Crying unnerves adults.
It sounds so urgent, looks so awful, and it does a new parent’s head (not to mention self-esteem) in when they feel unable to help their baby.
That’s kind of how crying is engineered — to be unpleasant. To motivate you to solve the problem to which baby has just alerted you. Yes, crying (“stress” translated into baby language) is contagious, but so is calm.
Before you pick up your baby, get a grip on yourself. Do something to dissipate your anxiety – something to calm you. You could breathe … sigh … genuflect?
Clear your tension, so you’ll be able to focus on the work at hand. Like translating your baby’s language of the cry. By 3 to 4 weeks of parenting, you’ll have the skills to hear and decipher the different cries and their different meanings.
So your baby is speaking “Cry”, this mysterious, loud language. Look on the bright side — by crying, your baby is expressing her belief in two important principles: 1) that her needs are important enough to speak up about, and 2) you will help her. Later, she’ll add a third basic belief to her system: Trust.
The calm and confidence of trusting you and the world you’ve provided will have a directly soothing effect. She might even cry less. Why shout when a whisper will do?
In an earlier blog post on emotional development, I discussed the varying states of consciousness (six of them) that newborns cycle through during the day. During each day, which means they’re all normal states. Only two of the states (so-called “fussy” state and the “crying” state) involve full-on howling.
Most of the rest of the time (in the other states of consciousness), your new baby has better things to do — like socializing, observing, listening, getting acquainted, nursing, or chillaxing (a fierce combo of chilling + relaxing).
If (okay, when) the crying does break out, however, hunger is understandably the usual suspect, and many new parents attempt to soothe a cry with food. A rather safe guess, especially for breastfeeding moms. It’s not easy to measure how much milk your child actually consumes during a session at the breast, and the amount quickly changes in response to changing nutritional needs. So why not try that solution?
Then there’s the fact that babies often calm upon nursing. So regardless of whether or not your infant was really hungry for that feeding you just offered her, the sucking might have soothed her. Mystery solved, it seems. Unless the crying continues.
Crying, without other hunger signals, could mean that hunger is not really the issue that baby needs your help to resolve.
More tomorrow on deciphering crying and what your baby really wants to say.
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