Everyone knows that babies cry. However, a baby’s cries can cause anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, a sense of guilt or a lack of confidence as it may indicate poor parenting skills
Why should a baby cry?
At birth, a baby’s cry is always a relief as it indicates that baby is well. Parents wait impatiently to hear baby’s first cry. Subsequent crying is always worrying for many parents.
A baby’s’ cry should generally be viewed as a good thing. Firstly it indicates that baby has a good pair of lungs. Secondly, it tells us that baby is trying to communicate. How else is he going tell you that he is hungry or bored?
Why do babies cry?
Babies cry for many reasons. These include
Trapped gas in tummy
When does baby cry?
Sometimes a baby crying seems endless. This is especially so in the middle of the night or when the parents are tired or in the evening when the baby is tired.
A newborn born baby doesn’t cry much until about age 2weeks old. From then, the crying will peak between 4-6 weeks of age and will gradually reduce and stabilize by age 3-4 months. Babies usually become more wakeful from about 2 weeks old and as they become more wakeful and alert, they need stimulation and can be easily ‘bored’. Just as a baby in need of attention will cry so will an overstimulated baby. The balance between stimulation and overstimulation is very delicate and both parents and baby need to work together to recognize the signals.
An overstimulated or overly tired baby will cry in frustration. This crying or wailing as most parents noticed can be very unnerving. The baby may appear to cry for hours and finally, when exhausted, will fall asleep. Most parents cannot understand why a tired baby cannot just fall asleep; the fact is most young babies need assistance to soothe and fall asleep. A young overstimulated baby is simply unable to self soothe so he needs assistance to unwind to be able to fall and stay asleep.
Colic also tends to set in at about this time which further complicates the picture. Although there is no definite consensus as to what is colic, it is thought to be a combination of accumulated gas trapped in baby’s immature digestive system causing discomfort and spasms. In addition, baby may be upset due to improper feeding and lack of proper sleep caused by the discomfort.
By age 3-4 months old, baby’s digestive system stabilizes and he is able to better soothe and calm himself by finding his fingers and be more aware of his environment. As he grows he will communicate better by using facial expression such as smiles and laughter and later on with gestures and finally words.
Coping with baby crying.
When a newborn baby cries, parents automatically tend to think that baby is hungry or having colic. When a baby does not stop crying, frustration, anger and panic may set in. It is necessary to reflect on one’s response to baby crying when planning on how to manage and cope with the situation.
Staying calm at all times is the mantra when handling babies especially crying babies. Whether he is hungry, tired, sleepy, frustrated or uncomfortable, you cannot think clearly and act appropriately unless you are calm. Once having identified the cause you will be able to attend to baby more confidently.
Responding and handling baby with confidence gives baby a sense of security. He will be more relaxed and be happier too.
Attend to baby
When baby cries, do attend to baby as soon as possible. If you cannot physically attend to baby, do keep talking to baby in a calm soothing voice. He will soon learn that there is nothing to panic about or a need to scream and be really upset if he needs mummy or daddy.
Feeding baby before he is frantic with hunger and on demand will reduce crying. A hungry baby is not a happy baby.
If baby is tired or overstimulated and is unable to settle to sleep, do assist baby to unwind and fall asleep. Do not worry about ‘bad’ habits. It is more necessary that baby have a good sleep than learning when he is young. Having a consistent sleep technique, a regular bedtime and understanding baby sleep signals will reduce unnecessary crying and creating long term ‘bad habits.
Understanding what helps to sooth and calm baby will reduce the crying duration and frequency. Technique such as swaddling, swaying, carrying upright with tummy against shoulder, ‘white’ noise and allowing baby to suck if needed have been found to be helpful.
Establish a routine
Babies and young children like predictability. Having a regular routine will assist both parents and baby to know how the day is planned out and what to expect. A workable routine is one that is suitable for both baby and parents.
When to seek help
If baby really cries inconsolable even after you have tried to eliminate all the possible causes or if the cries are different from his usual crying or if you find that you are very anxious each time baby cries, it is time to seek medical aid.
P/s. For the purpose of convenience and uniformity, ‘he’ is used to refer to both the genders. The article is applicable to both genders.