The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three.To see other sections of this publication return to: http://www.michaelolaf.com/JCcontents.html
Crying is Communication
Cultures vary widely in their response to a crying infant—from a belief that crying strengthens the lungs, to absolute incredulity that anyone would let a baby cry for an instant. We recommend spending time and effort to learn what your child is saying with a cry. There is no recipe and each child is different.
During a visit to a hospital nursery at the University of Rome during my Assistant to Infancy training, I watched a professora respond to the crying of infants in the following way: first she spoke gently and soothingly to the baby, reassuring him that someone was present. In many cases this was all that was necessary to comfort the child and to stop the crying. However, if this didn't work, the professora made eye contact or laid a hand gently on the child. Often this calmed the infant completely. If not, she checked to see if there was a physical discomfort, a wrinkle of the bedding, a wet diaper, the need to be in a different position. Solving this problem almost always reassured the child and eliminated his need to cry. Only very rarely was a child actually in need of food.
I find this extremely interesting coming from a country with a major obesity problem. Perhaps if we tried harder to "comfort" our infants in other ways than to always provide food or pacifiers—which teaches them that the way to happiness lies in putting something in the mouth—we could help raise children who are more in touch with their needs.
It is common for an attentive parent to think that crying always means hunger or pain. But the baby could be worried, having bad memories, wet, cold, hot, afraid, lonely, or bored. There are many reasons for calling out for help.
An attentive parent who spends a lot of time watching and listening can learn, even in the early days, what each different cry means. Everyone wants to be understood.