The Fussy Baby Site

A Conversation on Perinatal Imprinting

crying baby

Aside from the medical and developmental scales we use to understand babies, there is a language we can learn that lets us decode exactly what babies are telling us.

They have a stealth language that is designed to draw us in so that we listen very closely to what words and thoughts fail to do.

Babies speak in the language of the body. They talk to us through movement, sound and facial expressions.

Our job, as adults and caregivers is to become attuned to their subtle language.

Babies know what they are feeling; often they are telling us a story from their experiences inside the womb and at birth. It was previously thought that babies could not have an experience, that they did not have the brain power to sense, let alone remember their experiences. We now know that babies in the womb are able to sense their surroundings as early as conception.

How do babies tell us their story?

Babies commonly carry imprints from unresolved moments in their development and birth.

They have clever ways of assuming positions while nursing or being changed that are reminiscent of the position they were in when they first absorbed the imprint.

They may alert us to their discomfort by becoming emotional at the same time of day as when they were first imprinted. They may show us in the timing of their cries, their body positions or in how they transition from sleep to wakefulness or between caregivers. They even show us the dynamics of their imprinting in the way that they play.

The Challenges of Understanding Our Babies

Several challenges present when we go to understand what babies are telling us:

• Our culture has evolved away from the natural tools it had to decode their language. To understand them, we must slow ourselves to about an eighth our normal pace and we must learn ways to settle ourselves into a centered place in our nervous systems while we engage them.

Unless we believe they have the power to remember their experiences, we imagine they need to ‘stop fussing’. Once we realize they are telling a story, we are more apt to become curious.

• We have a belief about what a ‘good baby’ is. How often do parents find themselves in the situation where their child is vocal or agitated (telling a piece of their story) and they receive glaring looks from people around?

It can be very disheartening to be met with judgement and frustration by the greater community when you are doing everything you can to do things ‘right’.

• For many of us, a crying baby reminds us of our own unresolved imprints. Rather than respond with compassion, we experience discomfort.

Aggravated looks and shushing advice are often the result of a culture still needing to heal its own perinatal imprinting. The pressure today about what ‘normal’ is can be crippling for the development of a family.

There is so much choice today in how to support pregnancy, birth and child-rearing. I encourage parents to gather all the information they need to feel comfortable and from there, use their instincts to make decisions.

As soon as a parent compares themselves or their baby to another, a great opportunity has been lost.

A ‘good baby’ is one that tells the truth about how it’s feeling. I am always thankful when a child or adult comes to me with their small and big feelings. If babies’ feelings are treated as valid and we slow to get them, they will grow to be expressive, honest and courageous people.

• What about us?! Often, after a baby is born, all the attention goes to the child and away from the parents. Parents also need support after a baby is born. The story babies are telling are stories that parents share with them.

Chances are whatever difficulty the baby experienced, a parent will inevitably have had a significant experience too. Often parents need support and healing and when they get it, their babies often are able to settle too.

What Can I Do For My Fussy Baby?

Everyday life can be severely interrupted if babies are unhappy or uncomfortable. It can be incredibly taxing and can overwhelm just about anyone.

Having a baby is already a radical life change. If your baby is expressing a lot of discomfort, it is important to seek help.

Help will look like taking a deeper look at some important stages of pregnancy and birth as well as taking a close look at what patterns existed in your respective families when you were conceived, grown and born.

It may be necessary to do some gentle forms of body work as a family or with your baby to fully resolve the discomfort.

Babies present an incredible opportunity to bring intimacy and healing to a family. Sometimes events during their growing time and birth linger in the mother’s and baby’s bodies and beings and are attempted to be dispelled by crying, fussing and moving.

In addition to everything you’re doing right; consider thanking your baby for their courage to talk to you when they are ‘fussy’. They are attempting to share with you their deepest feelings.

As an experiment, try telling them that you hear what they are saying, or saying, ‘oh, that’s how it was for you, oh…’ I guarantee they will hear you.

They will sense that someone is ‘getting’ them.

This is how they will begin to resolve what may have been an overwhelming experience for them during gestation or birth. The best place to start is with a feeling of curiousity about what they are telling you. From there, let your baby lead you.

Encourage them to tell you anything they need to. Continue reminding them that you are there, you want to know and that you are listening. You might start noticing some changes.

Be reassured that it is never too late to heal from early imprinting and that underneath any imprint lies a healthy, content, authentic being; just waiting to be discovered.

Dr. Mia Kalef is a chiropractor and craniosacral therapist who works with families to resolve prenatal, birth and early trauma. You can find out more about Mia and her organization ‘Emerging Families’ at her website, or send her an email.

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