This blog is in response to a request from a young mother. This fine young lady has a baby who cries and doesn’t sleep through the night. The young mother’s work place pressures are unrelenting and follow her home. Sleep deprived and exhausted, she wrote asking for a few guidelines from sanatana dharma teachings to manage her current challenge.
My sense is there are two aspects to this problem.
- Baby’s crying and not sleeping through the night
- Mother’s stressful reaction
A child cries not because it wants to. It cries because it wants to tell me something. It’ll be a while before it learns and communicates to me in the language I speak and understand. Till then, it employs the only language of communication it knows. I must learn to understand its language and do so very promptly. I must rule out health-related problems it may be facing such as discomfort from cold, fever etc. The baby may be teething also. I must find out if it is crying because it is hungry or wants to sleep but doesn’t know how. A baby cries seldom, if ever, from boredom because babies are totally and naturally self-happy and contented.
In the joint family system I grew up in, we had no dearth of new-born babies and no dearth of elders. The elders with years of practical experience and wisdom under their belt could understand the baby’s crying and figure out solutions promptly. A baby that had difficulty sleeping at night was trained and helped to learn to sleep without much of a bother. Today, there are baby sleep consultants who help in this area for a hefty fee.
People apply several methods to help the crying baby go to sleep, including co-sleeping, rocking and nursing the baby to sleep. Lullabies never go out of fashion with babies. In addition, the following will be useful to the young, over-worked and exhausted mother of the modern day nuclear family.
- Sleeping routine
Develop and adhere to a strict routine in time and place for baby’s sleeping in the daytime and at night. Schedule parents’ social outings around baby’s routine.
- Peaceful music
Play soft soothing music that the baby relates to. Play this repeatedly to calm the baby when it is crying. The music must be soft and satwic, spreading peaceful vibrations. Keep the sound volume at a minimum level that the baby can hear and recognize. This will help the baby’s concentration on the peaceful sound vibrations.
- The Loving touch
Mentally embrace the sanatana dharma dictum while interacting with the crying baby – “Let us live together, let us grow together (saha naavavatu, saha now bhunaktu)”. This sense of togetherness with the baby and the oneness in interacting with it goes a long way in helping the baby go to sleep peacefully. Hugging the baby lovingly, talking and singing to it sweetly and persistently while putting it to sleep in the method it is normally used to, is important.
- Parents’ stressful reaction
The fact is this is only a temporary thing. The child will grow out of it.
Neither the baby nor its crying and refusing to sleep is the cause of parents’ stress. It is incorrect to blame the baby for parents’ stress. Parents bring the stress on themselves. Their reaction to the child’s crying, their helplessness in stopping the crying, their sadness at the suffering of the child cause the stress in them. Their desire to control the child’s behavior triggers the stress. The parents are physically exhausted, cannot get their much-needed sleep and also have the pressure of turning up at the work place early the next morning. All these cause stress.
Instead of getting stressed, channel your energy to think of creative ways to distract the baby (babies are easily distractable) and help it go to sleep.
Train yourself pro-actively not to get stressed-out when the child cries at night and refuses to sleep. Under no circumstance, should parents send any negative vibrations to the child, raising their voice or arguing. Babies are incredibly in tune with such vibrations.
Stress-proof yourself. Develop a daily routine of taking five slow, deep breaths, thrice a day. [See “Chill! Don’t stress out” for a few more stress proofing tips]
- Work life balance
Whatever the work place pressures may be, leave all of them at the work place. Do not bring them home.
All children who cry and do not sleep well during the night eventually learn to sleep through, sooner or later. So, this is not a big deal. Grin and flow with it.
Understanding the crying baby’s needs is key to calming the baby. Interacting with it lovingly is fundamental tool. Serve and fulfill the baby’s growth needs. Enjoy the ride of growing in love with the gift from divinity itself – your child.
[A new born fish swims immediately after birth. A new born calf walks immediately after birth. A new born bird takes a few days to learn to fly before it flies away on its own. But in the case of human beings, we need a bit more time before we learn to walk, speak and eat by ourselves. Just as a sapling has to be well protected from predators so it can grow healthily, we need to be protected and guided to nurture human values at very young age. Mother is the first form of divinity a baby sees. Babies and the family benefit the most when the mother rears the baby full-time at least for the first three years of the baby’s life, if not the first ten. Nannies and pre-school set ups cannot substitute for mother’s love and care. Today’s life-trends do not provide mother’s full-time care for the young baby adequately. Within the handicaps of this trend, I hope this blog post is helpful to the young mother to some degree]