When it comes to caring for your infant, do you strive to keep him or her on a feeding or sleeping schedule? Or is responding rapidly to your baby's cries more your style? Your choice may affect the amount and length of time your infant cries, according to a study by researchers at the University of London in the United Kingdom and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Researchers asked mothers of newborns whether they intended to encourage their babies to stick to a schedule or whether they planned to feed and hold their infants on demand. Over the next 3 months, the moms recorded when they held, carried, played with or talked to, soothed, and cared for their babies. They also noted when their infants slept, fed, fussed, cried, or were awake and content.
The moms adopted three different approaches to caring for their infants. In the London group, parents spent about half as much time holding their infants at 10 days of age and 5 weeks of age. In the Copenhagen group, parents held their babies more than the London parents when the babies were 5 weeks of age, but not as much as the parents in the proximal care group. The proximal care group spent more than 16 hours out of 24 holding or in body contact with their babies at both 10 days and 5 weeks of age, and they fed their infants more often. Both the Copenhagen group and the parents in the proximal care group breastfed longer than London parents.
- Infants of parents in the London group cried 50% more overall than infants in both other groups at both 2 and 5 weeks of age.
- Infants of parents in the proximal care group woke and cried at night the most of all babies at 12 weeks of age.
- Compared with babies given proximal care, babies in the Copenhagen group cried less over 24 hours and woke and cried at night less often at 12 weeks of age.
Despite these findings, babies in all three groups experienced bouts of inconsolable crying, and the amount of colic at 5 weeks of age didn't differ between the three groups.
What This Means to You. The results of this study suggest that choosing an infant-demand style of parenting — by feeding, responding to, and holding your infant when he or she cries — may lessen the amount of time your child spends crying. However, the findings also indicate that inconsolable crying and colic aren't affected by the type of care parents provide. If you have questions about infant care or your infant's crying, your child's doctor can offer advice and guidance on soothing strategies and coping with colic.
Source: Ian St. James-Roberts, PhD; Marissa Alvarez, PhD; Emese Csipke, PhD; Tanya Abramsky, MSc; Jennifer Goodwin, BA; Esterh Sorgenfrei, MSc; Pediatrics, June 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2006