Why is your baby crying?

Understanding and responding to your baby’s cries
Lindsey Coates and
Suzi Lister

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A baby who cries constantly for no apparent reason can put huge pressure on parents and family life. By acknowledging that birth is a dramatic and considerable experience for a baby as they journey from the security of the womb to the outside world it may help to consider that your baby could be expressing their birthing experience through crying and body language.

As well as times of intense physical pressure during labour, a baby may become disorientated, their body flooded by stress hormones or drugs through the umbilical cord, or deprived of oxygen as the cord gets compressed during contractions.
Babies can be deeply affected physically, emotionally and psychologically by the way they are born and this experience can be held in the cells and tissues of their bodies, a concept known as ‘body memory’.

After birth, your baby may be trying to express their ‘body memory’ through body language and crying as they try to communicate their birthing experience.

Needs Crying and Memory Crying

Crying can be for a present moment need such as being hungry, uncomfortable or tired, called ‘needs crying’, and once the need is met the crying stops.

However, constant crying for no apparent reason, called ‘memory crying’, often occurs when your baby is experiencing internal body sensations that relate to an earlier experience (body memory), such as a moment in the birth that was overwhelming. Memory crying is often associated with repetitive body movements, such as, for example, frantically pushing with the legs or swiping an area of the head or pulling an ear again and again. Babies need us to respond to the experience they are holding in their bodies.

How to support Memory Crying

It is well-documented that babies thrive on empathy. They respond to facial expressions and tones of voice. They are conscious human beings. How we are able to listen to a baby after they are born is very important, and by listening with accurate empathy babies can begin to release the tension associated with held experience/ body memory.

If you sense your baby may be memory crying here are some things you can try yourself:

  • Acknowledging that they want to tell their story and that it is ok to cry,
  • Calmly making eye contact and quietly asking what it is they want to tell us or what they want us to understand,
  • Mirroring their facial expressions or hand movements.

Craniosacral Therapy is another very gentle way of supporting you and your baby to come into relationship with body memory using light touch and sensitive listening, enabling you and your baby to begin to resolve held experience associated with birth or womb life. Craniosacral Therapy can also offer support for:

  • early infant feeding problems including colic and reflux
  • neck pain and stiffnes
  • settling the nervous systems
  • developing good sleep patterns
  • establishing and supporting breastfeeding
  • bonding

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Lindsey Coates and Suzi Lister are craniosacral therapists who work together to support babies and their families in Kent.   

References: Mathew Appleton (MA RCST UKCP) ‘ Birth trauma. A cultural blind spot’ and ideas from the late John Chitty.

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