One evening I was working with a family whose baby wasn’t sleeping well. Dad declared, “It’s like crying is actually a solution!”
Like many families, they had tried several things—bouncing, shushing, nursing to sleep, etc. Really, baby had needed to let off some steam and was having a good cry in his parents’ arms. This is very common before bed—sometimes they need to let it all out in order to relax.
And then baby fell asleep.
Crying as a problem
Crying tends to be seen as a problem. Society teaches that parents must find out why Baby is crying, and then stop the crying. Where does this come from?
On a personal level, most of us were not raised in a way that allowed us to truly express our feelings. The emotional climate in the home may not have been safe, or so-called “negative” emotions weren’t welcome, or feelings of sadness may have been dismissed with either aggressive or loving intentions. So holding space for your own baby to express his/her feelings can feel very foreign at first.
On a grander scale, it turns out that back in Medieval times, babies who cried were thought to be possessed by evil. That perspective certainly did not set us up for emotional success.
Crying as a solution
While it’s absolutely true that we want to be attentive to meeting needs, it’s crucial to recognize that crying itself is a need too. Crying is a natural healing mechanism—it’s how babies naturally move through their experiences and tell us their experiences. It helps them ‘move on.’
The key is that the crying and expressing of feelings needs to be received lovingly. Not ignored, not distracted, and not sent away to a separate room to come back when they feel better. Crying while left alone is entirely different.
Those latter options are the ones most of us were taught! But when your baby cries beyond immediate needs, it’s communication. Your baby is expressing his true feelings, which is normal and healthy. It’s a good thing—we want children to be able to recognize their own and others’ feelings, to maintain trust in their sense of the world and how they read situations, and to maintain these good communication skills!
It’s good news—really!
So you see, crying (in arms) is both a legit need and can be its own solution in the presence of loving, accepting loved ones!
Babies are born with a full set of human emotions. There’s a common assumption that they don’t know how to calm down and need to learn how to self-regulate. Actually, the ball’s in our court—we grown-ups need to know how to recognize this healing process—and then be present and listen.
Here’s more info about crying in arms.
What is Crying in Arms? (Conscious Baby)
Crying for Comfort – Distressed Babies Need to be Held (Aletha Solter)