The best-laid schemes o' mice an men


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I listened to an interview on the radio the other day with a researcher from the Pennsylvania University. They did some research into cortisol levels in the body (a chemical released under times of stress), and it’s connection to ‘workplace stress’. What they found was fascinating to me. Cortisol levels were lower in participants when they were at work, and higher when at home. Indicating much higher stress was experienced by the body in the home but work appeared to have a calming effect on the body. However, when participants were surveyed, they claimed to be more stressed and anxious when at work. I’m sure more study could be done in this area, but it struck me that perhaps we don’t always know what is good or bad for us based on how we ‘feel’, I guess it’s no revelation that our emotions are unreliable. It seems the stability or routine of work and some level of competition or performance helps the hormones and chemicals in our bodies to regulate.

It reminded me of the research done to establish how crying in infants affected cortisol in their bodies. The babies studied started out with high levels of cortisol, there was no control group which made it a very unreliable study unfortunately, however, they discovered that babies could be completely calm of appearance and yet still have high levels of cortisol being released. Curious and curiouser. These tidbits have little to do with the main gist of my post, except that it has to do with crying.

No one likes to hear a crying baby, even if there is something extremely cute about the bleating sounds of a newborn. So I’ve written up a list of things I’ve discovered are usually the cause of Curly’s tempestuous outbursts. Who knows, you might find an answer to your own child’s wailing.

  1. The Fun-Spoiler cry: These days the most common cause is because I’ve taken something away from her, or taken her away from something. She gets over it pretty quick, and best not to give in to these temper tantrums (just be realistic about what you let them play with in the first place so you’re not always ‘spoiling’ the fun). If she has managed to get hold of the drill from the tool cupboard however, and is screaming at me to let her play with it, the best trick is to move her to a completely new location and find something equally as new and interesting minus the obvious hazards.
  2. The I’m STARVING! Whine: For a girl who always had a tiny appetite things have changed dramatically in our household. She doesn’t stop eating. In-between meal times we always need one or two snacks, these usually fix the whiny cries of imminent starvation. A snack just before nap-time is the most useful. Offer water often! – once they’re on solids.
  3. The Something Hurts cry: Beyond the collisions with door frames and wooden floor boards, sometimes Curly just isn’t feeling on top of the world. Maybe it’s growing pains or a headache, or her immune system is struggling to hold back a virus. In these instances, again often a guess, we give her Panadol and a cuddle then hope for the best. When Curly is really out of sorts I search for new teeth coming through.
  4. The ‘Snot-face’ Cry: Much like the one above, this is when sleeping is difficult because trying to breath through a nose full of snot is no fun. We have a cheap steam vaporiser from the chemist, it releases steam all night and has some eucalyptusy thing that helps Curly to breath better. On top of that, a bit of panadol and unfortunately (for your own sleep) getting up at night to let her know it’s okay via a pat on the back or a cuddle. Occasionally I’ve brought Curly into the steamy bathroom (leave the shower running on hot) to help clear away a blocked nose. You can also buy saline nose sprays for infants. Forgot the whole nose ‘suction’ stuff, no need, and it’s gross. Make sure they’re getting (or you if you’re breastfeeding) lots of fruit and vegetables in their diet to help combat illness. There’s also Pentavite, infant multivitamin, from the chemist.
  5. The “I’m Bored!” or “Play with Me!” Cry/whinge: Sometimes providing a different experience helps. Taking Curly outside, a play in the sandpit, creating something out of pillows and blankets, or giving her a container of plastic lids to sort through. If none of these help I put her on my back and carry her around the house so I can get things done.
  6. Car Crying: For safety this particular cry often has to be ignored. If it’s serious then of course pull over. When Curly was little we were driving past her bed-time and she became hysterical, we had to pull into a car park and walk around with her for 15 minutes then I had to sit in the back and sing all the way home. These days however, it’s usually because she just doesn’t want to sit in a boring car seat, singing still works. Sometimes she’ll be yelling at me then pause to clap along with my singing.

There’s many reasons why baby might cry. Before they can talk it’s the easiest way to get a quick response and the preferred method of communication. I used to feel uncomfortable when Curly would cry in public. I worried people might think I was an inadequate mother, that I might be discovered as a big fraud who really had no idea what she was doing. With friends and family I found myself wanting to explain her crying or provide some reason so that I looked in control of the situation. Or I would hurriedly try and explain how unusual this was, “she never normally acts this way”. Largely I think I was resistant to the opinion of everyone else, there’s always someone ready to offer a diagnosis (wind, teething, hunger, tired), I would find myself thinking “They don’t know my baby, how dare they presume”. That’s my issue though, I’m stubborn and don’t like being told what to do, I’ve had to learn to give people grace and listen with a kind ear.  What’s more, it’s okay not to know, it’s okay to feel out of control, that doesn’t say anything about your ‘mothering’ abilities. I will never judge a mum who shrugs her shoulders and says, “I just don’t know”. You learn as you go.



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