What Happens if You Ignore Babies When They Cry?

When a newborn cries, his need is immediate. He can’t tell you, “I’m about to be hungry.” Instead, it’s, “I’m starving over here!” If you ignore your baby’s cries, he will keep crying, and you will keep covering your ears -- ignoring the screams will not cause your baby to stop crying. Doing so can instead cause both of you significant stress. Responding in a caring way when your baby cries helps to decrease the tension crying causes over the short- and long-term.

Emotional Response

Researchers at Oxford University discovered that a baby’s cry causes the human brain to issue an emotional response in 100 millliseconds. Mothers’ bodies respond when they hear their babies cry, so much so, in fact, that they have the biological urge to nurse. Oxytocin is the hormone that triggers milk to start flowing, and it helps mom to feel calm and relaxed. Some advisors tell parents to ignore a baby’s cries when behaviors are present that parents want to change, such as waking up to eat at night or crying for attention. However, this can be difficult for mothers to do when they are biologically programmed to respond to their children’s cries, states the Ask Dr. Sears website.

Consequences of Ignoring

If your baby is easygoing, she may stop crying at some point if you ignore her. A more determined baby will cry more if you ignore her. If you pick up your baby only after she stops crying, you signal you are in control, but your baby learns she cannot count on you coming to her. If you teach yourself not to be bothered by your baby’s cry and only attend to her when it is the proper time -- i.e., time to eat -- he will continue to cry, but you will probably feel frustrated and mad. Your baby learns to not trust what he feels he needs, according to the Dr. Sears site 1.

A Nurturing Response

If you respond to your baby immediately in a nurturing manner, you help develop a communication method that works both ways. The Ask Dr. Sears website states that as your baby gets older and learns to calm himself, your response time can begin to increase. Providing a nurturing response to your baby’s cries will not spoil him. Instead, it teaches your child that you will be available.

Personality and Communication Skills

Babies who have nurturing parents learn to cry less as they get older and are less likely to use crying as a way to communicate. They are typically also more outgoing and have better communication skills than children who do not have parents who are as nurturing, according to both the Family Education and Ask Dr. Sears websites 4.