You have had a rough day. You want to cry as long and as hard as your baby is right now. You have done all you know how to do to calm her. All her needs are met, what could be the reason for this?
Let's start with an important statement, ALL BABIES CRY. It is useful for many things. Like us bigger humans, crying can be a way of stress release. If we look at this as a natural state and not as something we need to quickly find an off button for, we can proceed with care and skill.
Let me encourage you, good job Mom and Dad for responding to your baby. “Cross-cultural studies have demonstrated that in societies where infants are held, massaged, rocked, breastfed and carried, adults are less aggressive and violent, more cooperative and compassionate.” (1 McClure) For many years, people thought that letting your baby cry it out was the best to avoid spoiling a manipulative child. Research has proven this is wrong. “Proof abounds that babies who are neglected and punished suffer bonding breaks and without intervention often grow up to be troubled if not antisocial and sociopathic individuals.” (2 McClure ) A baby who can relax and depend on his needs being met begins to know the people in his life will respond and therefore learns to relax more quickly.
Next, take a minute for some deep breaths. Its ok to talk to that baby as if she understands, saying, “I'm trying to figure out what you need, my little one.” They will hear the love and kindness in your voice. They will feel it. “The deep emotional bonds formed in infancy lay a foundation for a lifetime of trust, courage, dependability, faith and love. (3 McClure)
The sense of touch is developed early in the womb. Eyesight in an infant is clearest from 7-12 inches, the EXACT distance from your loving arms to your eyes and face. Babies are made to search for the bullseyes of your eyes and your nipples. They need both food and interaction to thrive. So, the best thing you can do, after her physical needs have been met if to make some eye contact. Here is a good place for swaying and singing while holding the baby close. Skin to skin contact may help too. Even if you are quietly singing in her ear as she screams (even a song about how you wish you were on a quiet desert island).
Another choice for touch and eye contact is infant massage. Prior to meltdown mode, familiarize yourself with some good videos on youtube, like this one. https://youtu.be/jjiQMf77kGY Sometimes just a change of environment or the lack of clothing and a warm touch can turn things around. As you use the massage techniques, check for sore spots (especially where diaper elastics are or velcro of cloth diapers might scratch), check each toe for a string or even a hair that has wrapped around a toe, check for a diaper rash or a budding tooth, anything that might be making her uncomfortable. Continue to use your relaxed and higher pitched singsong voice that babies respond to so well. Did you know that infants were wired to respond to mother's voice (and father's if they heard him in vitro.) “Even before we were born, we knew our mother's voice and could distinguish it from other voices. That's one of the key findings of an ongoing research project by Canadian and Chinese researchers who are studying infant development. The research suggests that while still in the womb, our brains were learning speech patterns and laying the groundwork for language acquisition. "Before birth, the brain is being set up to learn language," says Barbara Kisilevsky, a nursing professor at Queens University in Ontario, who conducted the research with a team of psychologists from Queens, and obstetricians in Hangzhou, China.” (4 DYE)
Many times an infant that cannot be soothed is experiencing gas or other tummy trouble so the tummy strokes of infant massage are so helpful. These touches will tone the intestinal system and relieve gas and constipation. As you rub the abdomen make sure the strokes are ending at the babies lower left belly (your right). This is where the end of his intestines are and you want to promote gas leaving the body. Use a downward stroke from the ribcage and use a clockwise motion. A small drop of lavender oil mixed with coconut oil as a massage oil can calm and relax both of you.
I hope by now you have a calmer baby. If your baby cried non-stop for an extended period of time or the greater part of a 12 hour period it is time to go to the doctor. You may choose to go sooner, trust your intuition. If you think something is wrong, it is better to come home from the doctor assured that baby is fine than to sweat it out at home in worry.
Your baby comes out of the womb ready to bond with you. Take every opportunity to encourage that. You will reap the benefits for at least 2 lifetimes.
1-3. from the book, Infant Massage. Vimala McClure
4. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97635 by Lee Dye
Paula is a single mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula