect from babies. Mothers also used to have a lot of help - it was normal for a child to have up to 12 caregivers in the form of extended family and siblings up until relatively recent times. As much as you can, meet your baby's needs and when a friend says, "Is there anything you need?" say "Yes! I could really use [dinner, a baby sitter for an hour, a shower]" Too often we don't speak up and think we're supposed to be able to do it all...we're not!
Q. How do I teach my baby to self-soothe and self-settle?Like the many myths we've been told about baby sleep, self-soothing is simply not a skill babies have or can be taught. Self-soothing is all about emotional regulation and baby's brains simply aren't developed enough to do that. Read more about the self-soothing myth here.
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