The first squalling cry of a newborn is music to his parents' ears. But it isn't long before the sweet sound of a baby's cry becomes more than a loving mom and dad can bear.
Everyone knows that babies cry a lot and that most of the time that sound is a signal that a parent needs to spring to action. The baby is letting anyone who can hear know that he needs attention. It may be a wet diaper or a hungry belly or just a bit sadness or anger, but mom and dad's job is to make it all better.
Sometimes, though, there are times when a parent can do little to assuage the cries of her child. Mom may be doing the best that she can, but she can't always stop the tears. Sometimes, she needs her hands free to get the bottle ready, or she believes that a vaccination is worth the momentary pain to keep her baby healthy. Dad may not be able to pacify the baby when he is taking a drive, and parents may choose to try to sleep train.
Parents have every right to take care of themselves, even if it means that the baby cries for a few minutes — and sometimes allowing that to happen can even save lives.
There are times when it is all right to let the baby cry, even though it might break mom or dad's heart just a little bit. Here are 15 times to give up and let the baby scream and cry.
15 Building Lung Capacity
Let us start out by saying that a baby's first cry isn't just a sound that signals the new life coming into the world. It is more than that. It's the baby's first breath and a way to make breathing better in the future.
While the baby's lungs are developing in utero, she is practicing breathing by drawing amniotic fluid in and out of the body. Doctors can even see that on an ultrasound. But that means that the baby's lungs are wet and filled with amniotic fluid — not air — when she is born. The first cry is when the baby gets that fluid out. She shakes the fluid loose and begins to filter out the fluid and breathe in the air.
That first cry is a major deal, and if the baby takes a while to catch that first breath, she may end up needing some medical interventions to expel the fluid. She may even require extra oxygen.
So parents should enjoy the first cry for at long as it lasts. The baby usually calms down quickly, as she snuggles into her mother, and after that first scream, her lungs are better off for it.
14 When It's Safe
After that first cry, there isn't necessarily a benefit to letting a baby scream and cry, but that doesn't mean it's always a good idea to jump and try to stop the tears as soon as they start. If a mom did that, she would never get any sleep or even a shower in the early days with a newborn. Parents don't have to rush to the point where they trip and fall to get to the baby, and it is even safe to finish bathing or a take a bite or two of dinner — if the baby is safe.
Before we get too far into this list, we want to talk about when it is safe to let the baby cry. First of all, the baby has to be in a place where they can cry without getting hurt. You may think that a newborn won't be able to roll off the side of the bed in the fist few weeks of life, but if she is kicking and screaming, she may be able to move close to the edge, so it is safer for the baby to be in the crib or on a clean floor. Make sure that there aren't any blankets or other things that the baby could get tangled up in, and make sure she is on her back. A momentary cry isn't a big deal as long as the baby is in a safe place.
13 When It's Tummy Time
Let us let you in on a little secret: no baby likes tummy time especially in the beginning. But just because it makes your baby cry is no reason to skip the important developmental activity.
Doctors recommend parents start giving their babies tummy time from the very beginning. Just as soon as the baby's umbilical cord stump comes off, it is safe to give them a few minutes on their belly when they are awake. Even in the first week, it helps the baby gain head control, and within no time, she will be lifting up her head and giving her neck some exercise.
Tummy time helps a baby learn to roll over and to crawl, but the benefits start long before she can do either one. Just about every baby gets frustrated during tummy time, even if mom or dad lays down with her and plays. But it's a needed activity and it's OK if the baby cries right through it. After a few minutes, you can stop and try again later.
12 When She Is Sick
When a baby cries, she is always trying to tell us something. And sometimes that can be that he isn't feeling very good. A sick baby can sometimes cry buckets of tears, and it can break mom and dad's hearts. We are not saying that a parent shouldn't do their best to soothe the baby, but when she is sick, that may not be possible. And sometimes it can actually make the baby feel a little better to cry.
For babies with croup, sometimes a stint in the bathroom with the shower running can help baby feel better. The steam can do a lot to lessen the bark and help the symptoms subside long enough to get some rest. It works even better if the baby is crying some of it in, so it may be a good time to give up and just let the baby scream and cry.
