Taking Babies’ Feelings Seriously

Breastfeeding isn’t something that we can do to babies — we have to create an environment where babies can breastfeed. Mothers offer access to the breast and support babies’ instincts and skills. Babies do the work. As a breastfeeding advocate and supporter, I’ve discovered that I have to learn what makes it possible for babies to figure out how to breastfeed. To nurse effectively, babies need to feel calm, safe, and comfortable so I’m always excited to find information about promoting infant mental health.

My latest discovery is the  Australian Association for Infant Mental Health. They have position papers about responding to infant cues, “crying it out”, and “time outs”. I love the fact that these papers reference studies to justify their claims. A little preview from their position paper on responsing to infants’ cues:

AAIMHI maintains that babies’ upset feelings are to be taken seriously, and that parents should be encouraged to do whatever they can to help soothe their babies (for example holding, stroking, rocking, singing, or talking to the baby). When parents help babies to manage their difficult feelings, their babies learn how to do this for themselves as they grow older, thus they develop a healthy autonomy. This is true even if the crying persists – as often the cause of a baby’s cry may not be immediately evident to the parent. However, research indicates that responding appropriately to infants’ cues can have positive long term, and possibly even transgenerational consequences.

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