Your baby cries -- what do you do to soothe your little one? If you immediately reach for milk, you may want to pause before giving it to him.
Babies cry for many reasons, not just hunger. Using milk to instantly soothe any of those reasons (especially when he just wants to be comforted) could lead to problems later in life, said Dr. Ian Paul, a professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine.
“Their normal ability to regulate their emotions becomes overridden with a food reward to soothe them and that then projects later into life -- when they are upset or depressed, food becomes the mechanism to soothe these emotions,” he told the New York Times.
Dr. Paul is one of the leaders of the "Insight Study," described by the New York Times as an an intervention that started in 2011 "to look at the effects of helping parents learn 'responsive parenting' strategies that help them read their babies’ signals."
In the intervention trial, parents were taught how to calm their crying child using strategies like rocking, swaddling, and repositioning, other than feeding. They were also given information "how much crying is normal at any given age." Results showed that parents who were given this training had babies who were less likely to be overweight at a year old. They also slept better "than those in the control group, in which parents got safety training rather than responsive parenting guidance."
Based on the results, the intervention suggests a gap in well-baby care. The parents have general knowledge and receive advice about the care for their baby. But they may not get enough proper guidance to spot and respond to the cues or signals their baby makes.
As Dr. Paul pointed out in the news report, “Pediatricians in the newborn period tell parents to wake babies up every three or so hours to make sure they regain their birth weight. I can’t tell you how often I see babies at two months, and no one has told them to stop doing that.”
Your baby can tell you if she’s had enough milk. “Most babies, generally speaking, when their tummies are full, they will fall asleep at the breast then come off the nipple or actually withdraw from the tit,” said Jill Irving, a health advisor for BabyCenter, children's nurse, and qualified midwife.
“If the baby turns away before the bottle is finished or before your usual nursing time is up, accept the fact that he or she may not be hungry now,” said Dr. Alanna Levine, a pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in the U.S., told TheBump.
As we always stress, however, every baby is different, and it applies to his appetite. As Dr. Julie Lumeng, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan who was not part of the intervention but was interviewed for the New York Times story, explains, “Babies are born with different temperaments, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that some babies are voracious eaters and some are not and they require different kinds of parenting.”