Sometimes, your maternal instincts will take over your logic and reasoning. Even if you’ve spent months or even years reading about how to raise your baby the “right” way, it’ll all fly out the window when you look into your baby’s sweet, innocent, whimpering face. Your instincts are usually right, though they’re the same ones that will eventually get in the way of disciplining your child when he or she gets older. You’ll know that you should yell at your child and send him to time out, but you’ll also have trouble staying angry at the little person you’re trying to protect. For now, you might feel this dichotomy when you have to put your baby down for a while and resist the urge to pick him or her up when the screaming begins.

You’ve probably read that it’s important to teach your baby that alone time is okay. You’re supposed to put him down every so often and ignore his screams for you. This will be extremely difficult. Luckily, its importance is debatable.

This recommendation falls under the assumption that your baby will learn from your behavior. It’s like training a dog. When he does a trick, he gets a treat. According to this advice, your baby will learn that when he stays quiet on his own, you’ll always come back. However, studies show that babies don’t actually have the capacity to learn that early because they don’t have developed memories. For your baby to learn this, he or she would need to first remember that you cam back last time.

Of course, this lack of memory also works the other way. If you let your baby scream on his own for a while until he falls asleep, he won’t remember that you left him and hold it against you. He’ll forget, and next time the same scene will happen again.

When it comes to putting your baby down on his own for a while, it’s really up to you. Despite many articles and books about the importance of baby independence, your baby can’t actually learn that you’ll always come back, so it’s okay to pick him up and snuggle him until you both feel comfortable. On the other hand, leaving him to sweat it out on his own for a bit can’t hurt either when you want him to fall asleep or when you need your hands free.

Source: Patricia Bauer: Infant Memory. WIRES Cognitive Science Volume 1 Issue 2 pp. 267-277 April 2010 


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