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What happens when the babies cries are responded to quickly?

Find out what happens when babies' cries are responded to quickly and their needs are met. How does this affect the body and the brain.

Good for looking at

  • Why babies cry
  • Brain development
  • Cortisol
  • Emotional regulation
  • Stress response
  • Meeting babies needs

Transcript of video – What happens when the babies cries are responded to quickly?

Crying is the most obvious means of the baby’s communication. Most adults want to stop the crying immediately so it’s a very effective way of getting help. Crying increases from birth to about two months and then gradually decreases at three to four months. The more quickly Orson’s cries are responded to the easier it is for him to learn that he will have things sorted out for him. Babies who have their cries responded to quickly tend to cry less in the second six months of life.

As soon as Orson hears mum’s voice he stops crying. He’s already learning that mum’s voice means he will get what he needs.

‘We’re born with feelings. Babies feel; they can feel sad and I’m fairly sure that they can feel lonely. They can certainly feel cross, distressed and of course the important thing is that they just feel and they can’t actually manage their own emotions at all. They need their adult carers to do that for them.’

When babies’ cries are responded to quickly and their needs are met, they gets used to having their stress and emotions regulated for them. There is a biological response that’s triggered by fear, anxiety, or hunger for example. The body instinctively releases a chemical called cortisol that increases the heart rate and blood pressure so that it’s ready to respond to difficult situations. At the same time as increasing the heart rate cortisol shuts down functions that are not needed in a crisis. This is good in small doses to get you out of danger but if the brain is exposed to high levels of cortisol over an extended period of time it causes stress. So when babies’ cries are responded to quickly their cortisol levels can return to normal and the parts of the brain that were temporarily out of action can start working again. How they are responded to at these times shapes the developing brain, programming the way they will interpret and respond to stress in the future. At this stage Orson’s mum and dad are vital to him for regulating his emotions. Slowly, as his brain develops, Orson will be able to use this experience as a model to start regulating his own emotions.


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