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 🙂