Whether new to ‘crying in arms’ (CIA) or experienced with an older child, I often find parents questioning how early you can start. If it seems intimidating, that’s okay! I’m here for you.
If you’ve ever experienced your baby crying but you don’t know why, there’s an important reason.
Babies cry for basic needs; but they also cry to release stress, communicate their ‘story,’ and heal stressful experiences. It’s critically important that this happen in arms! It’s very different from “cry it out.” You can read more about CIA and Aware Parenting (Aletha Solter) here.
The first thing you need to know
The short answer is, yes, CIA can be done from the beginning with newborns! It’s not too early to start. After birth, Aletha recommends starting within a week or two with healthy, full-term infants.
We do recommend being sure to attend to feeding—making sure it’s going well or that steps are being taken. If not, hunger may be a constant concern. Aletha recommends feeding baby every time s/he cries during the first week or two to build up your milk supply. Then as you start learning your baby’s signals and feeding rhythm, begin also looking for a possible need to cry.
This is different from not being sure if your baby is hungry vs needs to cry-release! That’s a different journey 🙂
So, yes CIA can be done with newborns. Yes, it can be intense.
This is always about responsiveness to crying, regardless of which ‘need’ is behind it. And of course, if you suspect injury or medical concern, please address it.
Otherwise, as always, first check basic needs. Newborns need a lot of touch, closeness, protection from overstimulation, responsiveness from loved ones, and of course nourishment. Check diaper and warmth.
Beyond basic needs, go ahead and allow your newborn to communicate with you in your loving arms. Babies are born with a full range of emotions!
It’s not that they can’t handle their own emotions or haven’t yet learned how to self-regulate. It’s that true big feelings haven’t been allowed for most of us for centuries! After a cry release, you’ll probably find that your newborn falls asleep or may feed more easily.
The second thing you need to know
If hearing your baby cry makes you too nervous, don’t ignore that feeling.
Birthing a baby is no small thing—for mama or baby. You may feel, especially right at the beginning, that you’re still settling in, getting oriented, healing from the birth, and getting to know each other.
On one hand, the intensity is precisely why Baby (and anyone else present at the birth, including you) might need to have a few good healthy cries in the presence of loved ones. On the other hand, perhaps you still need some time to orient.
You’ll have a lot of feelings come up as a parent! Hearing your baby cry may trigger memories, or even habits that feel like instinct, leftover from your own upbringing. You may feel concerned about protecting your baby from stress. You may feel afraid; or you may be grieving an experience related to motherhood or birth.
It’s not too early to do CIA. But there may also be some layers for you to work through first or in tandem with exploring this process with your baby.
So if you feel like a cry release is too much in the moment, you might end up making a different decision. Go for it if you can; but if not, honor your process. You can do the cry next time—it’ll still be there waiting for you!
Words of wisdom from another mama
Meet Christy! She has experienced this process with her newborn. She shares about her baby, who at the time of writing was 4 months. She had started using AwP/CIA when her first child was an older baby.
It was pretty scary for me doing CIA when my baby was so little. A big part of it was releasing my own fear and worries and really coming to a place of trusting her, regardless of how young she was and of her dependency on me.
So I’d go through the mental checklist of physiological needs—she’s got a dry diaper, she’s fed, I know she’s comfortable, I’ve been holding her—to give myself some calm and reassurance. And then I’d feel like okay now I’m going to take this step to release my fear and really try to trust her that she’s using this space to release her stress.
But yeah there were intensities that I questioned. I would try to balance it—like, if it were me having a big cry, I might be kind of thirsty. So I would offer milk, and if she took it and fell asleep [rather than finish the cry], then I would be okay with that; and like you said, we can come back to it.
I’ll never forget, the first cry she had, I couldn’t do it. My husband was holding her and said ‘Babe you need to come look at her face.” Bless her heart, when I heard the cry it was terrifying, but when I went to look at her sweet little face, she was communicating so many things, even at a few days old. Just such a pure release in the presence of safety. It was really humbling to see that and to try to release my fear and anxiety around it.
I think it’s really hard as a parent to always feel I have to protect my child from pain, from feeling uncomfortable… But the thing that’s really helped me cope is realizing that I can’t control all their discomfort, I can’t control the pain they’re going to feel. So while I will try to minimize it, I can’t always stop it. Obviously I’m not going to encourage them to get hurt or feel uncomfortable, but I think it’s really important they’re able to have that experience for themselves and really work through their feelings. It’s been a process, but it’s just so cool, and it works.
Mamas, you got this. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s amazing and will blow your mind. If you have questions, reach out. You can find me and other mamas like you with similar values in my FB group LINK, or you can reach me by email.