Yes, your baby is an amazing little miracle! We are born as self-healers: compassionate, communicative, confident, and empowered. This is largely accomplished by …crying.
“Crying in arms,” to be specific. And, of course, a supportive, loving family and environment.
It’s widely known that babies cry when they need something or are uncomfortable. The usual list contains hunger, to be held, diaper change, pain, and too hot/cold.
But there’s more: crying is a need in itself. Babies also cry to heal.
Crying is both physiologically and emotionally healing. When you’re upset, do you feel better after you “have a good cry”? Tears can release stress hormones that run through the body. When babies cry, they release emotions in-the-moment, rather than “stuffing” them for later (or never), like many of us grown-ups learned to do. How many of us are in need of therapy to unwind our childhood experiences?!
When basic needs have been met and Baby is still crying, he’s communicating with you. It’s often labeled as colic. But what if we switch out ‘colic’ for ‘communication’? What if you understand it as your amazing little bundle attempting to release stress and express beautiful, pure, unsquelched emotion? How beautiful and empowering …and also very bonding!
How to meet this need to cry? By holding and listening. Not by shushing, bouncing, pacifying, or even nursing–but by being present.
What is there for such a tiny, loved being to cry so much about? Plenty! Our world can be a crazy place, even for some of us sensitive adults. Babies cry to understand and heal:
- birth trauma
- prenatal stresses
- overstimulation (sometimes we big people don’t realize that something was overstimulating for a tiny new nervous system)
- frustration (which, to some degree, is normal and healthy in natural development)
- family stresses at home
- separation from loved ones, especially Mama
- startling experiences (including loud sounds, visual surprises, and being held and moved in ways that induce a startle response)
- sometimes we don’t know why, and that is okay
Your loving arms, listening ears, and open acceptance will establish healthy ongoing communication–because Baby knows you will listen and that he is loved no matter what he feels. Rather than distracting, ignoring, or “waiting until he has words,” begin the journey together now. This process will keeps babies–people–whole. And present. It maintains their natural awareness, compassion, and confidence. Their sleep improves and they are peaceful truth-seekers.
And hey, babies help us heal too. You may need a good cry yourself!
For more information on crying in arms, as well as a look at both the “Cry-it-out” approach and Attachment Parenting, see Aletha Solter’s article, “Crying for Comfort: Distressed Babies Need to be Held.”
For in-depth support and background, see Aletha Solter’s books such as The Aware Baby and Tears and Tantrums.
© Eliza Parker 2012 and 2014, All Rights Reserved, links welcome
Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.
Thanks for the link and sharing your article, Patricia!
Hello, I’ve just put up another post on crying babies, and there’s a link to this discussion at the bottom. You can find it here:
It’s feels good to be sharing!
Thanks for sharing your link, Patricia, and for sharing my article link too!
I think we have to be sure to stress the difference between comforting a baby and allowing him to cry for the sake of crying. I think there is a fine line here that parents can cross where they might believe babies are not having their needs met if they do not cry.
I also think we need to be careful of how we package it. We must not encourage parents to think that a crying baby does not deserve comfort and attention, or that anything (like nursing) should be withheld so that baby can “get his crying in”.
Hello, thanks for your response. Do you mean the adult just letting a baby cry and not responding? No, definitely not! But we can trust babies–they don’t cry if they don’t need to. To clarify: “comfort” can be easily misunderstood; many things that are typically done, thinking they’re “comforting” to Baby are actually distracting. It’s not about letting a baby cry alone, nor is it about not meeting needs. When Baby is not hungry, unless there is a medical or movement integration need for sucking, nursing “for comfort” turns into an emotion-stopper. When something is used to control emotions, it’s not “comforting,” it’s telling Baby that we can’t handle his emotion or don’t want to hear what he has to say. When basic functioning needs have been met, holding in-arms with eye contact and a listening presence while Baby communicates and heals is the ultimate “comforting,” bonding, and communication!
Thanks for this interesting discussion. I just wrote a long reply here for “Our Muddy Boots”, but it deleted itself. So I’ll leave a link instead if I may. There is a similar discussion going on right now on my site “Parenting with Love”, with the same issues being raised. If anyone here would like to join in the discussion there, just click on my name at the top of this post and you will come out at my site. The article is “Help for moms with crying babies” and the discussion is at the end of that. I will go to my site now, and leave a link to this site — hope that’s okay. It would be nice if we could exchange ideas, as I like this site very much and we seem to think the same way.
i have always felt like this and been told no, i am so glad that there are so many other people out there telling this to people it makes me feel great about trusting my instincts
Yes, there is an unfortunate lack of understanding about crying and emotions in our culture, and an unfortunate habit of not treating babies truly like fellow humans.
Hi Elizabeth, I expect you like people to put up links to your posts — I’ve been putting up links to this one all over. I just discovered Genevieve (post above) this week, and am posting her stuff too. Yes, Wendy, we are changing the world — one baby at a time! 🙂
Yes, thanks for linking!
Hi Elizabeth, I came across your article via Genevieve’s Way of the Peaceful Parent page. Thank you. My 12yo daughter is raised this way. We’re changing the world.
Hi Elizabeth, thank you for this article! I’m an Aware Parenting Instructor in New Zealand and would love to share this post on my facebook page The Way of the Peaceful Parent if you’re happy for me to do so? Genevieve
Hi Genevieve, Awesome; sure, thanks for sharing!
I loved your article. So glad to discover that people are starting to “get it”. (I am an Aware Parenting Instructor in South Africa). I will certainly keep watching your blog from now on!
Thanks. I’m also glad to discover that people are “getting it”.