Newborns and young infants develop a sense of security and trust when parents are available to meet their physical needs in a timely manner. Infant cries are specifically geared to gain parental attention so the infant is nourished and kept safe.
Parents timely response to their infants’ cries provides positive reinforcement to the child that parents are available and needs will be met, so security and trust can develop appropriately.
Infants also respond positively to soothing voices, gentle touches, swaddling, rocking, and other calm parental interactions.
For most parents, the question arises, “When can we take more time to respond to our infant’s needs?” or “At what age can we allow our infant to self-soothe before we respond?” This is basically asking at what point does our positive reinforcement begin teaching the infant to cry inappropriately.
The answer – this depends upon each infant’s unique temperament and development and the interaction between parents and infants.
However, by nine months of age, most infants can begin to understand the concept of “no” and so parental responses can be tempered to avoid providing positive reinforcement for negative behaviors.