On your way to calming your crying baby

You've tried everything and your baby is still crying. What now?

You just fed her, just changed her, she just woke up, yet she's still crying.

You ticked off all the possible reasons you think she's crying yet it still continues and it's so hard to listen to.  Listening to those cries can be so hard and anxiety provoking. We are hard wired to perceive their cries as a sign that something is wrong.

This is so that we will protect them no matter what. Their main way of communication is through crying - for their physical needs as well as emotional needs. 

Do babies have emotional needs?

Had you ever considered that newborns have emotional needs? That one reason they are crying is to release and process emotion?  Your baby can sometimes cry for reasons that are not apparent. She might need to cry to let out an emotion or a memory.

She might need you to just be there for her without trying to stop the cry. You may notice this in the evening, or before going to sleep. She may need a moment to let out some of her emotions, to process the day or the waking moment she's had.

What can you do in those moments of emotional/memory crying?

Try to remain calm and grounded yourself. You can do this by counting the seconds while you breath, by paying attention to the way your foot is touching the floor as you walk. While you do this. take your baby and hold her close. You can sing to her or speak to her. Acknowledge her crying, giving her emotions space to exist.

Imagine yourself as a container, a pitcher of water, where your baby is pouring all of her emotions into.

Your mission is to try and contain all of those emotions so she feels held and seen.

You can tell her: “I’m here and I see you’re having a hard time”,  or “You’re so wonderful and I love you”, or “Together we will make it through this”, or “Thank you for letting me know how you’re feeling right now. I’m here with you. You are not alone”. 

You can also use a baby carrier and gently bounce while tapping her on the back until she calms down.

Why can doing this be so hard?

Holding space for the emotions of others isn’t an easy task.

Like me, you probably didn’t think that newborn babies can have the need for emotional crying.

Like me, you were probably always told that when the baby is crying, we need to make it stop!

Sometimes this is true. As we said, crying is a big part of baby’s communication.

They use crying to communicate a variety of things, and you need to then try and figure it out - not always so easy.

So, sometimes the crying will indicate hunger or discomfort, and sometimes it won’t.

Sometimes you will want so hard to find an explanation and a cause for the crying but there won’t be one.

You will want to infer a causation relationship between two arbitrary things but maybe they aren’t even connected.

Holding space for emotions is probably not your natural tendency.

Not because you don’t mean to, but because you most likely grew up in a cultural environment that doesn’t encourage that.

This is the same culture I grew up in.

The culture that is uncomfortable with vulnerability, trying to fix things instead of letting people just vent.

The culture which says that complaining is for weak people and is a waste of time.

The culture where you are told to stop crying and get on with it.

Perhaps as a child, you were not given space for your emotions.

Perhaps you didn’t have a safe pitcher to contain your emotions.

This can make it especially hard to do it for your own child now.

By becoming aware of this, by paying attention to how it makes you feel, by looking at your feelings, you can start to heal that wound and make space to become your child’s pitcher even though you didn’t have one yourself.

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