For the first few days after my son was born I can’t remember putting him down much.
I am sure I must have, to at least have a shower surely, but I think that was the extent of it.
The very idea of being separated from the tiny being that had been a part of me for nine months was completely alien to me. For me it felt like he was still a part of me, it was hard to let go, to separate myself.
I picked him up and held him, I fed him for hours on end, I rocked him and I cradled him and I didn’t put him down.
I didn't put him down, for what now feels like years on end.
I am sure it started in those long days after birth, but it continued by instinct and anxiety. When he cried for me I picked him up. I didn’t know any other way. It was how I mothered him, right or wrong. When my tiny newborn wailed his screams reverberated right through me I had to hold him and soothe him.
It wasn’t that he cried that much, my first was more the wide-eyed-and-totally-awake type baby than a screamer (that was baby number two) but to the annoyance of many around me who advised that I was "spoiling him" and I should "leave to him self-settle" and that he would “never learn” I was the one who ran to his cot and picked him up each and every time he cried.
At one stage when his wide-eyed-and-wide-awake trick became too much to bare I decided to try the self settling that I read so much about, but I found I didn’t have the stamina for it and caved in before he could have a chance to turn the wails down.
I was the pick-him-up type, that’s who I was.
Rod for my back? Yeah maybe.. but it worked for us.
However lingering in the back of my mind were doubts, it always niggled at me. Was I doing the right thing? What if they are right? What if I have spoiled him? What if this causes issues later on in life? What if I am creating some awful personality traits that will cause life long problems and its ALL MY FAULT.
As he grew up each time he was needy or clingy or snuck into my bed in the middle of the night somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered was it because I picked him up all the time? Have I ruined him for life?
Well some new research, published in the journal Applied Developmental Science has alleviated my fears.
A study of more than 600 adults by Notre Dame University found that babies who were picked up when they cried turn out okay after all, in fact they grew up into more adjusted adults.
Professor of Psychology Darcia Narvaez who led the research told WSBT that the early years are crucial in brain development.
“What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives.”
Prof Narvaez advises parents to hold, touch and rock their babies as much as they wanted.
"What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives," explains Narvaez, "So lots of holding, touching and rocking. That is what babies expect. They grow better that way. And keep them calm, because all sorts of systems are establishing the way they are going to work. If you let them cry a lot, those systems are going to be easily triggered into stress. We can see that in adulthood -- that people that are not cared for well, tend to be more stress reactive and they have a hard time self calming."
The Motherish staff confess they first thing they thought when they saw their newborn...
Her research isn’t intended to make parents who have tried methods such as cry-it-out feel guilty and in fact if you look to other studies like one published last year of 328 children who were sleep trained with the cry-it-out method you will find that at the age of six children who had been sleep-trained were as mentally well-adjusted as those who hadn't been.
Pick 'em up, leave 'em be. Do what you can. Just love 'em. As with all things parenting the key is to do what works for you and your family – and to trust your instincts.
What approach did you use with your babies?