Baby crying – a holistic approach

by Selina Willson

There are two guarantees with your baby. One is that he or she will cry. Probably a lot. The other is that when your baby cries you will be judged, as a parent, by your peers, in-laws and when out and about, by strangers. Some babies’ cries are particularly piercing, which can be agitating and some parents may have a low threshold of tolerance.

A crying baby can worry the parents into thinking I’m not good enough, I have such an unhappy/difficult baby, I’m such a bad parent, and I don’t understand my baby. Crying is an important part of your baby’s development and for some time their main form of communication. Crying is a natural way to let you know of their needs or to just let go of some tension. Crying is taught to be antisocial behaviour.

A newborn baby will cry between 2-11% of the time for the first three days. This helps develop the respiratory system and circulation. Between 2-9 weeks of age the baby can be expected to have one unsettled period a day plus one unsettled day a week. Letting a child ‘cry it out’ with the intention of exercising their lungs is misguided. Parents need to respond to their baby’s cries swiftly. Doing so will not encourage them to cry more but in fact will teach the child they are being protected and listened to and will therefore cry less overall.

For the first three months 70% of babies cry for an average of two hours a day. By 12 months of age the average is down to one hour. Between 12 and 18 months the crying patterns become less erratic and the child is generally more settled. A ‘good’ baby who never seems to communicate by crying is one to watch carefully. It could be that this baby has learned that crying does not get the attention required from their parent.

This type of situation can produce an insecurely attached child which leads to difficulty forming lasting, loving relationships in adulthood. Alternatively a baby who feels she has been heard will sleep more deeply and will extend herself in trust further in time. It teaches him he is worthy of respect.

Each baby has a slightly different cry for hunger, pain, tiredness etc. Learning these can help you attend to your baby’s needs promptly and reduce the amount of time your baby is stressed. Hunger is the most common trigger for crying. Between 9 and 12 months they will develop the ability to remember past experience and will begin to cry in anticipation of a frightening or painful event.

Research shows babies who are responded to promptly, not by hushing but by listening and acting, cry less frequently and for shorter periods as they grow older. It helps them self regulate their stress levels and grow more relaxed and stress free as adults. Crying releases hormones that reduce tension and arouse their in built stress management mechanism.

Crying is another way to cleanse our hearts of negative feelings and stress. We all cry from time to time (or at least feel like it) and know how helpful and releasing it can be. Crying is physical and physical activity is grounding. In the younger baby crying is helpful to release that which can’t be let go of yet through crawling, rolling and toddling. It is used to let go of excess energy.

The 7-10 month old will often cry for up to 10 minutes before sleep to unwind especially if they have been happy all day. By 1 year old the child will begin to cry from the heart. They may also start to cry in protest of unwanted things like bedtime.

Co-counselling crying as named by Aletha Solter is explained as ‘when being present with baby while it cries can help it to let go of birth and other trauma. When baby is not crying from discomfort, it sometimes needs to cry out its tensions. Staying calm yourself and being present in a loving and collected way can help the crying be healing rather than creating more frustration.’

In these times rather than hushing your baby, look, listen and vocalise your understanding and compassion. ‘I hear you, I understand, yes let it go, that’s right.’ Get in close, rest your hands on your baby, cuddle, pat, pet, breath. Remain calm. Exude feelings of providing a safe, loving environment.

References:
The Aware Baby, Aletha Solter. Shining Star Press 1984
You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Rahima Baldwin Dancy. Celestial Arts 1989
The Child Within The Lotus- Human Behaviour From Birth, Margaret Stephenson Meane. Rockpool Publishing
When Your Baby Won’t Stop Crying – A parent’s guide to colic, Tonja H Kraulter Psy. D.,L.C.SW 2006
Your Child’s Development From Birth to Adolescence, Richard Lansdown, Marjorie Walker. Frances Lincoln LTD 1996

 

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