Do you feel inadequate when you can’t figure out why your baby is crying? Guilty when you can’t get the crying to stop? Exhausted from constantly doing things to try to make your baby happy, ever while consulting a checklist of needs that keeps getting longer and longer?
It’s understandable that you feel this way, for it’s what society and tradition often lead parents to believe. I have a different message. No, you’re not a bad parent. You’re an amazing, wonderful, and beautiful parent who wants the best for your child.
I’m so sorry parents receive this message from so many directions. It’s a lot of pressure to:
- Always understand exactly why your baby is crying
- Always make it stop
- Feel, or even be perceived as, inadequate if you don’t/can’t
There’s a reason why you can’t always figure it out or make it stop, which you may not have been told.
And this missing piece of information is brilliant! It can turn your world completely around and liberate your guilt. It will allow your baby’s innate abilities to come forth and illuminate his/her high level of awareness. It gives life-changing insight, opens new windows to your child, and is incredibly bonding.
Okay, okay… It’s this:
Babies (also) cry to release stress and communicate about their experiences.
Of course, always check immediate needs first, like hunger, discomfort, and closeness.
But babies have feelings, just like we do. They experience stress, just like we do. And sometimes they need to let it out–just like we do. (If you’re the type to ever have a good cry, or you have a favorite way to “blow off steam,” you know what I mean!)
So when your baby cries after immediate needs have been met, and there’s not a medical concern, there’s a gem. It’s a chance to lay an amazing foundation for lifelong two-way communication, deep trust, and innate compassion. Your baby trusts you and is telling you about her experiences and her deepest feelings.
So go ahead and hold your baby in your arms and listen. Simply be present with your beautiful baby as his feelings arise, and allow him to express them. (This is very different from “cry it out,” during which babies are left alone to cry.) Make eye contact available, and then watch how sometimes he looks you straight in the eye, or only momentarily between passionate closed-eye sharing. Tell your baby you hear him and that it’s okay to cry.
This lets him know you love and accept him no matter what he’s feeling, that you’re there for him in the hard times too, and that he can come and talk to you (for years) with complete honesty about what’s going on in his life. When he’s done with his cry (it can be short or long), he’ll feel better, and likely sleep better.
Why it’s important to know this information
Many sources offer ways to “calm” and “soothe” a baby, especially in relation to sleep. It sounds like exactly what you want, doesn’t it?
Here’s the tricky part: I find that these sources lack awareness and understanding about deeper needs behind crying. They must assume crying needs to be stopped. Or maybe that crying is uncomfortable and Baby will feel better if he’s not crying, that he can’t handle his emotions (hint: it’s really us grown ups uncomfortable with deep feelings, not the babies!), or perhaps that crying will be endless unless it is stopped.
It follows, then, that if a parent can be “successful” at getting crying to stop (some are, some aren’t), a parent can also be unsuccessful, failing to stop the crying. What then? You must not be doing it right, or be inadequate, or you’re guilty of …what? It’s true, listening to a crying baby (in arms, beyond immediate needs) isn’t always easy, but it’s incredibly bonding and honors your child’s true feelings and communication.
You may also find that this information makes complete sense, but is easier said than done. Please always reach out if you’d like support, question what you’re doing, or second-guess yourself. This is a foundation worth laying.
Your baby is wiser than to cry for no reason. It’s a call for connection and communication. I want you to be armed with this information and experience so that you can not only release yourself from guilt and inadequacy, but also create a highly trusting and accessibly magical bond with your baby.
You’re a wonderful parent. Thank you for doing what you do, being willing to learn more, and opening yourself up in ways you never imagined.