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Hellooow, I'm dad now. I am since about 3 weeks. Being an engineer my brain is addicted to solving problems. Right now my biggest problem is an unproportionally aggressive, stubborn and winey newborn. I know, because I was the same when I was a kid and my parents couldn't handle me. I made it my aim to tame this little monster as soon as possible (as soon as I can train him). He is developing nicely, growing fast, his sight already works, he can perceive his parents just fine, smiles, gives sounds of joy, but very often is he strangely winey, "desperate" and as good as always wants to be held by momma.

I want to know what your experience with newborns is and if you were able to "train" them to be more peaceful. I want to make clear that I see punishment as a weak training technique and don't want to implement it. Reward leads to much better results. The only problem would be of how to make a very young child "make want" something to be able to reward it.

Following hirarchy seems to apply to my boy's crying:

  1. Hungry
  2. Diaper full
  3. Needs cuddles (Mostly from my wife, this is a problem since he ALWAYS wants to be held, even at night when it is sleeping time. I can't judge him for that though since my wife and I are both cuddle addicts.)

My problem is not with 1. and 2. but with 3. Sometimes he freaks out even when held and it is hard to tell what he needs even if he is clean and fed. I want to understand why he is freaking out.

We are planning to have many more kids, so I need to get him under control (and us a peaceful night).

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    Not a full answer but more of a frame challenge - I have never found it helpful to think of newborns as "stubborn". They just spent 9 months being constantly snuggled and provided for by their mom, and now they're awash in a world of new sensations and problems they've never had before. I would be freaking out too! As an engineer, you may appreciate the idea that some problems are easier to solve if you reframe them. Look for a new way of viewing this situation. Aug 10 '21 at 15:31
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    I know you're using humor to describe your circumstances, but some of it may be misinterpreted. Many weeks of near-sleepless nights are as common as babies themselves. If you search this site for "newborn" and "sleep", you'll see that 1) the problem is nearly universal/guaranteed and 2) no single answer fits every child. Right now, even though you're exhausted, baby's needs come first. Read about swaddling, wearing baby, skin-to-skin contact, and the many things that help soothe this miraculous little creature you made. Aug 10 '21 at 23:44
  • Just a small fyi to let you know I've been there: I remember the exuberant entry I made in my firstborn's "first year" book when they slept for more than 2 hours straight... at 5 weeks! The first time they slept through the night didn't make it into that book or the next. Aug 10 '21 at 23:49
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    At three weeks (and for quite a while longer), you are not dealing with a “stubborn” baby, but simply a newborn with a lot of different needs and very limited communication skills.
    – Stephie
    Aug 11 '21 at 11:41
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I know you are a new Parent. My boy turned 1 yesterday, so I have seen all that you are going through. I think the answer is not in engineering. You need to understand as a human what he is going through. First of all, newborns are not Stubborn. Poor baby is new to this world, he is trying to convey something which you are not understanding (not your fault, it will come with time). Think like this, you live in a house, go to work and have a routine. Let's say one day suddenly you are sent to a different world where everything is different. There are new creatures (there was no one with him in the womb), temperature is different, so many different voices etc etc.. how will you adjust to that new world? Same is going on with him. He was always with mom, getting that warmth in there and feeling safe and comfortable. Now everything is changed for him. Only known thing is the touch and feeling of his mom. So he wants it to feel safe.

As for problem solving, there was no day and night for him. It will take time for him to understand day-night. There is a hormone named "Melatonin". This is the sleep hormone controlled by the circadian rhythm or sleep system which is fully developed between the ages of 5 to 6 months. He will start sleeping better around that time. I would say enjoy this time because it will pass very fast. He will never be 3 weeks old again.

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    +1 for this answer. On this and many other SE sites, if you state generally unrecognized things as undisputed facts, please add a source. "...by the circadian rhythm or sleep system which is fully developed between the ages of 5 to 6 months" is incorrect. Aug 11 '21 at 1:26
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As a scientist 😉 I think it is important to understand what is happening and act accordingly.

A newborn cannot be trained - they are not at that level of mental development yet, this will come in... a couple of years. Moreover, 3-week-old needs to eat about every three hours for purely physiological reasons, they need to be consoled (at random moments) and so on. Moreover, by the time one understands the problem and finds out how to deal with it, the child has already grown and one has to deal with new problems.

It is also worth noting that crying is the only way a child can communicate with the outside world: it can mean anything from I am seriously sick, to I have gas in my stomach, to I want a hug, to I can't find my thumb/peacifier.

Inconsolable cry A particular phenomenon that is given attention in France, where I live, is so-called the inconsolable cry of a newborn (la pleur inconsolable de nourrisson): somewhere between 4 and 12 weeks of age a child would cry every evening for a few hours, without obvious reasons. It begins often at the same time and just as suddenly stops. There exist different explanations to this, one of which is the anxiety related to learning the difference between the day and the night (so much for training/taming).

Growth spurts Short periods (lasting one-two days) when the child is especially winy and needy are known to occur at rather regular time points (depending on a child, e.g., at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months). Many parents note an acquisition of a new skill after such a period (e.g., the child starts to smile or starts raising their head).

In other words, while experimenting with a child is necessary to find the specific approach that works for this particular child, one can gain a great deal from browsing around and learning about child psychological and physiological development.

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This answer is coming from a new dad with a now 6 week old, and a software engineer who understand why you're coming at it from the angle that you are.

