The Shocking Truth About Crying
Crying is normal. It's the way that babies communicate with us. They don’t have the ability to communicate verbally so they use different cries to express their needs. Every baby is different - they have different temperaments, personalities and stressors. It is completely normal for your baby to cry twice as much as your friends, or your sisters baby to get hysterical when a dog barks while yours sleeps through it. If your baby cries more, it does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. It does not mean you are a bad parent and it certainly doesn't mean there is anything wrong with your baby! We would like to shed some light on crying - why it happens, what you can do about it, and what you shouldn't do!
Let's start with the basics - babies only cry if there is a reason. Occasionally that reason might be because they just feel like crying, but sometimes we feel like that so you can't really blame them! It’s likely that you can tell the difference between your little ones cries for the most part.
There is often an:
- “I’m hungry – feed me!”
- “I’m uncomfortable – move me, change me, snuggle me.”
- “I’m tired – put me to sleep.”
- “I’m overtired – you missed the boat on my sleepy cues.”
- “I’m gassy – lets do some baby cardio with my legs.”
- "My tummy hurts - burp me."
If you are able to identify what your little one is trying to communicate with you and meet that need, you are likely going to be able to reduce the amount of crying you listen to during the day in regards to their needs. Despite what it might feel like sometimes - they aren't trying to drive you crazy with their endless tears, they are trying to tell you something!
Crying can also be an emotional release. As adults, we perceive crying as something that we need to “fix.” If we hear a baby cry our immediate response is to pick baby up and soothe them – this can be through distraction, shushing, bouncing or any other strategy with the sole purpose being to settle them. This is a natural and compassionate response to distress. However, crying can be a release of emotion. If you have a terrible day at work and come home and have a good cry, it’s likely that you actually feel better after getting those emotions and feelings out. Babies are no different. If we go through the day trying to quickly “smother” (in the most compassionate and well meaning way!) these emotions, we aren’t being respectful of the feelings our children are having and attempting to express.
One of the most common statements we hear from parents struggling with bedtime is that their child seems to cry inconsolably for extended periods of time and they just don’t know what to do. Often these are the parents who try to shield their babies from feeling distress during the day and soothe them through the feelings as quickly as possible. This creates the pop bottle effect. If you shake a bottle of pop consistently throughout the day and then open it at the end, it’s going to explode. That’s what is happening with your baby – you are containing the feelings throughout the day and they need a way to get out – so, at bedtime all of the bottled up emotions from the day come spilling out and it results in prolonged periods of crying.
So what can you do to resolve this? We are by no means saying; let your baby cry all day! If something startles or surprises your little one and they start to cry, pick them up, cuddle them close, say things like, “That was really surprising for you!” or “That was a loud noise!” and show them the cause of their distress. Being held in your arms is going to help them feel safe and secure and when the shock has worn off they will settle back down. If your little one is going through separation anxiety, allow them to feel upset at you leaving – you are likely feeling it too, so why are we trying to send the message that it’s not ok for them to feel the same? Make statements such as, “Its hard when Mummy goes, but she always comes back!” “Daddy needs to go to work, but he loves you very much!” give them the space to feel the emotions they need to in a safe and secure environment and then gently help them move on with their day when the initial distress has worn off.
Making any changes to your daily routine can cause tears in your little one. Crying is also the way your baby will protest change. Why would they want to adjust something they are perfectly content doing – being nursed, rocked, walked, etc. to sleep. They are going to let you know their feelings about this – they aren’t on board. This is going to be one of your first forays into the world of parenting – making a decision that is in the best interest of your baby and family and your baby isn’t going to like it. They are going to push back and hope that they will change your mind. The way that they will do that is in the only effective way they know how – crying.
There are many people out there who feel that allowing a baby to cry isn’t respectful – we feel the opposite. Emotions and feelings are natural human experiences – being encouraged to feel them from a young age and having them respected, explained and supported is an incredibly respectful way to parent – in our opinion. If your baby is distressed at changes you have started making, verbalize that! Let your little one know that you completely understand the reason for their distress (babies understand far more than they have ever been given credit for) and then state what the expectation is. For example, your baby is crying at bedtime – you can express, “You’re really upset right now – you want to nurse. It’s time to go to sleep. We love you very much, goodnight Sweet Pea.”
If at any point you are concerned about the amount of crying that your little one does and think that there might be something more to their tears then we strongly recommend that you speak to your family doctor or pediatrician to get their opinion.
If you are struggling with tears and sleep and aren't sure of how to improve sleep while remaining consistent because of your personal beliefs around crying, reach out to us! We can help you create a respectful, compassionate plan to improve your sleep situation and ensure your little one is supported 100% of the way!