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'Crying is Good for Babies'... Truth or Myth?

I was in an office the other day getting some PT (carrying all the lactation stuff to clients is hard work!), and I overheard a new grandma say, “well you know, I let the baby cry because crying is good for the baby.” While I didn’t feel comfortable jumping in on her conversation, I thought to myself, "I guess more information needs to be shared with expectant parents and their families regarding this myth".

Science has studied what happens metabolically to an infant and to their mother when this method is used. I will not go into the various and numerous methods of ‘letting the baby cry’, or the history of why this approach to a baby’s crying began. I would like every parent, grandparent, and care giver to make a balanced and educated decision before employing this technique, regardless that it has been used over 100 years, is neither proven nor do we know the long-term effects on the baby and their caregivers.

So first let us take a look at some of the things that goes on inside the baby when they are right up against another human being.

~ Heart rate, respiration, & temperature are regulated, as infants enter into a relaxed state.

~ The human body releases hormones that help repair, restore, and relax. Serotonin and other brain chemicals are balanced and help the body have a sense of wellbeing. This is both for mother and infant.

~ Pheromones are exchanged allowing mother and baby to communicate without saying anything! Mother starts producing antibodies for the baby and which are present in her milk!


Now look at what occurs when a baby is allowed to cry for extended periods of time.

1. Cortisol raises beyond a healthy level [Cortisol in the mother, and in others within hearing of a crying baby, raises an alarm in your brain saying “help, something is wrong!!]

3. Adrenaline is released, and ‘fight or flight’ response is activated

4. Other systems shut down, such as digestion and cognition.

5. Blood flow is directed toward extremities that will help both adults and infant to “get out of there fast” 

6. For every 10 min of crying, it takes an hour to restore the balance achieved when being held by a human!

Holding an infant, especially in those early days, is often considered to be one of the best experiences parents can have. Some have argued that smelling a baby is addictive. Babies are only babies for such a short time so enjoy holding them as much as you can. To quote La Leche League International, “A babies need for its mother is as great as its need for food.” Please heed your baby’s cries and comfort your baby, as it is the only method available to him/her to communicate with you that they need something. Being held - feeling loved, warm, safe and secure, is so important to our little ones. New parents – carefully consider the way you respond to your baby’s unhappiness. You are an essential component to your baby’s well being.

Diana Chavez-Gifford, IBCLC



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