HAVING an unsettled baby is extremely tough. I know, I had one. In fact, I had three, but my first little girl was by far the worst.
I spent hours every evening pacing the floors holding Willow for the first three months of her life in an effort to soothe her. It was exhausting, both mentally and physically. People asked if she had colic, wind or reflux, but I never labelled her behaviour. I thought all babies did this; after all, newborns cry, right? Or maybe I was doing something wrong, even though I’d checked her nappy, fed her and made sure she wasn’t too hot or too cold.
If this is you or someone you know, be reassured that crying episodes, between three and 12 weeks old, are normal for newborns. About 90% of unsettled babies have nothing physically wrong with them. I genuinely believe this was the case with Willow — her little system was taking its time to adjust to the outside world after being cocooned in a warm, dark, safe place for nine months.
You must discuss baby’s crying bouts with your GP or public health nurse if you are concerned, but there are ways to ease the distress for both of you. As a mum and baby yoga teacher, I have seen how the following can help immensely:
IF YOU’RE stressed or anxious, your baby feels it acutely too. Try ujjayi pranayama, or victory breath, a yoga technique that is calming and energising. Do this holding your baby while lying, sitting or walking.
Start to breathe through your nose. Notice how the breath feels as you inhale and exhale. Narrow the back of your throat ever so slightly to create a little resistance, so you can hear your breath like a sigh.
Imagine sipping your breath in through a straw — it should be just loud enough for you and your baby to hear but not forced. Because of the soft, soothing sound it makes, ujjayi is known as ocean breath.
Feel your lungs fill and empty completely as you breathe in this way for a few minutes. Ujjayi slows and balances the breath and therefore the body. It also creates internal heat, which is energising for frazzled mums and dads.
WHEN a baby is inside the womb it’s a noisy old place, with all your bodily functions — heartbeat, digestion etc. —going on. It makes sense that playing music can calm babies and it sure beats listening to their cries echoing round the room.
I liked a bit of Bob Marley, especially Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, but pick chilled tunes that resonate with you.
THE CAMEL WALK
CUDDLING baby is a natural instinct but add movement too. A little swaying or dancing might help baby settle, but it also lifts your mood and eases tension.
I’m a fan of the camel walk. Hold your baby to your chest, head on your shoulder. Start walking and exaggerate your steps, as if you were stepping over something on the ground. At the same time, roll your hips in an up-and-down circular motion — not side to side but back and forth. Don’t worry if this doesn’t really make sense — your own variation on this funny belly dance will do the job!
It seems more effective for some babies than rocking because it mimics the movement your baby felt in the womb whenever you moved around. It also makes you smile! If this doesn’t work, get outdoors. Fresh air will benefit both of you.
TAKE IT IN TURNS
YOU need help from a partner, relative or friend when you have an unsettled baby. Get breaks, eat well and try to rest whenever possible — although I know how hard that is with a newborn. Keep talking, too. You’ll be surprised how many parents are going through the exact same thing.
ALL babies are different so it takes time to find out what works for your little one. When things get tough, repeat the mantra, ‘This too shall pass.’ You will soon have a happy contented baby, just like I did.
Published in the Irish Daily Mail, March 27, 2018