Expert says the reason why babies cry is because they are not held enough
Both my babies, when they were very little, went through a few weeks at the very beginning where they would cry for a while (20 minutes? Seven thousand hours?) every night.
The only thing that would settle them was to carry them around, pace the floor with them and rock them, and so we took turns doing just that, and after a few weeks it just sort of went away (the crying), although I still found myself carrying and rocking them, you now, just in case they would start that crying business again.
Anyway, the general understanding, after having mentioned this evening crying to both my community midwife and health nurse was that it must just be "a touch of colic."
This is nothing unusual according to UK parenting expert and author, Sarah Ockwell-Smith, who claims 'colic' has more or less become an umbrella term for what is wrong with babies aged between two and 12 weeks that cry constantly. "At least one in five infants born in the UK is diagnosed with colic, but in fact there's an increasing body of research to show there is no such thing, Ockwell-Smith explains in an article for the Express.co.uk.
It was an American paediatrician who more than 40 years ago came up with the yardstick still in use today: Babies who cry for more than three hours per day, for more than three days a week and for more than three weeks should be diagnosed with colic.
Based on newer statistics, anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of babies in western society meet the criteria today. But Ockwell-Smith argues that it is too easy to call it all 'colic' and claims we need to get better at investigating why babies are crying, and not just slap a medical diagnosis on them and accept that "this is just how it is" for the next few weeks.
Babies cry when they are not held enough
And while the parenting expert does agree that persistent crying can have a digestive component, she also argues strongly that many babies cry simply because they are not held enough.
"Our society is very much focused on "putting babies down" out of fear of creating bad sleeping habits, a theory which stems back to Victorian parenting strategies," Ockwell-Smith explains. "But science actually tells us that the more we hold our babies, the more secure we make them and the less they cry. Research conducted has shown that maternal nurturing has a direct impact on the growth of the part of the baby's brain responsible for emotion regulation."
We only have to look at our furrier cousins to see how much young babies need to be held, she explains.
"Visit a zoo and you won't see baby apes away from their mothers, they will always be "in arms". This is what we are meant to do. Research conducted in America found that babies who are regularly carried cry 51 percent less than babies who are put down alone in the evenings."
This also goes for sleeping, which the author argues is another area where we are far too quick today to put babies in a cot by themselves. "No other mammal sleeps with their baby away from them," she explains. "Research has repeatedly shown that sharing a bed with babies results in significantly more sleep and less crying."
In Japan, Ockwell-Smith explains, they don't even have a word for colic – and whether this is a coincidence or not, in Japan, most parents share a bed with their baby for the first few months of life. "No culture struggles so much with their newborns as western societies, where a whole industry thrives on the concept of putting babies down, selling products to take the place of the parent's arms and the warmth, smell and movement babies receive while in a parent's arms."
For desperate parents, Ockwell-Smith offers the comfort that the vast majority of babies will grow out of "colic" and evening crying by the time they are three months old.
"In the meantime, allowing them the proximity that they desire will often results in a much calmer baby and more sleep for everyone."