|My sister soothing Sydney|
There is a myriad of reasons parents resort to crying it out. Some have been taught it's best for the baby. Others are pressured by family members. A lot of moms just want a good night's sleep. Many are told their baby needs to learn to sleep.
Anyone who has cared for a baby for a 24 hour period should know they already know how to sleep. What babies don't know how to do is sleep on a schedule, but babies are not adults and should not be expected to sleep for long stretches at times deemed appropriate. A baby's one and only job is to grow and develop, and they are born knowing just how to achieve that. Eat, sleep, and endear themselves to a care provider who will provide warmth, nourishment, and security. The baby alerts their parents of these needs by crying. It's important to remember babies need more than a diaper change and a feeding. Maybe they are in pain from teething or have gas or are scared or want a warm body, but sometimes all they need is you. Babies do not cry without reason.
Occasionally, crying it out is the result of babies who cannot be soothed despite a care provider trying their hardest to calm them. If this goes on for an extended period or continues for several days, it would be wise to seek the advice of a family doctor. As I stated before, babies do not cry without reason. I'm not trying to fearmonger, your child may be going through a particularly rough developmental period or is on the cusp of a major milestone like getting her first teeth or beginning to crawl. When these periods of crying continue it can be difficult as parents to cope. Our brains are wired to be stressed when our babies are stressed. It's a survival mechanism. It ensures our continued existence as a species.
Thankfully there are alternatives to crying it out that can calm, soothe, and/or help you and baby cope. Will they always work? No. Are they worth trying? Yes. Even when it seems like an attempt to calm your baby seems unsuccessful, you are sending an important message: I am always here for you. You are secure. You are safe. You are loved.
1. Dance together. There is something soothing about dancing with your baby for both parties. Put on some music and sway slowly, spin slightly, dip, whirl. Dancing is a favorite calming activity in our house. I often combine it with number 4!
|Photo credit: sdminor81 (flickr)|
3. Go out. So maybe it's 2 a.m., but no one ever said you can't go wander the aisles of the 24 hour grocery store. Babies are people too and sometimes a change of scenery is exactly what both parties need. Don't forget for some babies a car trip is magical.
4. Sing your baby's song. Do you have a special song you sang to your baby in utero or a melody that you hum to him or her? Sometimes this is all it takes to soothe a baby - the sound of a lovely, familiar melody lovingly sung to them.
5. Swaddle and shush. My husband's best baby trick is a great swaddle combined with a rhythmic rocking and shushing in the ear. The trick from The Happiest Baby on the Block has been his number one way to calm our babies during their early months.
6. Offer the breast. If you are a nursing mom, sometimes baby wants to nuzzle and suck even if she isn't hungry. Breasts are nature's pacifier, after all. Yes, this can make you feel like a giant boob sometimes, but remember your nursing time with your child is fleeting. Don't get caught up in timing feedings or not letting baby nurse for comfort. The desire to nurse for comfort won't spoil your baby. It's just another biological means to ensure babies get what they need - the action helps stimulate and maintain milk supply.
7. Check for pain, fever, or illness. Ok, it sounds obvious, but don't forget pain or discomfort is a common reason for crying. While you may not be able to do anything to relieve the pain but offer teething tablets or infant tylenol, your presence does a lot to let baby know they are safe and secure. During times of pain, this is a paramount need for infants, and for care providers the act of trying to soothe is often less stressful than listening to a child cry without intervention.
8. Let your baby sleep with you. If you are a breastfeeding mother, it is safe to co-sleep with your infant as long as you follow simple safety guidelines. This will not ruin a baby's future sleep behaviors nor will it spoil them. It simply meets a need they have at this moment. You will be able to leave your children overnight as they grow old enough to enjoy solids and as long as they are with a sensitive care provider.
9. Get silly. Maybe all you want is baby to go to sleep and all they want is to play. This conflict of interest can be frustrating. Or maybe baby really needs to channel energy and frustration somehow and its coming out as crying. So put on your silly face, do something outrageous - get baby to smile or giggle. Pretty soon all that crying will be laughing.
Let's face it, crying it out doesn't feel good for either party, so listen to your instincts and your baby and try something else.