11 When He Has Colic
A good cry can also do a baby good when he has colic. That may sound strange since the biggest symptom of colic is crying but there are reasons to let the baby scream. Many times colic can be unexplained, but many times, doctors believe the ailment is worse in babies with immature digestive systems.
Luckily, sometimes the crying can help get the digestion going. It allows the muscles to stretch and the digestive juices to flow. In the end, that can mean a dirty diaper, but if that is what it takes to make baby happy, then moms should welcome a few tears.
Colicky babies can cry for hours and hours, frustrating their parents, so sometimes it can take time for relief. The good news is that colic doesn't last a very long time — usually just a few months — but in that period, sometimes a mom and dad will just have to give up and let the baby scream.
10 When He Meets A Stranger
Stranger anxiety happens to every baby. Its normal and healthy, but it usually involves a few tears when mom and dad visits relatives or has friends over.
We understand that the baby may have a favorite, but eventually she will come to love Great Aunt Ethel, if she can get past the first few meetings. It can even happen all of a sudden with a person that the baby knows well, like a grandparent, and that can sometimes mean the baby isn't the only one crying.
If your toddler is scared of a person, reassure her and stay close enough to make her feel safe until she gets more acclimated to the situation. Let your loved ones know that it isn't personal and that the baby will warm up. It's worth a few tears now to help the baby get over this phase and still maintain a relationship with the ones that love him.
9 When You Are In The Car
These days, everyone agrees that it isn't safe to text and drive. Moms and dads, we are here to warn you that it also isn't safe to soothe a baby and drive. Of course, you can sing a lullaby and talk to the little one, but trying to search for a pacifier in the backseat or hold a baby bottle isn't the best idea.
We understand how hard it is to listen to the baby scream for even a few seconds, but when the car is in motion, it is best to just grin and bear it until you can safely pull over. Most people know this, but it is worth repeating — do not unbuckle the baby while the car is in motion. We've also seen photos of moms draped over car seats breastfeeding on a road trip. Sure, it's tempting when there are still hundreds of miles to your destination, but a car accident could turn into a tragedy quicker than we could ever imagine — and no one wants to leave an infant without it's mother. The safest thing to do is give up and let the baby cry and scream until you reach the next exit.
8 When The Doctor Is At Work
There are lots of moments at the doctor's office that could cause tears, and a mom or dad shouldn't ever feel bad about that. Some babies start screaming from the weigh-in until the end of a check-up, but that doesn't mean that you should stay away. It's important to have a healthcare professional evaluate a newborn to make sure he is gaining weight and hitting milestones.
The doctor will poke the belly and pull on the ears to get a look inside. He will feel for malformations and check the lymph nodes and other sensitive areas. It isn't always a lot of fun, but it could mean that the doctor picks up on an illness early enough to save everyone more pain and heartache.
We're not here to get into the vaccination debate here, but we wanted to take a moment to point out that it is OK to let a baby cry if it means getting an inoculation that could save her from illness or even death.
7 When She Is Learning To Share
No one likes to share, especially a baby who thinks that the world revolves around them. But at some point, the lesson has to begin and while there may be tears along the way, they are worth it to teach a baby kindness and generosity — or even the fact that life isn't always fair.
Even before the first birthday, babies can feel ownership of the things that they want, and they can get upset if they see someone with their favorite doll. But kids naturally take things from each other, and that can leave everybody fighting and in tears. It's OK to let that happen. Parents should acknowledge a baby's feelings, and assure her that everything will be OK. But that doesn't mean that every temper tantrum should result in the baby getting everything she wants. Learning to share can be hard, but sometimes a mom just has to let the baby cry so that she can learn.
6 When It's Date Night
Babies love their moms and dads. That's great, but it can also be hard on a marriage or relationship if the parents can't seem to slip away every once in a while to get some alone time. Date night doesn't need to end just because of a baby — and especially not because of a baby crying.
All babies develop separation anxiety at some point in their first year of life. Separation anxiety is different that stranger anxiety, so it can happen even if mom and dad leave the baby with his grandparents for an evening.
