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A Little Crying Never Hurt Anyone, But Cry Only in My Arms, Baby!

Baby Crying

Cry it out!

And, on to the topic of tears… I saw quite a few toddler temper tantrums at our market this weekend, so it reminded me to write about crying.

Let’s see, the obvious reasons for crying… Imagine you couldn’t walk, you couldn’t talk, you have this majorly discoordinated little body and your head is so massive that you can barely turn if from side to side. What would happen if you were hungry? If you were tired? If you had an itchy tag in your shirt? Or, what if you had to poo or pee? Well, you can’t just yell out, ‘Hey mom, a little help here!’. You would have to do something. Maybe fuss a little, but if that fussing goes unnoticed, you’re going to have to cry. It’s the only way you can communicate that something is bothering you! Ok, we all know that. Babies cry when they want something…

But, what about when a baby’s needs have all been met and they’re still crying? Now what? Baby’s fed, baby’s dry (or if you’re practicing Elimination Communication, you’ve taken them to the potty), they’re clean, they’re rested… but still they’re crying?! If they’re sick, that’s a different story.. But, this is often when a parent would reach out for a pacifier (dummy, soother, depending on your country of origin), or try rocking or bouncing their child to sleep unsuccessfully for hours. ‘They need more sucking time’, or whatever people might say. But, what we don’t always think about is that babies cry to release emotions and stress. Who knows where the stress comes from, everywhere and anywhere, I wouldn’t bother taking the time to analyze that one. So, is it really okay to let them cry? I was searching around when Margo was about 5 months old and I came across this fantastic website called Parenting with Presence. They said that letting your baby cry was ok! Wow! Well, that certainly made sense to me! After all, I have been practicing and teaching yoga and meditation through an organization called the Art of Living Foundation for over ten years. I know that at some point we all need to release stress in some way. This crying is different to ‘controlled crying’. Always hold the baby when he or she is crying. (This may not be true if you’re feeling violent towards your child, if it’s a crying newborn for hours and hours and you’re about to loose it,,, that’s a different story, put the baby down, walk away and come back).

After making sure all of their needs have been met, and they’re still not settled, you hold them in your arms and let them go. Sometimes they can cry for quite a long time! I have had Margo screaming for something like and hour or more! Little Goldie would go  on and off for two hours when she was a little newborn (a little note, now that she’s older, she only cries for max five minutes)! You continue to let them cry until they either fall asleep, or stop crying with a very peaceful stare-off-into-space look on their face. Obviously, sometimes, you might notice that you have to interrupt their crying for the potty or to change a wet diaper, etc. But, since you’re holding them, in your arms, you will know if they need something. Very different to letting them cry in the other room. They will probably go searching for boobies too, if you’re breastfeeding, or ask for some water if they’re older, that is normal too. I usually don’t break out the boobs, unless I know that they might truly be hungry. Or, you might try to cheat a little and think, ‘Oh, I’ll just give them a little boob and they’ll fall asleep…’ but I have found that that usually doesn’t work, the crying will still need to come out later. Sips of water for the toddler are ok, sometimes, unless they start using it as a distraction for the crying. I usually don’t break the crying for anything. And, the crying can get very intense at times!

Babies and small children, when crying, will get very sweaty, kick, arch their back, etc. It’s all part of the process, and all very normal. Also, if they’re talking, like Margo, they can just start blabbing and saying all sorts of nonsense and repeating themselves too. I just let her say whatever she wants to say. I usually don’t respond in words, but just look at her and let her know that I’m there. I know that for Margo, part of HER need to release stress comes from her constant talking and dialogue, so this comes out when she’s having a cry. Other kids may become quite violent and physical when they cry. It all depends on the child. I clearly remember the first time I did this ‘crying’ with Margo when she was five months old. It was later afternoon and she was really fussy and wouldn’t take a nap, which I knew she sorely needed. As I was holding her and she was screaming her brains out, I thought, ‘DUH! Why hadn’t I thought of this before?’. When she was finished crying she fell asleep so peacefully for an hour afterwards, and when she woke, she was the most delightful baby. I still do this ‘crying’ with her at 2 1/2 years old. She even tells me now when she needs to have a good cry. She says, ‘Mommy, hold Margo’. She and I both know when her emotions have been brewing. Here are some signs to look for if your baby/toddler needs to have a good cry:

  • Unexplained irritation
  • Unexplained aggression
  • Difficulty falling asleep or constant waking at night/restlessness  (this can also be a sign that they need to eliminate)
  • Constantly looking for boobs or bottle, on and off (especially with older babies)

There are many more signs to look for, but you know your child and you know when they have had enough.

