I wanted to write about an experience that many parents can have in regard to their baby’s sleep. This is of how you might feel when your baby is struggling to settle. To hear your baby cry, particularly at night can evoke strong emotion. It might be frustration, irritation and anger and it could also bring fear. You might find yourself thinking, what if my baby will feel I don’t love them, what if they feel that I have left them and they will then feel they can’t rely upon me. What if by leaving them this will break our relationship. Some of these thoughts might be routed in your own experience and makes it hard for you to bear your child’s distress and give them a chance to learn about these emotions.

If you have had little help yourself, that you had to find ways to learn to manage your own emotion, without your learning being carefully scaffolded, as you are attempting to do for your own child, then you will perhaps have experienced this sense of isolation and abandonment that you imagine is your baby’s experience. This can mean that when you hear your baby cry, it is not just their cry you hear, but you also unconsciously hear your own pain at how alone you felt. You perhaps did not get the help you needed, so that these emotions can feel overwhelming and you inevitably assume that our baby is also feeling overwhelmed, you want to protect them from the way you felt. This then takes you away from what your baby is actually feeling.

Parenting, in many ways is a gradual experience of learning to let go and this can evoke strong emotion about your own childhood relationships and how you experienced being separate. Sleep is something we can ultimately only do alone, even if there is someone next to us. This is why your baby’s struggles to fall sleep can arouse such strong feelings within you.

Beginning to be able to bear your own painful thoughts and feelings, allows you to then offer this more easily to your own baby. Help to separate out and distinguish between what you feel from what your baby feels is an essential part of what Parent-Infant Psychotherapy is for.

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