Responding to crying

Are you jolted by your baby’s slightest expression of discomfort or dismay? Is your natural instinct to do anything in your power to stop your baby crying?

When their cries aren’t easily settled, it can be unnerving, frustrating and you can feel like a complete failure.

You may shush, jiggle, drive all night, bounce on an exercise ball all night, swapping with your partner when you need a rest. You may nurse for hours on end, be anxious about taking them off the breast even when they sleep in case the crying starts again as soon as you unlatch. Mothers also nurse throughout the night just to keep baby asleep.

When they get a bit older we have to say “no” for different reasons but many times this will lead to tears, tantrums and general emotional meltdowns. Parents can always feel they are in the wrong and end up distracting the child with a treat rather than face the tantrum. Instinct tells us children shoudln’t cry and it is our role to make it stop.

However, crying is the primary way babies and infants communicate and it helps thier lung development. It is my belief we need to respond to these cries in appropriate and accurate ways which let the baby know we are there for them to protect and settle them.

The difficulty when babies are anxious and upset is that our own hormones kick in and we then respond, already feeling stressed and worried before we even go to deal with the situation. Keep calm by breathing and working to relax yourself first. If we an anxious caregiver as well as a screaming baby, the baby will often panic more which leads to more upset.

Calm yourself down so you are able to listen to and respond to the baby’s cries. Try and listen and understand your baby’s cues. Run through a checklist to work out whether they are hungry, tired, uncomfortable, in pain, too hot, too cold, bored or overstimulated. Once you have run through this and responded to any of these needs, we can then assume nothing is actually wrong other than baby just needs some reassurance and calmness to restore their body’s balance. Responding too quickly to stop the baby crying may mean we have not understood what they really want and need.

Crying clears tension and allows your baby to express their feelings and this is a positive response. If we can work on keeping calm ourselves, we have a much higher likelihood of being able to calm and settle baby back down. Often, we resort to feeding when baby does not settle but when we do this we are teaching that food is the answer to everything. If you know they are unlikely to be hungry then try to resist feeding at this time. Let your baby know crying is allowed but that you are there, seeing them through this difficult time. Reassure them that they are not alone but are being held or settled in as calm a way as possible, however long it takes.

When our own emotions overwhelm us, baby’s message can be muddled. Being held lovingly and allowed to cry is not a negative response.

By responding slowly with love and calmness, baby will thrive.