The baby is in distress over discomfort, hunger, being startled, and so forth. Babies are completely helpless and dependent on their parents or caregivers for their every need and for remedy for their every distress. Babies in distress who are not attended to, slide into despair. You can hear the difference in their cry. Often you can hear anger in their cry.
Because babies not only are not able to self-care, they do not know how to self-soothe! You pick up the baby to soothe him or her so that he or she doesn't go into despair, which ignites a whole set of other emotional and psychological issues potentially.
Because as the caregiver soothes the baby, three important things happen. First, the baby is soothed and his or her distress recedes rather than intensifies into despair. The baby crying can be distressful to his or her caregivers. As the caregiver responds, the baby gradually accrues repeated fundamental messages of worth. The caregiving and soothing shows him/her that his or her distress matters to someone. Specifically, that he or she matters to the intimate caregiver- usually the parent or parents. The caregiver cares and will respond by meeting his or her needs and nurturing. The baby experiences that someone both is available and will attend to him/her. Second, the baby learns from the model and experience.
Babies that are soothed learn and are modeled behaviors that they eventually use to soothe others as they grow older.Babies that learn how to self-soothe become children, teenagers, and adults who know how to self-soothe and know how to soothe others.Babies that DO NOT learn how to self-soothe become children, teenagers, and adults who DO NOT know how to self-soothe or soothe others. Problematic consequences for individuals throughout life are likely. This is another way to conceptualize or describe insecure attachment, which in turn predicts future relationship problems.
Teenagers and adults who do not know how to self-soothe, may use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, self-injury, and any number of other dysfunctional behaviors in order to self-soothe. If they lose hope, they may also fall into patterns of short-term gratuitous or hedonistic behaviors that can be self-destructive. Long-term goals or dreams become irrelevant with repeated life experiences and acquired views of hopelessness and helplessness.Teenagers and adults who do not know how to self-soothe, will get into a relationship with another person, and demand that that person always perfectly soothe them when they are in need. And, if for some reason, that person fails to soothe them when their distress spirals immediately into anger and despair, they will lash out and punish him/her for the betrayal. This can be manifested in characterological problems such as borderline personality disorder or tendencies. This type of behavior can become endemic in problematic couples relationships. Or, such individuals may deal with challenges in therapy ineffectively or inappropriately with significant negative transference with the therapist. The therapist would need to be vigilant that they may be likely to evoke problematic counter-transference.Parents who do not know how to self-soothe may overcompensate soothing behaviors for their children as they seek to prevent their children suffering the despair they experienced- often despite their children not feeling despair. The consequence of this may be narcissistic and entitled (spoiled) children who proceed with problems into the second (their own intimacy relationships) and the third generations (their children).
Because this is how they learn that in the big wide world, there is someone who cares… who is available and attentive that he or she is in distress.
Because this is the fundamental behavior of all those wonderful attachment theories!
Because a cry of discomfort also is a cry of need. If adults don't respond to the cry, the "cry it out" advocates are correct because the baby will stop crying. The baby will stop crying because beyond the cry being a cry of discomfort, it also becomes a cry of hope. When babies, children, teens, and adults lose hope, they don't cry out anymore. Crying out, acting out, and other behaviors are the cries to personal and professional caregivers that need to be responded to.