Parents and baby sleep experts don’t agree on a great many areas, and what to do when your baby wakes up crying is one of those areas. The fact of the matter is that every baby is different, and as a parent you’ve got to decide on your own what you believe is right for you and for your baby.
First of all, you do need to keep in mind that very small babies are something of an exception to any rule. Before your baby reaches the age of four months, there’s a good chance that your baby is waking up for one reason: his belly is just too small to hold enough breast milk or formula to keep them satisfied for very long. They need to eat every two to four hours. So, if your infant baby is crying, by all means, pick him up and feed him.
After about four months of age, however, your baby can and should sleep for longer stretches of time. Chances are pretty good that, by that stage, you’ll be plenty ready for your baby to start sleeping for longer periods, as well.
Some folks suggest that you should allow your baby to cry at least a little while before you come in to pick them up. They suggest that constantly running to your baby and picking her up every time she cries will reinforce the crying behavior. On top of that, you’ll do an awful lot of running and picking up.
Keep in mind, too, that this method doesn’t mean you ought to let your baby scream in his crib for an hour before you go check on him. A couple of minutes of crying usually isn’t a big deal, and you can often gradually lengthen the amount of time you give your baby to try to soothe herself back to sleep before getting up and tending to her
. Attachment parenting advocates, on the other hand, believe that it is more compassionate to go to your baby right away any time she cries and tend to her. They contend that your baby’s emotional well being, as well as your own, depends on being right there for your baby any time she needs anything.
Parents who use this model tend to the bay right away, and try to help soothe her back to sleep after tending to any needs the baby may have. The idea is that if the baby knows that you are going to be right there when she needs you, she will generally sleep better.
Deciding which approach is best for you and for your baby will, over the long run, determine how you approach your baby’s sleep habits.