Child Parent Attachment

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Leaving a distressed baby to cry on a regular basis could be damaging to the developing brain, according to parenting guru Penelope Leach, whose new book will be seen as a head-on confrontation with the tough-love approach of baby experts such as Gina Ford, who say parents should "train" their infants by allowing them to cry themselves to sleep. In the latest salvo in the baby wars, Leach brings science to her aid, which she says has progressed remarkably in recent years. Using saliva swab tests, scientists have been able to measure high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in distraught babies whose cries elicit no response from parent or carer. Neurobiologists say, according to Leach, that high cortisol levels are "toxic" to the developing brain. "It is not an opinion but a fact that it's potentially damaging to leave babies to cry. Now we know that, why risk it?" Leach says in her book, The Essential First Year – What Babies Need Parents to Know. She is not, she tells the Guardian, saying it is bad for babies to cry. "All babies cry. Some cry more than others." But crying, in the first year or so, is the only way a baby can get a response. Denying a response, she argues, can have long-term emotional consequences. "We are dealing with the expectations that a baby's brain is building up. The reason babies raised on strict routine regimens go to sleep, usually with less and less crying, is because they are quicker and quicker to give up. Their brain has adapted to a world where they are not responded to," she says. "That kind of early-induced anxiety may relate to anxiety right through adult life." Ford's theories on parenting tend to be loved or loathed. Known as the Queen of Routine, Ford – a trained nanny who has not had children of her own – advocates strict routines to train the child into a regular feeding, waking and sleeping pattern. She advises that
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