When your baby will not stop crying, it can send you flying into emotional turmoil. There are studies that suggest a mother is more sensitive to her own baby’s cries and this is likely because of the hormone Oxytocin. So, what seems like a normal level of a baby’s cry to everyone else, it can become a deafening and almost suffocating experience for a mother.
This overwhelming need to respond to our babies is a survival instinct to ensure that a baby’s needs are met and to encourage attachment and bonding between mum and baby. However, the constant crying can trigger anxiety in a mother as she begins to dread her baby’s cries. It can also lead to isolation as a mum may not want to attend baby groups because of the fear that her baby will cry when other babies will be ‘good’ or a trip to the supermarket is traumatic as she will feel judged by other shoppers if her baby cries whilst trying to juggle the shopping and the baby.
There is a link between excessive crying babies and postnatal depression (Murray et al 1996). It could be a result of low moods and stress from dealing with a baby who cries inconsolably, the isolation that it often brings or the fear that you are failing as a mother because you cannot settle your baby. Perhaps, it is combination of all of these factors. What is clear is that we must take crying in babies seriously and support parents better.
One of my main concerns is that parents are told that crying in babies is normal and that their baby will ‘grow out’ of colic. They are then sent away with little to no support. This lack of support and understanding will only contribute to the rising rates of maternal mental health issues that is prevalent in society.
Seek out support
When your baby will not stop crying, then the first thing to understand is that you are not alone. Statistics show that up to 40% of babies suffer with colic/ excessive crying at some point. This means there are significant number of parents who are struggling and trying to soothe a highly fractious baby too. The sense of isolation can be debilitating, especially when a partner has returned to work and you are left with the baby on your own. If this article is resonating with you then please seek out a support network, whether that is family members or friends. It could even be a new mummy friends that you have made in a recently attended baby group. Having someone to talk to, to acknowledge your feelings and an offer of a helping hand is not sign of failure but a mark of how amazing you are.
Responding to your baby’s needs
To best support a crying baby, respond to their needs as best as you can, as soon as you can. Although, it is absolutely fine to take a moment to gather yourself before attending to your baby if they are safe. Babies are perceptive to your energy so being a calming presence will be more beneficial to your baby than if you are feeling stressed and anxious.
Responsive parenting has now been shown to be the best method in supporting your baby. When you hold your baby, you help them to create neural connections in their developing brains. Your love and affection, even when your baby is distressed, will help them to absorb the stress hormone (cortisol) and be better equipped to deal with life’s stresses in later life. Thankfully the advice of letting a baby ‘cry it out’ has now been shown to be outdated and research studies acknowledge that a baby who is left to cry exhibits stress signals that inhibits the brain. Remember that you can not spoil a baby so do not feel guilty by cuddling your baby when they need you.
Looking after mum
Caring for a baby is the most difficult job you will ever have, but caring for a baby who excessively cries is exhausting. It is imperative that mums look after themselves so that they can be the best possible mother for their baby. Self care is not selfish but a necessity.
There is no such thing as Supermum, you cannot do everything and accepting this will help lift the huge expectation that women naturally place upon themselves.
Here are some suggestions on how to exercise some self care to ensure you are looking after you;
- Breathing – this is incredibly underrated but breathing exercises not only calm your nervous system but are also energising. You can try a simple slow counted breath whilst holding your crying baby. This can have a positive and calming effect on you both as your baby will mimic your breathing patterns.
- Meditation – if you are anything like me, switching your mind off is difficult if not impossible but there are some excellent apps available such as Calm and Headspace that guide you through meditation.
- Warm bubble bath – having just 15 minutes to yourself in a warm bubble bath can be restorative. Accept the offer for someone to hold the baby and jump in the bath.
- Walking – combat the isolation and get out for a walk. Babies tend to enjoy the motion of the pram or being worn in a baby carrier whilst you get some fresh air and go for a walk. The gentle exercise will not only release endorphins (feel good hormones) but also reduce your cortisol levels too making you feel less stressed.
Seeking further help
If you are concerned about your baby or about yourself then please seek support from a health professional. Your GP, Health Visitor or Midwife will be able to provide you with additional support.
Cry-SIS is a helpline that can offer support for families and are also able to put you in touch with other families that have been in a similar situation. https://www.cry-sis.org.uk/help-with-crying-babies
How does my service look after you?
I understand personally how difficult it can be so I make sure that parents are nurtured too. Throughout my service, I put into place a care plan for you too which includes a variety of self care techniques to keep anxiety at bay. For more information on how I can help you click here https://colicsos.com/colic-services/ or you can book your free 15 minute call.