We live in a culture where parenthood is often romanticized. While our neighbors are posting picture-perfect photos of their families on Instagram, your infant might decide it’s a great day for a marathon meltdown.
When your little cherub can’t yet communicate verbally, knowing what they need can be a challenge. Tots cry for a multitude of reasons, but when they cry every time they’re put down, it can start to take a toll on your own mental and physical health.
Babies cry as a way of communicating, like when they’re tired, hungry, or uncomfortable. In some instances, they may be feeling overwhelmed by new people or scared in an unfamiliar situation.
Research has shown that whether you’re a human baby or mouse pup, our brains feel more relaxed, and our heartbeats slow when held close as this helps us feel protected from danger. This primal instinct has been an evolutionarily preserved feature of mother-baby relationships.
The calming sensation is triggered by the parasympathetic nervous system in the cerebellum region in the brain, which responds to tactile (touch) stimulation.
Each child is unique, and their temperaments can vary drastically. Not long ago, your child was growing inside of a belly for nine months, snug as a bug, cozy and warm, so transitioning to the outside world might take some time before they acclimate.
Further, when babies are in their early life stages, they don’t yet understand time, so when they’re put down, to them, it may feel as if you’re leaving forever. You can combat this by reassuring them you will come back and following through. You might encourage independence by letting them crawl alone to out of rooms for a short (and safe) period, slowly introducing the concept of being alone.
Our brains enjoy routine. We like to know what to expect because it allows us to prepare for what’s ahead, feel safe, and feel secure. When your little one doesn’t feel confident knowing what to expect, they may cry out of fear or uncertainty.
Getting a baby to stop crying at bedtime can feel like a fruitless effort, but there are tricks to help.
Skin-to-skin contact has been shown in various studies that time spent in close contact helps relax your child and yourself. Further, snuggles can help with a multitude of health aspects. Parent-child touch is known to regulate a tot's heart rate, stimulate digestion, encourage feeding, improve immunity, and support breastfeeding.
Humans prefer a bit of predictability to put our minds at ease and anticipate the future. The world can be a scary place, so keeping a regular schedule can help calm nerves and minimize anxiety. Establishing a routine can help your child adapt to significant changes and settle into bed when it’s time for sleep.
Swaddling is an old technique known to soothe babies, as this mimics the confined space of your womb, where they spent nine long months. Your womb was likely considerably cramped and warm, so being tightly wrapped up can offer a familiar sensation to your little one, keeping them calm and encouraging peaceful sleep.
Further, white noise is shown to help tots with sleep challenges fall asleep faster. A combination of swaddling and soothing white noise could be just the trick to lull your munchkin to dreamland.
Dream feeding is a technique where you gently feed your child after they’ve gone to sleep, barely waking them, allowing their tummy to fill up on food so they can sleep for a more extended period. Dream feeding is typically only done with children older than 12 weeks; however, it’s wise to consult your pediatrician to ensure your baby is ready.
Another option is to strap your babe on your body and take them along for the ride. Babywearing is practically as old as motherhood itself. Instead of your child holding you back, this frees up your arms and legs to tend to other life necessities.
When you’re at your wit’s end, remember that learning how to fulfill a tiny human’s needs— one who cannot yet speak your language, no less— is hard work.
Seriously. Parenting isn’t easy, and asking for help is normal. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors raised babies with the help of a village or tribe. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today, but I’m sure many of us wish it were.
Most loved ones would be thrilled and honored to be called upon to offer assistance. Further, if they’re close to you, they likely would appreciate some time to bond with your baby and offer you some welcomed relief as well.
Parenthood can be exhausting, and the simple knowledge that others are going through hard times can help. Releasing your emotions and letting it all out through tears is actually good for your mental health, and it can even strengthen your immune system. Pat yourself on the back, call in for backup (if you have it), and remember, you’re not alone.