Responding to Baby’s Cries

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Since the day Zadey came into our home, I have tried my best to evaluate all of my parenting decisions and what she’s learning by the decisions I’m making. On many occasions I can remember talking to Joanne about these decisions and sometimes, back peddling on a practice.

There are good and bad sides to this over analyzing. But, there’s one practice I have never had to back peddle or rethink. However, I do think about why I respond the way I do.

Let’s talk about a baby’s cries, and why baby cries.

Types of Cries

Each baby has different types of cries. If you listen closely to a cry, you can hear that there are differences…

I’m hungry.
I’m uncomfortable.
I’m sleepy.
I need you.
I’m in pain.
I don’t like what’s happening. / I’m scared.

There are others, depending on your baby, but these are the most common cries.

Responding to Cries

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Henry is crying!

I have zero belief in letting a baby “cry it out.” For me, this goes against every instinct I have as a Mother. There are physical effects on my body when I hear my child crying. I cannot do it, and I don’t understand how other Mothers can do it. There are many studies on the practice of crying it out as well. But, let’s by-pass those for a moment and allow me to just talk about my beliefs, and spark a conversation with you about your beliefs.

When the boys were born, even while still in the NICU, I literally felt a physical pain to their cries. And though they were not home with me yet, I woke every 4 hours because I knew they were about to be fed at the NICU. Most times I was racing up there to be the one that fed them. My chest would ache to hear them cry. That whole “mommy instinct” kicked in, and I was a mama bear, to say the least. So, when I tell you it physically hurts to hear my children cry, I really do mean physically. It’s a tightening in my chest. Even to this day, with all 3 children.

So, when any of my children are crying, I respond in the way I deem appropriate. We have minor bumps and falls, with all my kids, and sometimes I sit back and talk from the sidelines. “You’re okay, Mommy sees you. You’ll be okay, just keep going.” It has to be minor though. Other times, it requires picking them up, hugging, comforting, kissing the boo-boo. Whatever the case may be.

But then, there’s that one certain cry. There’s that one comment I’ve heard, many times, from many mothers.

(S)He’s only crying because (s)he wants to be held.

When the statement is made, it’s as if to say “I’m not picking them up because (s)he doesn’t need anything. (S)He’s just crying because (s)he wants to be held.” And I’m not saying that I haven’t made this statement. And I’m not saying that I haven’t had a moment, with all of my kids, that I wish they weren’t crying to be held.

What I am saying, is that that cry, though they “just” want to be held, does indicate a need. It’s a need for YOU. For the security you provide. For your smell, and touch that is so comforting to babies. To cuddled, and carried. To just have a moment of reassurance, from YOU.

And the difference between those I have witnessed make that statement, and me making the statement is simple. I pick my children up and give them what they need, me.

Put Yourself In Their Place

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Oliver is crying!

Imagine for a minute, nothing you see, touch, hear, smell makes sense. Imagine that the television makes no sense to you. That the wave of air coming over you from the heat or air conditioner has never been felt. Imagine the sound of cars racing past your house, a siren, a motorcycle. Imagine that you have never experienced any of that. And, imagine that so much of it is happening AT THE SAME TIME. No matter how you look at it, just to feel it, hear it, or stare at it, you just can’t make sense of it.

So, to try to make sense of it, you attempt to communicate. The only way you know how. You open your mouth and you SCREAM. You cry, and you begin to feel a rush of emotions that make no sense to you at all. None.

In your world, you’re only confident of one thing. Mommy. Mommy makes it okay. Mommy will fix it. Just this one person will make everything not so loud, not so scary, not so cold or so hot, Mommy makes it all better.

Mommy takes a look at screaming you and knows you’re not hungry, you’re not dirty, you’re not wet, there’s no reason for you to be crying… and doesn’t come to your aid. The only thing that makes you feel better passes you off as just someone that needs some attention, attention they’re not willing to give right now.

Can’t imagine it?

It’s hard I realize. Try this adult scenario.

You just got horrible news. News that scared the day lights out of you. Frightened you to your core. For me, it’s coming home from a friend’s sleep over to learn that my brother had been involved in a fatal car accident. I was terrified.

What do you do in that moment? Seek comfort? I wanted to. I wanted someone to hear me, tell them what happened, ease my fears, stop my worry, give me strength to make it through that intersection, that was so close to my home, again. So, I sought comfort from people I knew would comfort me.

For a baby, that comfort is their mother (and dad, too). How would it feel for you if in a terrifying moment you had no one to reach? You sat there alone, in terrible fear.

This is exactly what it’s like for an infant!

And the truth of the matter is, I don’t actually think that parents think of it this way. I’m not sure that some of the moms I have heard make the statement have analyzed what exactly that means. Because the moms I have heard say it, generally speaking, I would say are good moms!

But, that’s not to say…

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Oh no, Oliver is crying again!

I’m not saying that my kids never cry. This post is sprinkled with my pictures of my boys, crying. Yes, they cry. But each and every cry, I respond to. Sometimes not until I capture the sweet, sad, pathetic face, too. But, my kids don’t cry for extended periods of time. I don’t ignore another need, so I don’t ignore the need to be held, either.

Maybe you don’t have enough hands? Certainly you do. I pack around twins most of the day, and care for Zadey’s needs. I’m not above using a baby carrier, or wrap, to hold them while accomplishing something else. And, nothing I have to do, nothing, is as important as my children. Cleaning, dishes, phone calls, they all can wait. I chose to become a mother, and in doing so, I’ve decided to commit to seeing another person’s needs. Including, sitting on the couch, and snuggling a crying baby.

Because, let’s face it…

In the grand scheme of things, this is a very small moment in their life. Just a blimp of time. And ask any Mom, it goes so FAST. One day, you’ll be sitting there wishing you had snuggled that baby more. That baby that just wanted you to snuggle them. That moment, one day, will be lost.

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