You are probably already an expert on stress.
Juggling work, the kids, and getting dinner on the table, you probably know more about it than you ever wanted to.
Kids learn how to handle stress by watching you.
When your kids see you stressing out, they may stress out too. They learn from the people around them. If you take a breath, have a stretch or laugh a little, your baby will see you coping with stress in a positive way, and your kids will learn positive ways to cope with stress from your example.
What is stress, anyway?
When you feel anxious or in danger, your body produce stress hormones, such as cortisol. These hormones cause physical changes in your body. You might get sweaty palms, experience rapid or shallow breathing, feel like your heart is pounding and experience loss (or increase) of appetite.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing.
In fact, healthy stress — called the “fight or flight” reaction — is essential for survival. Increased levels of stress hormones give us the energy to respond quickly, and even calm down when coping with real emergencies. However, when we experience stress most of the time, health problems may occur.
Babies experience stress too!
Babies experience stress when their needs are not met. They tend to cry when they are hungry, need to be changed or are getting too much or too little attention. Not attending to a crying baby can cause your baby to feel stress.
Babies need your help learning to calm down.
Babies aren’t born knowing how to handle stress because their brains are still developing. That’s why babies need help from grownups in calming down. Research shows that babies whose cries are soothed quickly tend to cry less, not more. Don’t worry — responding to your baby’s cries does not train him to cry just to get your attention.
Teaching young babies how to calm down helps as they grow up.
You can’t protect your baby from everything that causes stress. But you can soothe him. And that, in turn, teaches him how to soothe himself. This skill will help your baby throughout his life. Don’t assume that letting a baby handle stress on his own, or crying it out, will make him a tougher or more resilient adult.
There are different ways to soothe a baby through stress.
Every baby is unique. One baby may be soothed by warm baths, another may want to be cuddled, and another may want to be gently rocked. You can learn what works best for your child just by doing what comes naturally.