It’s the middle of the night, and you’ve been trying to soothe your baby back to sleep for an hour without success. You’ve got an early meeting in the morning but can’t imagine how you’ll drag yourself through another day at work with little sleep and frayed nerves. How will you be able to concentrate? How can you calm your nerves and, just as important, how can you help your baby get back to sleep to give him the rest he desperately needs?
Meditation may not be the first thing on your mind when you’re looking for a solution, but if used properly, it can help you and your baby both find the peace you seek. If you’re reading this and plan to give it a shot with your baby or toddler, kudos to you for starting this ritual in the early years and giving him the gift of meditation for the rest of his life. These methods are also effective for older children; it’s never too early or late to start meditating together!
Meditation can take many different forms, from sitting quietly with eyes closed and focusing on your breath, to sitting peacefully with eyes open and gently taking in the world around you, to repeating mantras quietly as you go about your day with conscious breathing and a focused mind. When meditating with a baby or toddler— or when meditating with a child of any age, for that matter— it’s essential to release any expectations you might have about what your joint meditation practice “should” look like and welcome the experience that works for you both in that very moment.
The following are three simple methods you can use to share your practice with your little one and, in doing so, develop a practice you can enjoy together.
1. The Magical Hum
The magical hum is my favorite method to introduce to both babies and toddlers since it doesn’t require any props or training. It’s a good one to start the day with and even use at the spur of the moment during a temper tantrum. I can tell you from personal experience that it can be an excellent way to distract and relax a fitful baby while you’re changing a diaper.
To practice, first make eye contact with your baby and take a few deep breaths. I like to really emphasize the exhales to make them audible and even sometimes let out a hearty lion’s breath to make sure it’s noticed. Then, once you have your baby’s attention, say “hum”, smile, and then take a deep breath. As you exhale, give a long, steady “hummmm” as you smile with your eyes. The act of smiling itself can change your mood and your baby’s, and the deep breathing begins to help relaxation set in. With a longer exhale than inhale, you’re helping to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” system, which will alert your body that it’s time to calm down. But, the best part of all is that the hum can be a very good way to give your baby something to focus on as he slowly winds down.
I started this when my baby was six months old, and now that he’s a toddler, we do it all the time when he gets anxious. Sometimes I don’t even have to prompt him. I’ll find him getting frustrated with something he’s playing with, he’ll disengage, look upset and then say “hummm” to soothe himself. That “tool” is now his for support whenever he needs it and ours whenever we choose to take a meditation break together.
2. Mantra Moments
Another simple way to start meditating with your baby is to chant a mantra. With a newborn baby, I recommend choosing a simple mantra like “Om” (similar to the magical hum!). You may have seen the famous YouTube video of a man chanting a long, loud “Om” to a crying baby as the baby stops crying and slowly relaxes. I’ll be honest, I tried that when my baby was a month old; he looked scared and started crying louder. But, when I changed my pitch to something lower, it was amazing how well it worked. He was asleep within a few minutes!
From there I branched out to other mantras that resonate with my soul like “Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung”. This is said to be one of the most powerful healing mantras out there. It certainly brings me peace. I prefer to listen to it on my phone and close my eyes while focusing on my breath. (My favorite mantras are by Kundalini yogi and vocalist Snatam Kaur). The rhythm and gentle nature of mantra songs are a great way to calm a baby.
3. Sound Bowl Vibrations
Tibetan sound bowls or “singing” bowls have been used for healing and meditation for centuries. If you’ve ever heard one, you know just how soothing the sound and vibrations can be. A soft, low tone can certainly get your baby’s attention and, used the right way, it can serve almost the same purpose as a noise machine to bring your baby to rest. To practice, position the baby in your lap or your toddler across from you. Hold the bowl with a taut hand and strike the mallet to the side of the bowl with the other hand. Or, for a higher-pitched “singing” sound, drag the mallet around the outside upper edge of the bowl.
For toddlers, sound bowls are a creative way to get them involved in the meditation or just use as a distraction when a temper tantrum is lurking. I’ve been using a sound bowl with my son since he was about nine months old. He was instantly intrigued. Eventually, I taught him to start using it himself, and he loves to tinker with it. I also use sound bowls in my children’s meditation classes. The kids each like to take a try, and after the initial excitement of getting a turn with the sound bowl, they become quiet as a mouse to focus on making the sound bowl sing.
These are just a few of the creative ways to invite a baby into the world of meditation. The following articles may also be of interest to those seeking more information:
Grant, Kara Leah. Elephant Journal. “Ten Tricks to Meditating with a Baby or Toddler.”https://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/ten-tricks-to-meditating-with-a-baby-or-toddler/. June 9, 2011.
“How to Meditate with Your Baby.” Moon and Baby. https://www.moonandbaby.com/blogs/journal/meditation-with-your-baby. July 8, 2017.