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Letter of the Day | Endless bawling can damage

Published:Monday | August 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Last June, I journeyed home on a public passenger vehicle. I was exhausted, hungry and sleepy. A baby boy, no older than six months, kept bawling. His bawling sometimes crescendoed to shrieks. The child was hell-bent on deafening me!

I fought to conceal my annoyance, but I lost the battle when I realised that the child's mother was quite relaxed and seemingly unaffected by her son's wails. She did nothing to console him, and so he continued hollering.

I was pleased when the gentleman beside me scolded her and urged her to hush the child. She was incensed by his dressing-down, and quickly assailed him with some colourful Jamaican 'cloths'! In fact, when her expletive-laden tongue-lashing did not silence the man, she commanded the child to continue crying.

"Me caah stop baby from bawl! Bawl if yuh waah bawl, yaah," she said, before filling her mouth with a frozen bag juice.

Her behaviour, again, supported my view of a broiling local culture of cruelty. Simple demonstrative acts towards our children are perceived as mere 'spoiling'!

On countless occasions, I have heard people telling mothers to "lef the baby mek him bawl. Yuh caah spoil him!" This has seen many mothers refusing to pick up their fallen toddlers, who sometimes howl in a stew of mud.

'Him fi grow tuff! Yuh caah mek him sof'!" they say.

What many of these 'mothers' do not know is that periods of intense crying can impair their baby's brain stem, the part of the brain that controls the baby's reflexes and initial movements.

According to Melodi Faris and Elizabeth McCarroll, in their 2010 article Crying Babies: Answering the Call of Infant Cries, when babies are left to cry constantly, adrenaline is overstimulated and liberated into the bloodstream.




Faris and McCarroll also write that "A child with an overactive adrenaline system will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brain stem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times" (cited from Perry, 1997).

The report further states that "Allan Schore (1996) of the UCLA School of Medicine found that during periods of intense crying, the brain of an infant produces too much cortisol (a stress-related hormone). This rise in cortisol levels can stunt or even destroy brain connections in critical areas of the brain."

In light of these startling findings, the writers recommend that caregivers "evaluate the infant's cries, choose a method of care to ease the infant's distress, and respond quickly".

If you are a mother 'in the real sense,' you will heed this advice. Please, hush your crying baby. Nurturing is not 'spoiling'. Know the difference.


Old Harbour, St Catherine