As I am focusing on creating my newest course, Easy Peasy Sleepytime, the more the universe is showing me that the topic around crying and sleeping must be talked about more openly.
You might already know how passionate I am about the healing power of crying. I want to educate parents on how crying can be so healing, and to offer a reframe on the misunderstanding or perception around crying.
There seems to be a strong cultural ideas and beliefs about suffering, that it is something that we should avoid by all means.
Suffering is believed to be a negative feeling so we should not acknowledge, a feeling that we should avoid, and that we should “be strong”, to just suck it up and don’t talk openly about it.
I think for most of us, tears are also an indication of suffering. So it’s almost as if by stopping the tears we could stop the suffering.
Especially so for our own baby or child.
A very common situation that breastfeeding moms highlight to me with much concern is, “Am I ‘abandoning’ my child if I stop breastfeeding her to sleep?”
You can’t help but feel that all that crying and tantrums when you set loving limits around nursing to sleep means you are sending a strong message that you are withdrawing your love and bond that you have through breastfeeding.
And that you are causing the suffering and distress by not allowing her to fall asleep on your breast (if this is no longer what you want to do).
Perhaps you feel like you are torturing your child by not helping her to stop the tears?
I understand. I had the all those same feelings when I decided to help my toddler to sleep without breastfeeding.
But I also understand something else. It’s called attunement to needs.
I understand that it was time to listen to her feelings, to be more sensitive about what my daughter truly needed.
It was time for her big and painful feelings to be heard (through supported crying) because there are no such things as bad feelings.
She was not bad for expressing these feelings.
She was not in trouble for it.
She was not suffering from releasing them.
The feelings are hers, and I have no right to stop her from feeling and expressing them.
I believe with all my heart that when I pause, calm down, and listen with compassion, “Oh come here baby.. Mama’s right here with you“, that I am being sensitive and attuned to her needs, and with attunement comes secure attachment for my daughter.
So why then, even when we understand this in theory, it is still so hard to listen to our baby’s crying and tantrums?
Why is it so hard to trust our child’s natural healing mechanism?
I’d like to offer you a list of reasons, and you might resonate with one or more of them:
- Our own needs are not met enough in the day.
- We are exhausted and fried in the evening to listen or to play with our child.
- We have painful feelings which we are wanting to protect ourselves from. Listening to our child’s crying would bring us back to those feelings.
- We were not trusted to express our feelings through tears when we were little, so we haven’t learned to trust them.
- We are scared that we are not meeting all of our baby’s or child’s needs.
- We fear that we are not doing enough, we have messed up or that there is something wrong.
Do any of the above resonate for you?
You are so not alone! They are all very, very common concerns and worries when our baby cries.
I think it is so important to be gentle and tender with ourselves when we start to have feelings as described above first, before dealing and learning to trust our child’s natural healing mechanism.
If the thought of allowing your child to cry and release her painful feelings are making you feel like crying, would it help if you allowed to hear yourself cry out?
Would it be useful for you to put your hand on your heart, or put your arms across your chest like giving yourself a hug and listen to those hurt and pain with compassion?
If you have a partner or spouse, who could listen to your feelings without interruption or advice, who would honour your intelligence and ability to solve your own problems, this would help heaps. You will feel a tremendous shift after having a good healing cry.
I know that these beliefs will take some time to shift. One way to help shift is to keep observing.
Keep experimenting and observing your child – take note of the changes that you see in the way she sleeps.
Does she wake less?
Does she move around less in her sleep?
Does she cry less in her sleep?
It is only through your own trials and observation that can reassure you that her upset feelings from not breastfeeding to sleep are feelings that need to be released, rather than you not meeting her needs by “abandoning” her when you put a loving limit on breastfeeding before sleep.
A mom shared with me her own experience dealing with her sons’ tears and tantrums:
“Last week was a very difficult week for us as hubby was away overseas for work and the boys had to spend nights at both grandparents with me..there was a lot of changing and moving of sleep spaces and it was not very nice for me, what else them…..plus R who is extremely attached to dad wasn’t coping well and was very unhappy and angry….resulting in lots of unfavourable behaviour….then it came…..the rage and release…and I welcomed it….grandma didn’t want it to go on though but I stood my ground….and let him release while staying calm and not taking any “I don’t want you” or “Go away” personally.
He was so much better after that….Thank you once again for giving me this tool and allowing me to help the boys this way….I am so much more confident with this now….more than ever….M, who hadn’t had a need for release also had to several times the past week because of all the changes….Daddy is home now and they are soo glad and I can see the change….
I really welcomed and wanted the release to come, would never have had that feeling if it wasn’t for your input. Thanks again!”
What I am hearing is that she used the tools that I taught her in our sessions at her own pace. She didn’t trust it at first, so I asked her to follow her intuition and wisdom. Now she is seeing it for herself, and feeling way more confident in handling her sons’ tears. Ahhh… so much love for her family!
My invitation to you is to be less judgemental with yourself, go easy on those self punishing thoughts that you are not good enough and that you are not doing enough for your child.
I think that’s always a good place to start.