  • I want to know what your experience with newborns is and if you were able to "train" them to be more peaceful.
  • Reward leads to much better results. The only problem would be of how to make a very young child "make want" something to be able to reward it.
  • I need to get him under control (and us a peaceful night)

Your expectations are ahead of the curve here.

Right now, your child is not a rational being. He isn't choosing to behave the way he does. His reactions are all instinctive and there's a very simple cause (e.g. hunger) and effect (mouth opening, and eventually crying) to his actions.

You can only train those who are able to reason about their desires and behaviors, and your child is simply not capable of that level of reasoning yet.

Right now, you are in the territory of "on demand" parenting. Your child will alert you (without clear instructions) that something is amiss, and it is up to you to spring into action, figure out what the issue is, and fix it. That is all you can do right now. You cannot get him to willfully change his behavior, or not respond to something he experiences.

Sometimes he freaks out even when held and it is hard to tell what he needs even if he is clean and fed.

Clean and fed are not the only two problems that you have to address. From experience, there are 4 very distinct and common issues:

  • Hunger
  • Dirty diaper
  • Over-tiredness
  • Cramps/sickness/general discomfort

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and not everything is easy to troubleshoot or figure out. Just the other day, my child started crying loudly as if he was dealing with severe cramps. It ended up being nothing more than his feet sticking out of the blanket and having cold feet.

Not every child will be upset the same way by the same experiences. This is something you have to figure out for your child. Eventually, you'll figure out the likely suspects based on when/how they cry.

Needs cuddles (Mostly from my wife, this is a problem since he ALWAYS wants to be held, even at night when it is sleeping time. I can't judge him for that though since my wife and I are both cuddle addicts.)

While your child currently is not a rational being, that doesn't mean that he can't get used to something and end up struggling without it.

There are certain benefits to sleeping on mom and dad. There's slight movement and rocking, there's warmth, both breathing and heartbeats provide a soothing sound, and having an arm resting on them can provide some snuggly pressure.

As much as these are all nice things that can help an upset baby settle down, overreliance on these tools may lead your baby to be unable to soothe in absence of those tools. In essence, you are creating a baby that needs to sleep on its parents.

We've made a similar mistake with playing white noise during naps. It very much helps in having him sleep through minor disturbances in the household, but we overused it and he's now very easy to wake up when he hears any sound.
Comparatively, my friends' newborn was able to sleep through their German shepherd loudly barking, because it was such a common occurrence that they simply learned to sleep through.

If you want to avoid the inherent dependency to need to sleep on Mom or Dad, you're going to have to ween them off it and get used to sleeping in a bed by themselves.

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  • Yes, we understand that there must be a balance between feeling loved and learning independence. Thats the threshold we're trying to figure out right now. Another thing is that WE are starting to adapt to him. We can sleep better even with him crying at night (at least one of us). This is an amazing learning experience. Aug 20 '21 at 14:03
  • @ArturMüllerRomanov: Not to burst a romantic bubble, but at your baby's current age, its less about "feeling loved" and more about "familiar sensations" (it mimics being in the womb, which soothes them), and similarly, not "learning independence" but rather "not being exposed to less ideal sleep circumstances". Your child will not feel unloved just because you put them down in a bed. They are simply not at that developmental stage yet.
    – Flater
    Aug 20 '21 at 14:06
  • @ArturMüllerRomanov: I would also advise to not simply ignore your crying baby. You are supposed to soothe them so that they don't cry. This is the main contributor to creating the natural instinct that Mom and Dad are a safe place and will make you feel better. If you ignore their cries, they don't learn that. That being said, if it's been hours of tending to him and him still crying anyway, and you need a short break, it's perfectly fine to put them in a safe spot and tend to yourself. Just don't ignore your baby without reason or for extended periods of time.
    – Flater
    Aug 20 '21 at 14:11
  • Id disagree on some points. Depriving your child to much will make it grow up an unsocial ice brick. Balance Aug 20 '21 at 14:22
  • @ArturMüllerRomanov: Eventually, you are correct that continually depriving or avoiding interaction with a child negatively impacts them. But you're a few chapters ahead of where your child currently is. A 3 week old has no concept of social behavior, nor emotional interaction with others, nor are they receptive to training. Eventually, they will register all those things, but they're not there yet. My advice isn't intended to be applied forever. It's matched to your child's current age.
    – Flater
    Aug 20 '21 at 14:34
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Congratulations on your new baby! My wife and I have three boys and the challenge to care for them is real and fulfilling.

The first few months are extreme in caring for a newborn. You're tired, your wife is recovering from birth physically and emotionally and your new baby is coming to grips of being in a huge alien universe without the constant and literal attachment to mom.

In my experience, raising newborns requires acceptance of unknown variables and a shift from "make this child do what I want" to "how can I help my child feel secure?"

How do you do this? Consider yourself a newborn parent as well. Keep your expectations proportional to the amount of time you have experienced parenting - be patient with how things are going and expect changes to come fast and frequently. Just like your child, observe and interpret your new surroundings and adapt to an ever changing environment. Don't rush to train out what you think of as troublesome behavior - you've only been a parent for three weeks.

Don't let biases and naive expectations created before you became a parent to skew your data set of observations. Babies need a lot and a lot is demanded of you and your wife. Keep things simple, keep care and affection flowing in high, unmitigated amounts to your wife and your newborn. Sleep returns, your child will change and you will grow as a parent if you are willing to observe and learn.

And if training is still desired - train yourself to improve as a parent. No one is the perfect parent and we can all learn something new.

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