By Mandy Rees
Becoming a parent is a precious experience, but it can also be incredibly challenging.
What feels like the most challenging time is when your baby is upset and crying. It pulls at your heartstrings in a way that nothing has before. Babies cry for a variety of reasons. It could be hunger, discomfort, or just because they need your attention. It helps to remember that this is your baby’s only way to communicate and not always a sign that you need to do something.
Whatever the reason may be, you can feel overwhelmed and stressed when you’re not able to soothe your baby. Please know that these feelings are a natural response and that you are not doing anything wrong.
There is a simple technique that you can use to help you stay calm and centred during these difficult moments – focusing on your breathing. Be there for your baby through the crying and use your breath to be there for yourself as well.
Breathing is an automatic process that you don’t usually pay much attention to. However, when you are able to be aware of and consciously control your breathing, you can use it as a tool to calm your mind and body. This really helps you to feel less overwhelmed when your baby is upset. It also helps you to not fear the crying and to accept it as a normal part of your baby’s development.
Try these steps to help you feel calm and grounded when your baby is upset – your baby can be with you as you do this:
- Find a place to sit or stand, with or without your baby, and where your body can begin to relax. Make sure you are comfortable but don’t slouch as this makes it harder to breathe. The floor will do if that is all you have but make sure you feel natural and safe. Check that your shoulders are relaxed and your jaw is soft.
- Once you’re comfortable, start to focus on your breath. Take a deep breath in through your nose and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Try to focus your attention on the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body and how your body responds. You might notice the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation of the air passing through your nose. It’s likely that your mind will wander or still be very much focussed on your baby. That is OK. When this happens, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Counting the length of each inhale and exhale is a good way to bring your awareness back to your breathing and to bring you from your head into your body.
- Keep taking long and soft breaths. Allow your body to relax and, as you continue to breathe, try to imagine a calm and peaceful scene or somewhere you have visited and felt happy, relaxed and carefree; perhaps somewhere you’ve been on holiday or your favourite park. Focus on what that place looks like and sounds like. Does it smell a certain way and how do you feel when you are there? It’s OK if your mind wanders. Bring it back to your visualisation as often as you can.
- Stay with this and repeat as often as you need to. If your baby is with you and is still crying, stay with your breath, drop your shoulders down another notch and take your mind back to the visualisation. As with anything, it gets easier with practice and your mind will fall back to your ‘safe’ place more quickly. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you are both learning together. It is OK to keep coming back to this as and when you need to. It might be helpful to practise this technique when your baby isn’t with you or is with you and calm and it is easier when you are already in a more relaxed place.
You can use this breathing technique anywhere and will become quite adept at staying steady within your breath even in busy shops, on the bus, or anywhere that your baby may be upset and need you. Breathing in this way brings a sense of calm, helps you deal with the challenges of parenting and also creates space for you to make decisions that feel right for you and your baby.
Mandy Rees is a lawyer, yoga teacher, baby massage instructor and emotional wellbeing coach. Mandy is an expert in holding space and creates Mother Circles where women can share their motherhood experiences honestly and without fear of judgement. She is the founder of Mother for Life and the unique Mother Circle Guide Programme; an empowered feminine leadership programme through which beautiful Mother Circles businesses are created all over the world. Mandy works one to one with women who want to achieve balance and authentic fulfilment in their life. You can follow Mandy on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.