As a new parent, or a parent to a new baby who responds very differently to previous babies, it may be stressful and confronting when your baby cries. Babies cry for many different reasons, as it is their sole means of communicating their needs to those around them. A baby who feels like their needs will be met, may communicate more by crying - so crying is not such a bad thing. In fact, if a baby cries and its needs are not met, it may eventually give up trying to communicate and stop crying.
Babies cry when they’re hungry, thirsty, wet or uncomfortable, when they want to be held, need reassurance, comforting and warmth, are sick or sore. The more you are around your baby, the better you will be able to pick up on cues as to what these needs are. Sometimes it will be difficult, and you may have your own needs for sleep, rest, eating, going to the bathroom etc that are different to your baby’s immediate needs. There is no right or wrong decision, but if you need to make yourself comfortable first, go ahead and do that so you can then tend to your child.
Every baby will be different but if you work through checking if they are hungry, thirsty, cold, or need a nappy change first, then you can move onto their emotional needs for comfort and reassurance.
Wet/ Dirty Nappy
This is an easy one to check and fix immediately. Ina May Gaskin suggests in her book Spiritual Midwifery that babies are like the rest of us, they do not want to sit in a mess when they eat - so it’s better to change their diapers before you feed them. That way they can be comfortable while they are feeding and you can use that time while you are changing them to gently quieten them down, calm them, and stroke them to let them know it’s okay. It will also help them nurse better when you do nurse them as they will be breathing regularly and less likely to swallow air.
Do not feed your child when they are crying as it will form a bad habit for both of you. Simply put it in the nursing position and soothe the baby and once its calmed, let it feed.
Colic or Gas
There are lots of reasons why your baby might be crying like colic, gas, the need to burp. These are things they may need some help with. Putting baby on their back and moving their legs in a bicycling movement may help relieve gas. Similarly walking around with the baby, and patting their back, or putting them down for tummy time while gently rubbing their back may help them to burp.
Babies are used to being in a nice warm womb for 9 months with sounds like their mothers heartbeat and digestion noises. Moving from this watery safe environment to being out in the open can be scary. Babies are also born way before they are supposed to, in order for mothers to be able to function. Our bodies have evolved so that mothers hips can grow wide enough to birth a baby at 9 months, but not so wide that they cannot run or walk. If babies stayed in their mum’s tummy’s any longer, their poor mum would need hips so wide she wouldn’t be able to walk properly! This means they are extremely underdeveloped compared to other mammal babies and are a lot more dependent on their parents for food, shelter and reassurance. Babies need reassurance that you love them, and that their needs will be met. Baby wearing will allow you to still have your hands to go about your normal activities while keeping baby close to your chest for reassurance and bonding.
Sometimes babies are so tired and exhausted that they can’t sleep, even though they desperately want to sleep. Other parents have tips like once their baby yawns the first time, they remove all sensory input so the baby doesn’t feel like its missing out on anything if it goes to sleep. Then hold the baby close and pat them to allow them to sleep straight away. The longer they stay up the harder it will be for them to get past their exhaustion to actually sleep.
Too hot or cold
Baby could also be uncomfortable because of the temperature. They may cry when you are changing them because they suddenly feel the cold air. They are more likely to cry if they are too cold rather than too warm. It’s easy to get carried away and swathe your baby in numerous layers to keep it warm, but usually one layer more than what you are comfortable in should be right for your baby.
Something is annoying me
Babies are extremely sensitive to light, touch and noise. Doctors suggest that if your baby is crying and you’re not sure why, check to see if there is a hair that is cutting off their circulation on a finger or toe for example. It could also be that it’s colder in a certain position or place in the house, the noise of the TV or the light is annoying them, their clothing might be itchy or they might want to change positions or be held differently. Try out a few different things until you figure it out. If you’re breastfeeding it might even be the type of bottle or nipple that is used.
Babies start teething at about 4 - 7 months old but it could happen earlier or later. As you can imagine, it hurts to have a tooth pushing through a gum so they are likely to be fussy and crying. You could try a teething toy, rusks, cold foods or rubbing a clean finger over their gums.
Want more or less stimulation
Babies can get bored at time and want more colours and objects and sounds to stimulate them. Putting your baby in a carrier against your chest and going about your normal day will help you to get what you need done and provides great stimulation for them. You could even plan outings to baby friendly places if you feel up to it.
Too much stimulation on the other hand could also make them cry. Sometimes it all gets too much and a baby will just want to be swaddled and soothed because all the sights and sounds are too overwhelming.
A baby could also be crying because they are coming down with a temperature or starting to feel sick. If you are concerned about the kind of cry they are making, call a doctor just to be sure.
There could be lots more reasons and trust yourself that over time you will figure them out. Just being there for your baby and holding it will go a long way in letting them know that you are trying to understand them.
Cover Image by Stocksnap from Pixabay
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