What about the car? someone asked me about crying in the car. A car trip with a screaming child can be painful to your ears! When my babies are crying in the car, I ask myself… Are they hungry or wet? If their needs have been met, I ask, are they tired? If they are tired, maybe a good cry is ok? Some people would say that being confined in a carseat is like being back in the womb. It can make them very fussy! So, perhaps a good release in the car is ok? I was so scared initially to let Margo cry in the car when she was a baby. But, I would talk to her and tell her we would be there soon, and that ‘mommy was here’, etc. Very soon she became a delight in the car!
This crying process can seem to be a bit time consuming. Sometimes I go into the bedroom to put both girls down and after an hour and a half, of feeding, then fussing, taking both to the toilet sometimes multiple times (crying makes you pee….) then usually Goldie crying herself to sleep, and occasionally Margo too, they’re finally asleep. But, that’s just the routine, because Goldie will not just suck herself to sleep happily… she sees boobies as sort of utilitarian and once she’s finished feeding, will absolutely not keep going.

It’s certainly easier to stick a dummy in their mouth, and have them suck themselves to sleep. But, after seeing the benefits of allowing them to have their stress release. I happily put in the little extra time to do it. I would rather sit there with a screaming baby or child at night, than have melt down temper tantrums in public places…. I know… my kids are not perfect, but I think there is less of a chance of it happening. I know that happens to kids when they just can’t take it anymore. They’ve had enough and the only way to let off their steam is to have a tantrum, no matter the time or the place. It’s not their fault.. it’s stressful coming into this world and dealing with life! I am not a cry expert. I’m not a sleep expert. I’m not an expert at all. Just sharing my experiences with allowing a baby or child to cry and showing them that you are responding to their emotional needs. When my kids have a good ‘loving’ cry, they sleep better. I want to teach them that crying is ok. Also, teaching them to recognize their emotions, like frustration, sadness and fear, and teaching them that expressing these emotions is ok. Ok, so next time you see a temper tantrum brewing… BEFORE you take little Johnny to the market, let him have a good cry at home, when he needs it! I guess if the tantrum has to happen at the markets, or in the grocery store, then so be it! Just make sure that when they cry, it’s in your arms only 🙂

10 Responses »

  1. o wow, that was another goodie…i didn’t know that and i’m so happy to now. thanks Kate 🙂 (and Margo & Goldie) xx

  2. Thank you for sharing!! This blog better be here when we have babies 🙂 xxxxxx Joanna

  3. I agree with you so much! I have six and even tough they were home birthed they would cry. I never left them alone. I could not understand when I saw other littles left to cry as though the parent expected the child to ‘get over it’. The comfort of touch is a magical medicine, the sound of our heart ans voice is good too.Even though it may not stop the crying it can ease the transition or whatever the matter may be.
    I must say that if the child is sick but not crying , this is an important time to not leave them alone either. My daughter at three got a flu that was so bad that I slept with her for the three weeks it took her to get better. I don’t think she would have made it had we not been so attached.
    Very nice post.

  4. I never thought about it really that maybe sometimes they just Need to cry. Sometimes I need to cry. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I like hearing, “Mummy hold Margot”. Oh man just now I was so irritated that my baby was crying in the carseat, angry even (me angry). It really helped me to remember, as you wrote, he can’t move, he can’t walk, he can’t get out, he can’t clearly express what he needs…. yeah I would probably cry too. Only cry in my arms – I like that. Or, when you cry, my arms will be there for you if you need them. Blessings for you all.

