Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What I've Learned Part 3: Crying

So this week's Part 3 is a little bit shorter, because sleeping and feeding are really overarching themes when it comes to babies. Everything else is in its own little subcategory, so you'll have to forgive me for this being kind of random. But isn't that what parenting really is? Flying by the seat of your pants, learning-as-you-go randomness? Let's get to it...

I took this picture as a reference for future use if we ever decide we want more children.


There's a few things in this world that can truly make you feel inadequate. I would imagine meeting Bill Gates would be one. A screaming infant is definitely one. You check out of the hospital (not always but in most cases) and are presented with a squalling baby and a "good luck" from the staff. And unless you've been around a lot of babies or read a lot of baby books, (and sometimes even then) everything you've heard about calming the crying goes out the window, and you're left standing there panicking wondering how the heck you're supposed to do this.

I remember in the beginning being very nervous every time Judah would cry within earshot of anyone else. I was so worried that people were judging me as a bad mother because my baby was crying. Even in the hospital, Judah had a crying jag that lasted for about 15 seemed like hours. I was paranoid that the other moms with their newborns would be wondering what I was doing in our room and why I couldn't get my baby to calm down.

Of course, that is just not the case. Any parent knows that babies cry. It's their one and only form of communication in those early days and essential to their survival. They cry because they're hungry, wet, uncomfortable, tired, stimulated, and sometimes for no reason that's apparent to you. I found the key was to keep repeating, "It won't last forever. It won't last forever." And you know what? It didn't last forever. I think we are extremely lucky - we didn't get a baby with colic - which is usually defined as a baby that cries unconsolably for at least 3 hours a day for 3 or more days per week.

Judah usually only cried for the "Big 3" - Hungry, Tired, Lonely. He never cried when he had a dirty diaper. To this day he will poop at 4 am and not wake up to complain about it - which is an entirely different issue. The longest he ever cried unconsolably was about an hour, and at the time, it seemed like it would never end. That happened a couple of times during his 6-8 week growth spurt.

Whoo, this boy scremed for his first bath. At least we knew the cause of the crying.
What you have to do is find the calming technique that works for your baby. And the cruel part? Just when you find something that works for a couple of days, your baby will switch it up and decide that doesn't work for them any more. So it helps to have a lot of tricks in your bag. Harvey Karp's 5 S's System - of The Happiest Baby On The Block fame - is a good place to start: Swaddling, Side/Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking.

What worked for us:
• White Noise: We would turn off all the lights in the first couple of months and go turn on the clothes dryer while we swayed with him in our arms. I laugh now to think of Scott standing by the back door at 2 am swaying by the running dryer with no clothes in it. We also downloaded some creepy white noise loops on our iPod and played it in his rooms during a few naps. It worked maybe 50% of the time and it sounded like aliens were talking to him in his sleep.

• Fresh Air: Weather permitting, if we really couldn't stop the crying, all we had to do was walk outside into the backyard and he was usually immediately silent. It's like the fresh air reset his brain or something.

• Swaddling: We loved the breathable, stretchy Aden + Anais muslin swaddlers, and Scott was the king of the swaddle technique. I could never wrap him quite tight enough to where he wouldn't escape within 5 minutes. If you're going to swaddle, please do it safely and learn a technique that will keep your baby's hips moving freely. You could do serious damage to their hip joints if not, or use a hip-safe swaddling blanket like the Halo Swaddle. We would swaddle him up and then put him in his...

• Swing: Usually the cradle motion of the swing would calm him down within a couple of minutes. This is one of the reasons he lived in his swing until about 4 months or so.

• Babywearing: I would wear Judah in the Moby Wrap and walk around the house or backyard. Being close to me and warm would immediately make him fall asleep. He slept on me for three hours during a friend's baby shower at 3 weeks old in his Moby. I liked this wrap a lot, but it is a bit of a production to get it on, and it's not too great for older babies.

Hopefully you can use a few of these, and always remember that it WON'T last forever. Don't get me wrong, my 13 month old still cries. Most of the time it's just whining - dear God, the WHINING! And true crying happens when he falls down for the 437th time that day or when he's extremely overtired. But little crying babies grow up and become eventual functioning children and adults who don't cry quite so often.

And, sad though it is, I feel like it needs to be said: if the crying is really starting to get to you and wear you down, please do NOT shake the baby. Terrible things happen to overtired, overwhelmed parents who are desperate for their baby to stop crying. If you feel like this might happen and that you're not in control, put the baby in a safe place like their crib, and remove yourself from the situation for 5 minutes. Your baby won't be damaged by crying in their crib for five minutes so you can get some perspective. Never be afraid to ask for help!

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