The new way to SOOTHE

Try lis­ten­ing when your baby cries – it will help you, and him, through his tears like noth­ing else

Mother & Baby (UK) - - BABY & TODDLER -

When your baby cries, your nat­u­ral in­stinct is to try to stop his tears. Yet, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, his cry­ing can ac­tu­ally be a

good thing, both for his health and his de­vel­op­ment. So, once you’ve taken steps to make sure he’s okay, rather than fo­cus­ing on try­ing to end the tears as quickly as pos­si­ble, why not com­fort him through them in­stead? ‘Ba­bies cry for two rea­sons: to get their needs met but also to re­cover from stress and ten­sion,’ says Kate Or­son, au­thor of

Tears Heal: How to Lis­ten to our Chil­dren. ‘Cry­ing is a nat­u­ral part of the heal­ing process. When your baby cries, he lit­er­ally re­leases stress from his body. So, as long as you stay with him to re­as­sure and com­fort him, those tears are help­ing him – they’re an es­sen­tial part of his de­vel­op­ment for a happy and healthy life.’

MEET HIS NEEDS

‘Your first step should al­ways be to make sure that all your baby’s needs have been met – that he’s been fed, changed, isn’t too hot or cold, isn’t un­well, and doesn’t need a sleep,’ says Kate. If you’ve got a new­born, the like­li­hood is you’re both still get­ting to know each other; it’s an im­por­tant first step in un­der­stand­ing – and deal­ing with – your baby’s tears. ‘While you’re get­ting to know your baby, it’s nor­mal to feel anx­ious about his tears and un­sure of why he is cry­ing,’ adds Kate. ‘But, as you get to know him, and can bet­ter work out what his im­me­di­ate needs are, you’ll start to have more faith in your­self. And the more con­fi­dent you feel that you’re meet­ing his needs, the less you’ll worry.’

RECOG­NISE THAT TEARS HELP

If you’ve been through your check­list to make sure all his needs are met, and your baby is still cry­ing, it might be that he sim­ply needs to re­lease some ten­sion. And one of the main ben­e­fits of cry­ing is that it re­duces stress. ‘Sci­en­tists have found that tears con­tain cor­ti­sol, which is a stress hor­mone,’ ex­plains Kate. ‘So when ba­bies cry, they are lit­er­ally re­leas­ing anx­i­ety from their bod­ies. Tears have also been found to con­tain man­ganese, which is a hor­mone that helps balance our mood. So, as long as you’re there to re­as­sure him, by let­ting your baby cry and com­fort­ing him while he does, you are help­ing him to re­lease these hor­mones from his body. This will help your baby to be more re­laxed and will aid his emo­tional and phys­i­cal well­be­ing.’

UN­DER­STAND YOUR RE­AC­TION

A lot of us find it dif­fi­cult to con­sider the idea of let­ting our ba­bies cry, even though we’re hold­ing them to com­fort them. Chances are, when you were grow­ing up, if you cried your par­ents did all they could to stop you. So it’s no sur­prise that you’re now do­ing the same. ‘When we have met all our baby’s needs and still can’t get them to stop cry­ing, we bounce them or “shhh” them, or we take them for a long walk,’ says Kate. ‘We tend to jump from “must-meet-needs mode” to “stop-the-cry­ing

mode”. It is an un­con­scious jump that al­most all par­ents make.’

But in order to help your baby, it’s vi­tal that you work on chang­ing your own per­cep­tion and ac­cept that you don’t have to stop his tears once his phys­i­cal needs have been met. In­stead, you need to sim­ply re­as­sure and com­fort him. ‘Cud­dle your baby, oc­ca­sion­ally us­ing gen­tle words to re­as­sure him, such as “I’m here”,’ says Kate. ‘He will sense that you are okay with his cry­ing, and that’s re­ally im­por­tant. It’s a good thing for him to un­der­stand that cry­ing is nor­mal, and it’s never too soon for him to learn that. Know­ing that he can cry if he needs to, and that you will al­ways com­fort and re­as­sure him, is a vi­tal life les­son for your baby.’

BE WITH HIM

It re­ally helps if you think about lis­ten­ing to your baby, rather than try­ing to dis­tract him from cry­ing. ‘As you cud­dle your baby, just lis­ten,’ says Kate. ‘That way, you’re not dis­tract­ing him from his feel­ings. You are just be­ing with him and hold­ing him. Share his tears, rather than try­ing to stop them. Sit with him, hold him and look into his eyes. Talk in a re­as­sur­ing way – or do any­thing else that makes you feel calm. He will pick up on this and nat­u­rally start to feel calmer as well.’

Don’t be sur­prised if this new ap­proach leaves you feel­ing like you need to have a cry, too. And that’s fine – let your own tears out as well! ‘It’s when we’re okay with our own cry­ing, and our own emo­tions, that it

‘I try to think of my baby cry­ing as her try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with me. That helps me to lis­ten a bit harder and re­alise what she wants and needs, rather than stress­ing about get­ting her to stop.’ Jane Hol­land-Payne, 31, from Lon­don, is mum to Molly, 6 months.

MEET THE EX­PERT Kate Or­son is au­thor of Tears Heal: How to Lis­ten to our Chil­dren (£13.99, Pi­atkus)

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