Today’s guest post is by Rosanna of Yoga Babes
Five ways to calm a crying or tired baby
One of the ways babies communicate with their parents and carers is by crying. When we hear that cry it can trigger different emotions for us such as sadness, frustration or even anger. It’s usually an adult’s natural instinct when they hear a baby cry to soothe and help the baby back to state of contentment, and to stop the crying.
I’m Rosanna, a mum of two under 5s and the instructor at Yoga Babes mother and baby Yoga in Hook, Hampshire. My children may cry (just a little!) less than they did when they were young, but I sure do remember those days well. I have been practicing yoga since before having my children, during pregnancy, labour and birth, and ever since. There are many yoga-based techniques that have changed my life as a parent, and outside of that. In this post I’m going to share with you five tips to calm a crying or tired baby that I’ve learnt through doing yoga, training as a baby yoga instructor and from my own experiences as a parent.
The challenge – it’s not always easy to know the reason for your baby’s cry, which can be upsetting and frustrating for parents. We have to try and remember that crying is a very normal part of a baby’s early years, and much like adults – all babies are different. Some babies will cry more than others, some babies will laugh more than others and some babies will sleep more than others. They are each beautifully different in their own unique way.
There are many reasons for a baby to cry including hunger, tiredness, boredom, loneliness, pain, feeling too cold or too hot or discomfort from things like wind or constipation.
Whatever the reason for a baby crying, it’s important to remember the power of physical contact between babies and their parents or carer. Touch reduces stress levels for baby and parent, so holding your baby is a good place to start when they are crying, unsettled or overtired.
The first, perhaps obvious port of call would be checking if your baby is hungry, as that is one of the main reasons for a young baby to cry. It might not matter that you fed them one hour ago or even less, young babies are growing at such a rapid rate compared to the rest of their lives, so their hunger can be extremely regular and have no pattern whatsoever. Even though it can be tiring, feed your baby whenever they are hungry rather than trying to stick to a timetable, as this can cause unnecessary stress for both you and your baby.
If a baby is fed and changed and there is no other known discomfort, a huge reason for babies to cry is because they want the comfort of being held. Some parents try to fight this fact – so it’s important to realise that after spending nine months being permanently held in your womb, it’s going to take a baby some time to gain independence. Perhaps weeks, perhaps months, or even years, but it’s fundamental for your baby’s emotional development that you support them carefully through this transition to living in the outside world. I know from my youngest son who needed to be held a lot, that it can be exhausting for parents to be attached to their babies for long periods of time, so see if you can get help from your partner, friends and family if you need some time out. Baby wraps, slings and carriers are also a great help so you can have your hands free – I couldn’t have lived without them! Try and enjoy these cuddles and this physical connection with your baby when you can, (rather than resenting it) because it doesn’t last forever.
Holding your baby gives them a deep sense of security, they can usually feel your heartbeat, your warmth, hear your voice and your breathing which is extremely reassuring for a small baby. There are many different ways to hold your baby, many of which we practice in my baby yoga class. Different holds can aid different needs, such as digestion, comfort and sleeping.
If you can move while holding your baby, all the better! I was so pleased when I found that I could settle my son’s 6pm (and 10pm, and 3am etc etc…!) cries by holding him or popping him in the baby wrap and walking around my lounge. Even though it was small, the little movement I could do by walking or simply rocking him side to side saved me hours of his crying if I had left him crying away from me. The movement can relieve stress for parents too, providing rhythm and mindfulness to relax the body and mind. In yoga we often use different types of walking for strength, balance, coordination and relaxation.
Even if you don’t agree, your singing voice is the best one there is as far as your baby is concerned! Singing is the perfect way to connect with your baby and release endorphins for babies and parents, which in turn relaxes them when they are feeling unsettled. Singing is also key for brain development in young babies and helps them with the early parts of language development. If your baby is crying because they are bored or frustrated, singing is a brilliant way to engage them and entertain them out of crying. It doesn’t matter what you sing – pop songs, nursery rhymes, lullabies or even (my favourite) – made up songs! Your baby is sure to love the sound of your soothing voice to settle them. In my baby yoga class, we usually use singing with movement which is a great combination to relax your baby and shift them towards a positive mood.
If you have a baby that gets overtired or cries at naptime or bedtime you might find that what you do with them during the daytime makes a big difference. Baby yoga moves are gentle movements you can do with your baby that involve strengthening their limbs, muscles and body, improve coordination and balance and stimulate your baby’s senses. Doing all of these things can make your baby to feel tired, helping them to feel relaxed, settled and fall asleep more easily.
This part is definitely for babies and parents or carers. Babies will pick up on our stress, sadness, frustration and anger and in turn may exhibit similar emotions that make them cry or become unsettled. When we relax it gives our minds the space and time to process emotions in an orderly fashion, rather than over-react to them. Physical relaxation can promote mental and emotional relaxation, and the great news is that you can practice relaxation with your baby, to benefit you both. I remember that when I had small babies, it was too easy to be in a continual cycle of ticking jobs off my list. Laundry, cleaning, tidying, sterilising bottles, responding to emails and messages, getting a changing bag ready for the next outing, even just trying to plan your day. The list goes on… But on reflection I asked myself some questions. How important is it to get ALL these things done today? What will happen if don’t? Do I feel at my best when I have a constant list of to-dos? Are they more important than spending time connecting and bonding with my baby? Are they more important than spending ten minutes to relax and restore my body and mind before carrying on with the day? Maybe you can ponder your own answers to these questions.
No one is suggesting that you live in a pigsty and throw in the towel on any jobs whatsoever, but more that you aim to get some balance in your daily activities. We can do this by making time for relaxation. A result of your relaxed self will most likely be a relaxed baby by your side.
By doing a short relaxation exercise that involves focusing on your breathing, sounds, your bodily sensations or simply just lying still can create a luxurious feeling of calm for you and your baby. Try it lying with your baby, where they might focus on your touch, breath or heartbeat, or just mirror your stillness. This takes practice for babies too! It might be a good idea to try a relaxation half an hour before your baby’s planned bedtime or nap time, so that they have wound down before bed, rather than trying to do it a time when they’ve been become overtired and worked up. If you get the chance, if someone else is around to watch your baby, try a relaxation on your own too and enjoy the peace and clarity it can bring you.
It’s important not to try and force a relaxed feeling as that can have the opposite effect, but by practising on focusing on our physical self or perhaps an idyllic visualisation, the relaxation can come naturally. There is no pass or fail here either, some days you may not be able to reach a feeling of relaxation – that’s ok, just try again tomorrow.
We practice relaxation in my baby yoga classes because for many (myself included) this is not always an easy activity to learn. But the more your practice the more you realise the need for this wonderful pastime and its life changing benefits – all you need is yourself.
I’m a Birthlight baby yoga teacher and I teach mother and baby yoga classes in Hook, near Basingstoke, Hampshire every Thursday morning. The class offers gentle yoga movements for mothers and babies aged 3-9 months. For more information visit www.yogababes.co.uk or email Rosanna@yogababes.co.uk
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