Guys guys GUYZ I have found a miracle tip for calming Baby Diva down when she’s too agitated / overtired to sleep and I have to share it with you because it is AMAZING: I call it “baby meditation”.
You know what meditation is, right? You might have tried it. The aim, they say, is to empty your head of all thoughts in order to achieve Enlightenment, or at least some form of inner peace. I’ve never been good at the “emptying” part, so when I started meditating as a teenager, I instead used visualisations that I could focus on. I became quite adept at it before quitting entirely just when I needed it most (adulthood).
Here’s the deal about meditation, though: the science says that it’s not the “emptying” itself that makes it beneficial and creates all those nice legal-high-inducing alpha waves. It is, in fact, the whole process of focussing, mind-wandering, remembering you’re supposed to be focussing and bringing your mind back, etc. etc. So in effect, as long as you’re focussing on something, no matter how many times your mind wanders, you’re still doing it right.
Where was I? Oh yes: baby meditation doesn’t mean getting your baby to meditate, because that’s impossible. Probably. I mean, if you know a way to do it, please share, because I’d be down for that. No, what I call “baby meditation” is meditating – or at least going through the motions of meditation – while holding your (agitated) baby, in order to calm them down.
Which might sound so simple it’s stupid and bound not to work, right? You’ve already tried remaining calm with your screaming infant in your arms, and they just kept screaming. Yeah, me too. The difference is that you really are trying to meditate – close your eyes, breathe in and out very slowly, relax all your muscles as much as you can, using only the strength necessary to stay upright and hold your baby up. It helps me to visualise the tension leaving me on every out-breath. You may find yourself tensing up again on every in-breath, but that doesn’t matter as long as you keep relaxing afterwards.
The idea for this came to me when I was at the baby clinic, unceremoniously stuffing a grumpy and uncooperative Baby Diva into the sling to go home, and one of the women who work there was trying to distract her. She commented on how nice it would be in the sling once she was settled into it, and how wonderful it would be to see everything from high up on the way home, and how lovely to be all snuggled up warm against mummy etc. And she mentioned that perhaps Baby Diva wasn’t cooperating because, in such close proximity to me, she could feel how tense I was. And I was tense – trying to hurry up and leave so that I could give my chair (with all our stuff on it) to another mother who’d just turned up and had nowhere to sit.
Later that evening, Baby Diva was having trouble getting to sleep on her own. It was in part due to the fact that we’d been to the baby clinic at that time in the afternoon when she is usually sleeping, and so she’s slept later, and woken up closer to her bedtime but still not having slept enough, so she was both overtired and wanting to play. She cried in her cot, so I picked her up and held her, but she also cried in my arms, arching her back and wriggling so that holding her was uncomfortable. I realised I was tense, the muscles in my body reflecting hers, and I figured this was a vicious cycle I should probably stop before it ended with us both in tears.
I was standing up, cradling her and shifting my weight from foot to foot, trying to calm her down. I lifted my head straight (Aaahhh my neck!) and closed my eyes, visualising a calm lake at dawn (which is my focus for meditation, you do you though), and breathed in… and out, relaxing all the muscles in my body as much as possible.
The effect was instantaneous. I felt her relax into my arms, and by the second breath her crying had turned into sleepy growls. I kept going, and the growls stopped. After five breaths I opened my eyes and looked down, and she was already sleeping. I rocked her for a few more breaths, then stopped, and finally laid her down in her cot. She didn’t wake up all evening.
Fluke, right? That’s what I thought. No way could it be that simple. And yeah, you’re right, it’s not always that simple. But both me and Daddy Diva have been using variations on that same technique – standing up, sitting down, even just leaning over her in her cot with our hands on her chest – and it always works to some extent, and often puts her straight to sleep. Sometimes we put her down too soon, and she’s awake five minutes later, because the tension comes back once she’s no longer in our arms. Sometimes she doesn’t go to sleep, or starts crying again, because there’s something wrong that we forgot to check. But in the very least, it always helps.
At least, it helps for us, with Baby Diva. What I’d like to know is if it helps for other people with their children. I know I don’t have that many readers, but I’d really like to know, so if you do read this, I’d love it if you tried it, and spread the word for me, and then comment and tell me how it worked. I think it helps to have some experience in meditation to begin with, but bear in mind that I haven’t regularly meditated in years. I’d love to know what you think!