Your Baby & Toddler - - TALKING POINT -

But do all ba­bies take to a rou­tine? “A ‘run of the mill’ baby will do roughly the same thing at the same age, as­sum­ing there are no med­i­cal con­di­tions,” says Jac­qui. “Hav­ing said this, some ba­bies are more feisty and strong willed. Par­ent­ing this type of baby or child can be a lot more chal­leng­ing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t im­ple­ment age ap­pro­pri­ate bound­aries. A rou­tine is just one of many bound­aries that you as a par­ent will be im­ple­ment­ing.”

The is­sue of leav­ing a baby to cry is a con­tro­ver­sial one, but, ex­plains clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and child neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Joal­ida Smit, this does not mean a child should not be left to cry at all. “There is some ev­i­dence that shows that ba­bies need to cry for lim­ited pe­ri­ods of time be­cause it reg­u­lates the neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tem by re­duc­ing over­stim­u­la­tion and anx­i­ety. But this is within the con­text of a baby be­ing held and com­forted,” she says. “Cry­ing al­lows ba­bies to learn to self soothe and self reg­u­late. You are also giv­ing the baby a voice by ac­knowl­edg­ing their cries and re­spond­ing with sooth­ing talk.”

Joal­ida says the cry­ing it out method does work well for some ba­bies, but oth­ers – and pos­si­bly those with sen­sory pro­cess­ing dif­fi­cul­ties (ba­bies who can feel quite “lost” and un­con­tained if left alone) – never cope well with be­ing left alone at night. For them and other ba­bies who are left to cry for long pe­ri­ods unat­tended too much cor­ti­sol, the stress hor­mone, which over time can af­fect their mem­ory sys­tem re­lat­ing to care, at­tach­ment and abil­ity to re­spond to stress when they are older.

Even­tu­ally all ba­bies will nat­u­rally fall into a rou­tine of eat­ing, sleep­ing and poo­ing, says Joal­ida, un­less they have an ill­ness or med­i­cal prob­lem, such as re­flux. “The difficulty with im­ple­ment­ing rou­tines is that they can go ei­ther way. If you have a strict rou­tine, a baby will never learn what their own sig­nals are. If you reg­u­late a baby too much, then that baby will fail to de­velop self-reg­u­la­tory strate­gies,” she says. Re­gard­less of whether you fall on the baby-led side of the scale or a strict rou­tine, Joal­ida feels that it is ben­e­fi­cial for ba­bies to learn a sense of what their needs are, but that no mat­ter what, their needs – whether that’s food or com­fort – should al­ways be met. YB

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