Sometimes I think dealing with crying is one of the biggest challenges for a mom of an infant. It takes a good deal of wisdom to know how to respond. What is good advice for a 15 month old isn’t always good advice for a 2 week old. Sometimes it’s appropriate to let a baby cry; sometimes it’s appropriate to comfort. There are numerous variables that might influence how a mother responds. What biblical principles govern how I respond? Here are some I can think of. Maybe you can suggest some others.
Be gentle: But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. I Thessalonians 2:7
As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children. I Thessalonians 2:11
Take care of physical needs (boredom is a need): Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Isaiah 49:15But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
Know your child’s limits: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. I Corinthians 10:13
Sometimes crying is okay: Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. Proverbs 19:18
Today I spent a good deal of time holding my baby. Maybe it’s teething, maybe she’s developing a cold, I’m not sure. What’s helpful for me is realizing when her fussiness is atypical. When it is, I try not to worry about spoiling, the baby or creating bad habits; I simply hold her when she needs it. Sometimes if I think she’s got a good reason to be fussy (like a big molar coming through her gums), then I’ll give her some motrin, especially if she’s not sleeping well.I noticed today that Laurel also cried when I closed the bedroom door to get dressed, when I left to go to the bathroom, and when I was washing the breakfast dishes. I got dressed quickly but didn’t let her in. She cried the whole time (but she would have cried had I let her in the room, too). I let her come in the bathroom where I was, and got her coloring with David while I worked in the kitchen.
Laurel doesn’t cry with frustration as much as Bethel did. It was a major effort trying to get Bethel to ask for help instead of screaming when she was Laurel’s age. I still deal with the frustration of trying to do something, but usually with Laurel, she’s trying to be like her siblings and getting in their way instead. Sometimes I make them include her, and sometimes I take her elsewhere. Usually I come over to where she’s struggling, say Help me, mommy! and then help her.
Sometimes the cry of frustration is a good one. It means they’re struggling to learn something new. It’s one of the reassuring ways that I know sometimes allowing a child to cry is a good thing. When Laurel was learning to crawl, she would cry and my tendency was to go pick her up and take her where she wanted to go. But that wasn’t what was best for her. I could comfort her, encourage her, but arranging the environment so that she didn’t cry wasn’t what was best for her. That situation gave me the courage to allow her to cry at night even though it was hard for her and me. It helps me refuse to cater to her when she’s demanding a toy some other child has, even though I know she will cry when I say no.