A joint study with QUT and the Riverton Early Parenting Centre has found many parents of infants up to 12 weeks, were uncertain about how best to settle their crying baby and whether or not it was “right” to pick them up.
“A lot of parents are unsure if they should pick up their baby when their baby cries,” Professor Thorpe from QUT’s Faculty of Education said.
“The answer is: you should. Babies in the first 12 weeks of their life need highly responsive parents. They want and need a parent that is responsive to their cries.”
Professor Thorpe said the study was initiated by concerns by clinical nurses from the Riverton centre that parents were choosing to ignore their crying newborn for fear it would “spoil” their baby to pick them up.
Riverton clinical nurse and co-researcher Claire Halle said parents felt picking up their crying baby would create “bad habits” which would impact negatively on their child’s behaviour in the future.
“Parent’s felt torn between what they thought and what they felt was the right thing to do, and this uncertainty seemed to heighten their stress levels,” Ms Halle said.
The study found about 20 per cent of first time parents and 30 per cent of experienced parents admitted they were uncertain about picking up their crying baby. It also revealed that almost 25 per cent of first time parents and just over 10 per cent of experienced parents believed picking up a crying baby would spoil them.
“One parent said ‘I feel guilty for not picking him up when he cries’,” Ms Halle said. “Another said ‘frequent and sudden changes in baby’s behavior make it hard to judge… too much attention may spoil them’.”
But Professor Thorpe said in the first three month’s of a baby’s life, having responsive parents was very important to the child’s emotional and neurological development.
She said the study highlighted there was a problem because parents were getting mixed messages about how best to settle their newborn baby.
“We need to ensure nurses, educators and health professionals are providing parents with consistent and appropriate guidelines for caring for their baby,” Professor Thorpe said.
“It is also important for parents to have the confidence to trust their instincts when it comes to caring for their baby.”
The study, funded by the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation, is a joint collaboration between Dr Toni Dowd from QUT’s School of Nursing, Professor Karen Thorpe and the Settling Team at the Riverton Early Parenting Centre.
The study was a unique experience for clinical nurses to work as co-researchers and demonstrated the value of engaging clinical staff, academics and parents in research.