Researchers say that responding and comforting crying babies is better than leaving them to cry during the first weeks of their lives. The scientists found that babies who were comforted when they cried tended to end up crying less than those who were left to settle down on their own.

At five weeks of age the babies who had been left to settle down on their own from a bawling session were crying 50% more than those who were comforted each time they started to cry. The difference was still the same when they were 12 weeks old.

In this study, parents kept a diary of their babies’ behaviour and how they responded. The parents were from the UK, Denmark and the USA. They were divided into three groups. One group would leave baby to settle down on his/her own when bawling. The second group were with their babies for 10 hours a day. The third group were with their baby for 16 hours a day and respond instantly to baby’s cry.

The researchers said it was comforting on demand that eventually reduced the amount a baby is likely to cry a few weeks later, rather than the quality of comfort provided – a case of quantity rather than quality.

For centuries new parents have been given advice by relatives and friends on what to do when a baby cries. Some say you should let the bawling baby cry it out, others will tell you to cuddle him/her on demand. This study indicates that the hands-off approach, used by many parents, has the tendency to backfire.

Several baby experts over the years have advocated the ?controlled crying’ approach. They say rushing to baby’s side every time he/she cries just encourages him/her to cry more as a means to gain attention. The results of this study fly in the face of the ?controlled crying’ technique. However, the ?controlled crying’ technique may still be viable for older babies as the study just looked at the first five to twelve weeks of life.

The researchers stressed that a baby with colic will cry and cry, no matter what you do or don’t do.

Surely, attention seeking is only natural – we are, after all, social animals.

You can read about this study in the journal Pediatrics.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today