Protecting Your Infant

Author: Beth Russell Ph.D.(C)

baby crying

Listening to your baby cry can be heart-wrenching. We are brought up to feel not just responsible for our children, but also to relate to their emotions, and when they cry we can get sucked into their distress. Researchers call this emotional contagion and it is an important part of how humans relate to one another, especially in infancy. However, it is hard to stay focused on caring for the baby well when you can so closely feel your baby's despair – it is hard when your heart rate is climbing, your stomach is turning, and your mind is speeding through all the questions that come with an inconsolably crying baby:

  1. Are you hungry, baby?
  2. Do you hurt?
  3. What's wrong?
  4. Why are you crying?
  5. Why won't you stop?

The best thing that caretakers can do is stay calm. It may sound simple, but it can be hard to do when you are tired, frazzled, and worried about your baby. Taking care of a crying infant is a lot of work, and feeling frustrated, drained, and a little desperate is a normal reaction to a hard situation. It is okay to feel those things; the trick is to not let your feelings shape how you treat your baby. Keeping your emotions in check – staying calm – is important for your own sake, but also for your baby. It is harder to calm your baby when you are upset. When you can soothe your crying baby without adding your own distress to the mix, the baby gets the message that you are confident, collected, and can ride out the storm right there with them. Your calmness is reassuring, in fact it can be contagious, and is far more helpful to a crying baby than the alternative.