The baby sleep market is full of devices to take the pain of a crying baby away from parents. There are fancy chairs that swing and rock at the press of a button, shushing devices that are put into cots or held against baby's ears, white noise apps, swaddle suits, cots on castors so they can rock, slings and baby carriers to hold your baby close, bassinets that fit onto parents beds that are the next thing to bed sharing. And the list could go on and on. The baby sleep market is a goldmine and manufacturers know how desperate parents are.
As a midwife of 26 years I've noticed how we've moved from allowing babies to cry and vent as a healthy thing and normalised to the no cry situation we see ourselves in now. Psychologists, paediatricians, sleep school and Child & Family Health Nurses are all touting the harm that crying causes to growing brains. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone that harms babies. However we need to look at how much stress, in what situation i.e. is baby left alone to cry vs. comforting and being present with a crying baby. Aletha Solther has written a great little book called Tears & Tantrums that examines babies and crying in great detail.
Crying is a babies way of communicating their physical and emotional needs to us.Most babies will cry a lot in the early weeks and months and as much as 1-3 hours, once or twice a day. This situation usually improves at 4 months of age. At times it can feel overwhelming and we feel at a loss to know what to do to stop it.
In those early weeks and months your baby will most probably cry a lot in the early evening. We know this as the 'witching hour' and it's often a result of a long day with lots of stimulation they can't turn off to. It can also be be exacerbated by a build up of lactose and babies have a low lactase in the early months that leads to a lactose load. You've probably heard the phrase '3-month colic' mentioned a lot.
Some babies cry more than others and for many reasons:
- Tummy ache/colic
- Bored and want attention
- Wet or dirty nappy
- Too cold or too hot
How do you know why you're baby is crying?Sometimes it's really hard to know why they're crying. Mums' feel they should know but as I always say they don't come with an instruction manual and every baby is different. It's important to know that some crying is normal and to be expected, but any excessive crying should always be investigated.
Nurturing love and cuddles helps physical & emotional healthIt must be such a huge adaptation from being in a lovely warm and snug womb to this outside world of noise, sensory experiences and new relationships. The first 3 months are a time of more than normal crying and we call this the 4th trimester. Babies benefit from lots of love and cuddles and love to be swaddled, almost like being back in the womb. It helps them feel secure and adapt to this new crazy world. Think of this as helping your baby adapt and not as spoiling them. I've never seen a baby spoilt with too much love. They're only little for such a short period of time. Babies that are held and cuddled in a positive way grow to make secure attachments and healthy emotions as an adult. So try and ignore, in a polite way, any well meaning relation who says you are spoiling your baby with too much love!
7 tips to help your baby with their emotions
- Cuddles are so important - you can never give too many cuddles. Looking at your baby and talking to them in a calm positive voice helps make more networks in their brain. So don't be frightened of cuddling a crying baby, you are helping your baby navigate whatever is causing them to cry.
- Have a positive day and night routine to help create security. I'm not talking about a strict schedule, more a pattern of behaviour. We know that routines reduce cortisol and increase security in babies.Structure also helps mum and dad learn to manage their baby's day. The type of routine I find many parents find helpful is feed-play-sleep and feed-play-feed-sleep for day time and at nighttime it's a straight forward feed-sleep.
- Baby massage helps baby's feel calm and soothed. It is also known to help them get to sleep quicker and sleep much better. If every parent knew this I think more babies would experience a blissful baby massage every day! Do it as part of your afternoon routine. Trying to fit too much into your bedtime routine can create an overtired baby and worn out frazzled parents. Watch my video on baby massage here: https://youtu.be/levgvwlfIDk
- White noise has helped many baby's stop crying. It stops the loud hysterical, overtired baby back into a calm moment. Having witnessed it myself it is quite amazing. I only use it sparingly and when I'm sleep training an overwhelmed baby. One mum recounts her experience, "I learned the power of white noise when Baby V and I ventured out to meet some new mamas for lunch. As I frantically tried to reverse the ensuing meltdown, another mom came over with her phone. “Try this,” she said as she held up her phone and blasted white noise. Lo and behold, her black magic worked. Instantly, Baby V snapped to attention, stopped screaming and stared wide-eyed at the dark wizardry that is the White Noise Lite app."But lots of parents do rely on white noise to soothe their babies and help them sleep through the night. These machines are recommended on top parenting websites by top pediatricians, parenting bloggers and, most convincingly, all of the other parents you know. These machines are literally everywhere. Like other sleep aids I avoid using them. It just creates another layer of sleep association that eventually becomes unhelpful to the baby. But now, a study published online is attempting to silence these ringing endorsements. After analyzing the max output of these machines, the study authors conclude that some have the potential to harm babies. Sobering reading.
- Keeping yourself calm is so important. Babies pick up and feed off our anxieties. As a midwife I learnt this very quickly and I've learnt to be mindful and calm. I remember being in a nursery on postnatal on night shift in the UK. This was before the days of baby rooming in with mum. I had 6 babies in my nursery and they all started crying at once. I felt so overwhelmed and stressed. I attended to them all as quickly as I could and fed the loudest first and so on. There wasn't time for lots of love and care. It was practical care and pure survival! It most certainly was not an enjoyable experience for anyone. Thank goodness for rooming in. If you're feeling overwhelmed try taking a few more breaths out than you take in to calm yourself. The ratio of 3 breaths in to 5 breaths out is generally recommended to calm yourself. Concentrating on this can help you get calm and mindful. Other good calming techniques are chanting a yoga 'om' or shushing. All these will not only calm you but also baby too.
The lazy lion, a baby yoga position has reduced crying and provided comfort to many babies. I discovered this little gem whilst working on night shift on postnatal. In the UK I was the only midwife for a postnatal ward of 26 mums and babies. We had an auxiliary nurse to help us but that was all! So I had to develop ways of calming these fractious new babies. I found this position was a lifesaver and soothed many babies. It stimulates the vestibular system (balance) in babies and is an instant soother. Amazing. Since doing my baby yoga diploma I discovered it is a tried and tested soothing yoga position for babies. It is sometimes known as the 'Tiger in the Tree'. The baby is held on their front, over your forearm and your other arm and hand is either supporting their tummy or gently massaging it.
- Baby wearing is a great way of calming an overwhelmed baby. We've been baby wearing for generations and it's really back in vogue with the attachment parenting movement. We know that babies that are held will cry much less than babies who are not. Sometimes this crying can be as much as 50% less. It is instinctual to keep your baby close to you. It helps attachment and bonding. We become in-tune with our baby’s bio-rhythms as they do us. Babies are instantly soothed as they sense our smell and listen to the heart rate that was so familiar in utero. https://www.nurtureparenting.com.au/baby-wearing/ Choose an age appropriate sling or carrier and one that supports baby's hips and head.
Nobody was ever been harmed with too much love and they are only little for a very short period of time. Enjoy every second and I hope you liked my 7 tips to help a crying baby. There is more of these little gems to follow. After all I am writing a book on sleep and it's coming along very nicely! #iamwriting #excited #watchthisspace