What if I can’t soothe my child?

What if I can’t soothe my child? 150 150 Jane Evans

Let me be really clear

If you are currently struggling with a child or baby who seems to be more distressed when you try to hold or comfort them, DO NOT DESPAIR. There truly is so much you can do starting from today.

Without the additional insights in this blog, it can make it seem as if there is something wrong with you. There isn’t, you have always done all that you can, given what you have known this far. Now you have an opportunity to have great understanding and compassion for yourself, and your little one.

What if your baby cries more when you pick them up?

There is so much expectation on new parents to be the one their child ultimately wants and can be soothed by. So, what happens to the parent and child when this doesn’t seem to be the case? How crushing is it for them, and stressful is it for the baby or child? Something we would all do well to try and imagine, especially if this is more than a passing phase.

Babies recognise a parent’s energetic presence, smell, tone of voice, heart rhythm and so much more as they have been inside and around them since conception. Often the most soothing thing for babies is to be held by, or lay on the humans they most easily recognise as it feels safe and calming. The old ideas about ‘making a rod for you back’ by going to babies and holding them is truly something science is showing that we must all move on from.

When we think even for a moment about becoming a parent, most of us see it as the most important thing we will ever do. Loving our child, soothing them, keeping them safe, content and healthy spring readily to our minds and hearts. Of course, this is before they are a reality in our lives, we are also clear about how little sugar they will have, how many healthy country walks, how well behaved and polite we’ll make sure they are.

What can disrupt your dream?
  1. Your anxiety – babies tune into our emotional and physical states before being born and of course, after too. If we are often tight and tense and have a racing heart beat and are agitated, that can feel overwhelming for a baby to be close to.
  2. High levels of ongoing stress in the womb – many of us are completely unaware of how stressed we are, and that this means we repeatedly release action and reaction chemicals to keep us in fight or flight. Also, that these pass through our developing baby in the womb too.
  3. Difficult birthing experiences – if a baby is overly stressed during the birthing experience their whole system will have a memory of it. This will be at a sensory based level, so via smells, sounds, touches, sights, tastes, from the external environment and from what their internal emotional and physical states are.This is NO ONE’S fault but is important to know as it may explain why a baby finds it too much to be held tightly as it may trigger a memory of panic from being stuck during the birth.
  4. Medical procedures – as with the birth experience, if a child has to have life preserving medical procedures then there will be body and sensory based memories of this. Their survival system may associate touch with discomfort from blood tests, lines going in or other procedures. Certain sounds or smells may take their whole being back in time to the fear they felt during the medical interventions.
What can help?

You will always really matter to your child, now and as they grow and go out into the World. You are their safe person and place. If you feel you are stressed or have anxiety then gently start to address this in small ways every day.

Go slowly and with curiosity as we often don’t know the full story of our own bodies. Something as innocent as breathing deeply may, or may not be comfortable for us either emotionally or physically.

  1. Learn to belly breathe and do it as often as you can.
  2. Take tiny moments throughout the day to ground your body, brain and emotions
  3. Have a simple phrase you repeat to yourself, often. “I am safe, calm and love my baby.” Try different ones out as they each release different chemicals in our body and brain. If you breathe first, connect with curiosity to your body and say it you will sense what feels right for you.
  4. Who can you talk to who will LISTEN, rather than give you advice? You may have to train them a bit first as most people’s anxiety makes them jump in with, ‘what to do.’
  5. Find someone who is good at empathy rather than sympathy.
  6. Learn a bit more about anxiety as it is very common in children and adults but these small things make a difference if done often and for life.
  7. Take things slowly with you baby. Touch may be overwhelming for them for the reasons previously outlined. ‘What if your baby is too stressed to be held?’
  8. Gently rocking, humming, singing, breathing deeply can all be grounding for you and soothing for your baby if you start gently and slowly. Experiment with stopping and starting again with just one of them.
  9. A simple tiny finger, foot, hand, back or arm massage may help but again taking it slowly. Firm pressure, not hard, is better than light tickles.
  10. Try not to soldier on as you will become exhausted and may really believe you are the problem, as we are so vulnerable at the start of our parenting journey.

Pick one thing to regulate yourself with and do it for a few weeks before adding other things in.

Do the same with your baby.

Always consider talking with a professional too, and reflecting afterwards on what your gut instinct tells you feel right.

My other baby wasn’t like this

It can be so confusing and upsetting if all went pretty well with a first child and with the second child it’s so much harder. What worked the first time around doesn’t seem to this time and with two children, it’s just too much. Self-doubt rushes in.

It is important to know that every child, their pregnancy, birthing and first few months is different, so are you. Try what I have suggested above. It will benefit all of you.


Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

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