    • Very usful, thanks! What if my daughter only wants to sleep with my breast? or that’s the way she calms herself down?

      • It’s very normal for babies to fall asleep on the breast. The crying is only for when they keep fussing at the breast, or maybe are not really hungry, you know, when she may go on sucking and they don’t really want milk, just want to suck, then maybe there are some emotions that need to be let out. I still give Margo boob before bed, although, she rarely falls asleep with them anymore, and she’s 2 1/2!

  5. Hello Kate,
    (I realise this post is an old one, I hope you see this!)
    Thanks for writing an awesome blog. And thanks in advance for reading this very long rambling letter of mine! It’s about crying-in-arms.
    I’ve been rocking and nursing babe to sleep at each nap time, and night wakings feeding back to sleep. (We also do elimination communication so are in that cycle of feed to sleep, wee and feed back to sleep, wee etc) She’ll normally wake up when I put her down on the bed, and I’ll plug the nipple in quick and she’ll doze off.
    I’ve just discovered aware parenting, and it makes sense to me. Most nights, Irie will fall asleep super quickly, sleep for half an hour or so, then be up and about wanting to flop about on the bed and play for another hour. It takes forever trying to get her to sleep again, and she’ll get overtired, and normally have to cry before going to sleep. So I’ll send my husband in with her (she cries if he tries to rock her), or just sit in there while she plays if I’m in a calm mood, or sometimes just leave the room for a few minutes so she cries and then will nurse. Well I don’t enjoy doing the last one, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of holding her while she cries.
    So now I want to do that – feed her, then hold her while she cries and falls asleep. The first day doing it was awesome. She cried, but her body was pretty relaxed, and the crying lasted maybe ten minutes. Second day at bedtime there was more arching, the crying was more hysterical and immediately stopped if I gave her my nipple – and she’d fall asleep straight away like that (but wake when I put her down.) The crying seemed to be nowhere near ending so I doubted it…
    So my main concern is that I am denying her comfort nursing (she didn’t seem to be looking for it every time though, but would take it when I gave it) – which would make her feel betrayed and unheard. How long can the crying last? Is this a cruel way to stop feeding to sleep? If I let her cry a while then give in and give her the nipple, does that defeat the purpose, reinforcing the control pattern? Should she cry every nap?
    She’s 8 months old. I enjoy nursing. I enjoy nursing her to sleep too (most of the time). Reading about the control patterns just struck a chord though, and I realise every time she fusses I try to plug in the nipple first and she often doesn’t want it. The crying definitely helps her sleep better (but I worry the crying’s stressing her since I could just ease it by plugging her in!)
    I’d love to hear your thoughts on our situation. Thanks again for reading all this, I appreciate it.

    • Hi Michelle,
      I’m so glad to hear that aware parenting resonates with you. And, I understand your concern about the duration of the cry, it’s a very common question, that, “How long does it last”. I’ll just tell you about my experience, as it reflects many other aware parent’s experience. my first daughter could cry for about half an hour, which I thought was a long time. But then, my second one would sometimes cry for longer! Always before bed, and it helped them sleep better after they had a big cry. My son, he doesn’t cry very long. However, he sucks his thumb, and he is always in dire need of a release. While he doesn’t do the wake shortly after he goes to sleep, he sometimes wakes ups at 2 in the morning and might cry for an hour! Only because he was too busy sucking his thumb during the day to release properly. So, it’s hard to say exactly how long a baby will take to release her emotions.

      The idea is that crying is a release and a child would not cry if there was no need to (assuming all of their physical needs have been met). Similar to defecation. A baby cannot defecate if she doesn’t have to. Have you read any of Aletha Solter’s books? I think if you read ‘The Aware Baby’ or ‘Tears and Tantrums’ it would all make a lot more sense. Right now, my son is almost the same age as your daughter, so I’m experiences this all over again! I think that if aware parenting struck a chord in you, and you’re in tune with your baby, you will start to become more comfortable with the releases. Of course, there are some times when you really don’t feel like dealing with crying, and you would just rather go to bed, so, by all means, use the nipple! haha! Hope that helps.


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