Is a “good” baby one who
sleeps a lot and doesn’t cry much? Most people say “yes,” and their
answer is Understandable. “Good” and “bad” are judgmental terms
people often use to describe the behavior and temperament of a baby.
A “good” baby is a quiet one, and a “bad” baby is fussy.
Parents often believe that their child is a reflection on them. They
want a contented baby who’s easy to care for and who gives them a
feeling of success. And many parents feel bad if their baby cries or
has colic. Yet, the fussing baby is not “bad” and the quiet one is
not “good.” M babies are different. Labeling and judging them for
their behavior is inappropriate because they’re only expressing
their needs in the best way they can. When they cry and fuss,
they’re telling their parents that something’s wrong. They’re tired,
hurt, uncomfortable, hungry; wet, scared, or needing to be held.
Labeling babies begins very early. One new mother was told by a
maternity nurse that her hungry infant had been crying in the
nursery. “What a bad baby you have!” Out in public, a well-meaning
person will approach a mother and infant and say, “What a good baby.
Is he always like this?” Such a question can put the mother in a
bind. Although she may answer “yes,” she may also remember that the
previous week he cried all during a shopping trip.
One of the hardest times to deal with a crying infant is at night,
when a wakeful baby may truly seem “bad.” If you’ve been giving to
your child all day, you may feel drained and resentful when you have
to give again at night. You may grit your teeth when awakened at 3
A.M. and feel overwhelmed. But if you can think of your baby as
expressing needs rather than being “bad,” you may feel more
Once you understand that his crying is a kind of communication, you
may find yourself responding differently, trying to understand why
he cries or why he doesn’t sleep as much as you think he should, or
as you would like. And you may also feel less harassed when he
fusses in public. It’s easier to be comfortable with him when you no
longer feel pressured to have a “good” baby.