It’s that point parents dread when your baby’s crying seems out of control…
Aware Parenting provides a different perspective on what this is and how to help your baby.
…Baby’s face may turn red or sweaty. You may feel you’re no longer able to calm him/her down. You may also feel concerned, triggered, or frightened yourself.
This is what families often call hysterical crying. Did you know that this type of crying can actually be a gem?
What is hysterical crying, really
This approach is based on the assumption that your baby is healthy internally and externally. Please consult a doctor if you suspect pain or illness.
When families first discover Aware Parenting, babies tend to have a lot of feelings to get out! I call this “catch-up crying.” Sometimes they need to process big experiences—big from their perspective (just as you may need to as well, regardless of how the birth looked “on paper”).
While accessing and expressing these deep feelings, the crying can reach a point of intensity that parents (and society) are not used to. This can be concerning, as it seems like your baby is crying “hysterically” and you may not be able to figure out why.
If your baby or toddler has been experiencing challenges with sleep or seems unsettled or clingy, these intense feelings are often precisely what’s been lurking, preventing him from being able to relax deeply.
These big feelings are legit, and your baby need to get these feelings out too—with your loving attention.
Why intense crying happens
Crying, in general, happens for two overarching reasons:
- Basic needs, such as hunger and closeness—most people are familiar with this.
- To express feelings and heal prior experiences—this is new to most people! Society has ingrained in us a habit of getting babies to stop crying at all costs. In Aware Parenting, our approach to this type is called “crying in arms” (CIA).
Babies need to process their experiences, just like we do. This includes stressful or traumatic situations or events from conception, pregnancy, birth, immediately after birth, or big events in the early months (medical procedures, moving homes, natural disasters, etc).
Sometimes potentially stressful events are obvious, such as a stay in the NICU. Sometimes it’s not obvious, or we don’t always know what happened. But your baby’s feelings are real. Trust that your baby isn’t crying “for no reason.”
This is where lot of people think babies can’t handle big emotions or don’t know how to calm down.
But truthfully? It’s often us grown-ups who are having a hard time with it 😊. It’s a very natural process for your child, and he needs to “get it out” in-arms; then he’ll feel better.
None of this is about imposing guilt. It’s about how babies literally need to process their experiences—then they’ll move on! It’s incredible to witness how all of us continue attempting to heal our experiences.
Why it can be so triggering
First and foremost, a baby’s crying is supposed to get us to respond. So there will be a biological/hormonal triggering to some extent.
But there’s more—it also has to do with how we were raised.
How did your parents, or other significant caregivers/mentors, respond when you cried or expressed big feelings? What was the emotional atmosphere in your home?
We internalize these patterns exceedingly early. How we respond to a crying baby will have a link to how we were raised.
We may perpetuate an old habit, strive to do the opposite; or it may be a subconscious and indirect feeling that it’s not safe for Baby to cry. In any case, it reflects the wisdom required of you to recognize early on that it was not safe or acceptable for you to cry. Sometimes what feels like instinct is actually learned habit with elevated ‘status.’ 😉
What to do
So you see, those hysterical feelings are often precisely what needs to come out. And this is okay—as long as baby is in your arms, with your loving, listening attention. (For nuances of what “in arms” means and how it shifts with ages/stages, please reach out.)
Welcome to ‘crying in arms’! This information and approach with your child can change your life forever, in amazing eye-opening ways.
Hold your baby and allow the crying to happen. Be present with your child—just simply be there for him.
Assuming basic needs have been met, there’s nothing you need to “fix it” or to calm baby down in these moments, such as nurse for comfort, pacifier, rock, or shush.
Baby will be able to calm down on his own once these big feelings are out. Big feelings are squirmy—and they can make your baby squirmy (literally and figuratively) until they have a loving way out.
Crying in arms provides a pressure release valve, and is also a communication process—your baby is sharing his life and deepest feelings with you. This is an incredible foundation you’re providing!
After a good cry, babies tend to either fall asleep naturally in your presence without you having to do anything, or to stay awake but serene.
It’s natural to have questions as you begin this process; don’t hesitate to reach out. Here’s more information about crying in arms >