Anyone who’s had a child will know that one of the biggest challenges can be trying to work out why they’re crying and then what to do with them when they are. The guessing game can feel so tireless. And as with anything, there seem to be many different approaches as to how to deal with it.
My least preferred approach is “controlled crying.” The thought of actively leaving my baby to cry feels inherently wrong to me. I figure that my baby needs me most, not least, when he’s crying. I’ve also been reluctant to turn to the aid of a dummy, although I can understand how easy it is for desperate parents to do just that. So fortunately a friend recommended this book to me. It’s called “Tears and Tantrums” by Aletha K Solter (affiliate link). And it’s been one of the most useful books I’ve read on parenting so far.
It basically advocates never leaving your baby to cry, unless of course you absolutely have to – like if you’re driving on the freeway and they’re crying in the back seat! So, assuming you’re able to get to them, you start by checking on whether your baby’s basic needs have been met. (ie. you check that their nappy ‘s not soiled, that they aren’t hungry, that they’re not hot or cold, etc, etc.) If their needs have been met and they’re still crying, it may be that they just need a good cry to release some stress. You know – in the same way that you sometimes do.
You may think that babies don’t have stress and that they have nothing to be stressed about, but imagine for a moment what it might be like to be a small baby finding yourself in the arms of some adult who wants to cuddle you when you don’t want a cuddle with them. To not be hungry but to keep getting your moms well-meaning boob shoved in your mouth! To be strapped into a car seat unable to move freely or do anything about it. How disempowering might that feel? Okay, you get the picture. It could be stressful.
Anyway, what’s this book suggests is not attempting to pacifying your crying baby if it seems as though they need to release some stress. So no rocking, no dummies, no distracting them with singing, etc. Because your job as a parent is not to stop your baby from crying at all costs. Instead, having checked all your babies needs, just hold them, connect with your love for them, look at their face or into their eyes, if their eyes are open, and make a safe space for them to cry into and release their stress. Let them know that it is okay to cry … So that they come to understand that they aren’t only good if they don’t cry. And that they’re not bad if they do.
The first time I tried this technique with Joshi he cried in my arms for about an hour. At first it was really hard. My nerves felt so raw and my heart was aching but I got through it. And when he eventually stopped crying he fell into a very peaceful sleep and looked ever so content. When he woke up he was playful and happy. In the next few days he had a few cries again but they got shorter, sometimes lasting just a couple of minutes. Now he very occasionally has a big cry but is generally an exceptionally happy little boy. And if I feel stressed from his crying at any time, well, I just do the sudarshan kriya and meditate. And sometimes I have a bit of a cry too.