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Stop, Listen and then Respond

Picture this: You've just popped your little one down for a sleep and they've finally nodded off, only to wake bang on 45min later. "Ahhhh this old chestnut" you think to yourself, well aware that they have woken after a sleep cycle. They start protesting. Then shouting. Then crying. Then back to grizzling. You're left wondering "When do they actually need my support?".


Supporting our little people to independently settle and link sleep cycles is a fine art. I know it can feel a bit confusing as to whether you need to respond, or whether that might overstimulate things and make it feel worse. So let's peel back the layers.


It doesn't matter how old your little one is, we always need to be responsive. Sounds easy enough right? Here's the tricky part - the level of responsiveness differs from child to child and is dependent on so many factors such as their unique temperament, age, your parenting style, your child's sensory awareness, what's logistically do-able and what helps reassure and calm them and what does the opposite. To add fuel to the fire, the level of responsiveness needs to be adaptable. What might calm and reassure them at 10pm could be very stimulating and frustrating at 5am.


So what's the trick? Be adaptive. Stop, listen and then respond. Just because your baby wakes up doesn't mean you need to go rushing in to them. Why not? Because they might not need you! Just because they are awake doesn't necessarily mean that they need you, or need your support to do XYZ. I know it seems like a daunting thought and I totally understand that you might think "Yeah but if I go in before they properly wake and rock, shush, feed or pop the dummy back in they will resettle without fully waking up". True, but you know what - you're doing the resettling and linking of sleep cycles for them. If this feels right for your family and you're happy doing it, go for gold. If you're working on supporting them to independently settle then readdress your reaction to their action. Ask yourself these 3 questions:


  1. Are they upset?

  2. Are the communicating that they need support?

  3. Have you stopped and listened before responding?


Giving your little one some space before responding doesn't mean you are neglecting their needs. It doesn't mean you are letting them cry it out and it certainly doesn't result in any change in the way they connect or love you. You're offering some space to give them the opportunity to resettle themselves, and if not then you'll be right in there to support them to do so.



Crying is Communication

Crying is a normal part of infant and child development and is your baby's way of communicating. Although there are many reasons for your little one's tears and distress, sometimes it can be really hard to understand why they are crying.

Why do babies cry?

Babies cry for many reasons including:

  • Hunger

  • Wet or soiled nappy

  • Discomfort

  • Pain

  • Tired

  • Illness

  • Over stimulated

  • Need support to settle


You will have come to learn that your child has a different cry when they are trying to tell you something. Maybe they’re tired, hungry, in pain, uncomfortable (e.g arm stuck in the cot), over stimulated or they could be grizzling on and off (known as mantra crying).


Understanding that there are different types of crying is important too; from on/off grizzling to mantra crying (rhythmic and non emotional) to emotional crying (consistent, high distress).

What is mantra crying?


Mantra cries are partial rouses between different stages of REM sleep. This is often a moan, grizzle, sob, tossing side to side and eyelids flickering. Don't be fooled! Although your little one might look like they are awake they can in fact still be asleep.


Mantra crying is when your baby cries intermittently in protest, it’s their way of acknowledging that the settling is different but also showing they are attempting to self-settle. If your baby is mantra crying then give them the time and space to attempt to resettle before you offer your assistance. If your baby’s crying escalates then respond accordingly.


What is emotional crying?


Emotional crying is just that - your little one communicating to you that they are emotionally upset. It's consistent, it's loud and there aren't a lot of breaks in protests/tears. Emotional crying can sound like your baby is quite frustrated as well. They are allowed to be! It's not our role as parents to stop them crying, in fact it's really important that we hold a safe, open space for them to have these feelings and allow them the space to communicate how they are feeling to us. Although it may feel quite triggering, it is a normal survival mechanism that babies cry.


So how should I respond?


Listen to the cry - are they emotional and upset or are they shouting and grizzling? Are their cries increasing in distress or are they calming?


Respond to the cry - does your baby calm upon seeing or hearing you? Do you need to pick them up or can you offer some hands on support while they are in their bassinet/cot? Is less more?


Adapt to the cry - Once you've offered some support address how they reacted. Did they calm and snuggle in when you picked them up or did they arch their back and push away from you?


Supporting your little one to learn how to independently settle takes time, consistency and patience. This journey looks different for every family. Know that how you support your baby is up to you, and you alone. You're doing an amazing job!



If you need some sleep support and you are ready to make a change I'm here for you! Book a discovery call and let's chat about your little one's sleep and how I can help your family get the rest you all need to thrive.





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