Sometime between 7 to 9 months, the baby realizes that mom and dad are their caretakers, and they don't like it when the go away. It can get worse during toddlerhood, especially if the baby doesn't become used to the idea. Separation anxiety can break a mom's heart, but it doesn't mean that she should never leave. In fact, it's probably a good life lesson for the baby, who usually calms down 10 minutes or so after the goodbye. Sometimes parents just have to let the baby scream and cry so they can get out the door for a date.
5 Sleep Training
Some parents can't imagine leaving their baby to cry himself to sleep, but others swear by the method, saying that it is the best way to get baby on a schedule and let mom and dad get some sleep. It's controversial, so we are going to go over some of the basic points here to help inform parents about when it is OK to let the baby cry.
First, we're going to start with the good news, and that came in the form of a scientific study in 2016. Researchers in Australia tested the stress levels of babies who went through various methods of sleep training, and they discovered that the children who went through the cry it out method were no different than those who did not cry themselves to sleep. There were no signs of issues with behavior or parental attachment, as well. That can be a relief for parents who want to try something new to help their little one sleep through the night.
4 When She Is Old Enough
In the first few weeks of a baby's life, a newborn is totally dependent on the parents for everything, and the only way he knows how to communicate is with his cries. In those first several weeks, a mom or dad should always try to respond to the baby's call in a timely manner (although as we mentioned before, most of the time a delay of a few minutes is no big deal). For a little while, each cry will be about a need, and mom and dad can quickly fill it.
But when a baby is older, it is possible to let the baby cry as part of a sleep training method that some believe can help the baby learn to settle himself on his own. Parents shouldn't do the cry it out method in the first few months of life. It just won't work because the baby isn't crying for mom; he's crying for food or to be cleaned or because he's cold. Around six months old or so — it's different for each baby — a baby will cry only because he wants a little comfort at night, and that is the time when the cry it out method starts to work, according to the books on the subject. If the baby doesn't need anything, but just wants something instead, it's OK for a mom to give up and let the baby cry.
3 When It Isn't Too Long
Let us point out that the cry it out method does not mean that a parent should leave the baby in his crib and let him cry all night long. Instead, it is about making a plan for how to respond to the baby when he does cry. That includes letting him cry for a period and then coming in to give the baby assurances, calm him down and help him self-soothe.
Through the cry it out method, parents first pick a shorter window, such as three minutes, that they choose to delay in going to the baby. But they do go to the baby. The next time they wait a longer time, maybe five minutes. And then the next time they let the baby cry for 10 minutes, for example. The idea is that the baby will still be assured that mom and dad are there for him when he really needs them but he has to rely on himself for the short-term comfort. Some books promise that it only takes a few days for the baby to get the hang of getting themselves back to sleep using this graduated method.
2 When It's A Familiar Cry
We have one warning for pretty much all of these cases, including the cry it out method. It's OK to give up and let the baby cry when the cry is one that a parent recognizes. Even if mom knows that a certain pitch means a poopy diaper, a delay of even 20 minutes isn't going to do that much damage. The dirty diaper will still be there after the shower is over, after all.
But sometimes a baby can let out a high-pitched wail that is unlike one a parent hears on a daily basis. It could mean that something is really wrong, such as a sudden sickness or a chair fell over near the baby or something else that could present tragic results.
In the beginning, it can be hard to imagine that a parent could ever interpret a baby's cries, but soon enough, parent and child will develop a unique bond that allows mom and dad to know when something is really wrong and when it's OK to let the baby cry.
1 When You Have To Walk Away
Every parent hates to hear his or her baby cry. It's a sound that can bring panic, induce stress, harken in sadness or create frustration. And at times, it's hard to find the solution that solves the problem and brings back the silence.
All that a mom or dad wants is to keep their little one happy, and they can feel devastated and even angry if they can't deliver that in a timely manner. Sometimes the frustration level can rise and even an otherwise good parent can make a bad decision that could have tragic results. Even a small shake can damage a newborn's brain and possibly end a baby's life. So it's important that a frustrated parent feel free to walk away for a time.
As we mentioned before, a parent needs to be mindful to leave the baby in a safe place, but there is nothing wrong with leaving him in a crib for a few minutes to calm down. Better yet, get help and ask someone to take care of the baby while you go see a doctor. It is OK to give up and let the baby scream and cry if it means that parent on his or her's worst day can make it through without hurting anyone.