Hearing your baby cry can be very stressful and can cause some confusion sometimes. No parent likes to see their baby distressed but crying is the only way for your baby to communicate and is totally normal behaviour. It is their means of expressing their emotional or physical discomfort and is also a way that they release anxiety and tension. They are helpless and dependent and sometimes they may sense the world around them to be a scary place so can be startled by unfamiliar sounds. They are asking for your help to comfort and reassure them.
A newborn baby will cry an average of 1½-3 hours every day. Some may cry less and some may cry more. It will peak around 6-8 weeks of age.
The most important thing to do when caring for your newborn is to respond to your baby’s crying and their cues as promptly as you can. This stage is a critical time for building trust. Your prompt, consistent responses will be rewarded with a healthy, happy secure and trusting baby and this will reinforce your confidence as parents making it a much more enjoyable experience. Research has shown that by doing this, it will result in less crying overall and your baby will become a confident and secure child.
Trying to figure out why your baby is crying can be overwhelming at first but within a very short period of time you will start to recognize the different cries your baby makes depending on their needs. For example, the incessant cry your baby will give when they are hungry will be very different from the grizzly cry when they just need some comfort.
You will also learn to recognise your baby’s different body rhythms so you will know when your baby is tired or hungry or over stimulated. A structured routine also enables you to be able to have a much better idea as to what potentially is causing your baby to cry. (A structured routine is not a rigid routine, it is just a rough idea of when your baby may feed or sleep next). Use your observational skills, what does your baby’s cry sound like and what do they look like when they are crying.
Here are some important points to know about newborns and their cries that will help you understand what they may be communicating to you.
This is the first and most obvious reason. When did your baby last feed? Having a rough schedule or concept of a schedule can help with this confusion. This is not rigid, it is just a rough idea of when their next feed or sleep may be due.
A hungry baby’s cry sounds rhythmic and builds into a desperate and intense cry that tends to stay at a medium pitch.
Observing your baby for feeding cues is really important such as; rooting reflex, sucking on their hands or fingers, opening and closing their mouth, wriggling and fidgety body movements, cooing and vocalisations.
Follow the general rule that ‘when in doubt, assume that your baby is hungry and feed them’.
It is important to be able to learn and observe your baby for tired signs so that when you see these signs you can start the winding down process and put them into their bed before they get overtired. Baby’s who are overtired are very difficult to settle.
Yawning, eyes looking glazed. rubbing their eyes, jerky movements, facial grimacing and arching their backs are some of the signs that you may see.
A tired cry usually starts off as a grizzle and builds slowly and if their tired signs have been missed they will exhibit quite a distressed cry that sounds like they are in pain.
Newborns can only manage a certain amount of stimulation. They are very sensitive to the sounds, smells, touch and sights that surround them so it is really important to manage their environment to prevent them from becoming over stimulated. Newborn babies neurological systems are very immature so they do not have the ability to ‘switch off from too much stimulation until they are around 3 months old. Instead their nervous system becomes overloaded, which results in them becoming stressed and difficult to settle.
Babies will start to turn their head and body away from the stimulation before then starting to cry a fussy sounding cry which gradually increases and becomes what sounds like a distressed cry, as if they are in pain.
A windy cry tends to come on quite suddenly and is high pitched, rhythmic and intense. Babies can become quite panicked and breathless.
Your baby may arch their back, bring their knees up to their chest or start grabbing at their faces and ears. A soothing cuddle or offering a clean finger or pacifier for them to suck while holding them upright is all that is required.
I am Bored:
It is really important to give your baby the right amount of wake time and stimulation that is appropriate for their age.
A bored cry sounds like a very whiny, frustrated grizzle rather than a distressed cry and a change of scenery is all that is required.
Newborns are unable to regulate their body temperature so if your baby is too cold, they will tend to cry in discomfort. If they are feeling too hot they will whine and look red and blotchy. They may even pant instead of breathing and be hot to touch. Remember babies only need one more extra layer than us so consider that when you are also wrapping them and putting a blanket over them to sleep.
Some babies will suffer from reflux which can cause them some discomfort as the acid from the stomach burns the oesophagus on it’s way up. It is very common for babies to have a small degree of reflux but some will suffer more than others with it. Feeding and holding your baby in a more upright position and offering smaller and more frequent feeds can work well.
Check that your baby’s nappy is dry. Most baby’s will not be disturbed by a wet nappy, however some babies will not like the discomfort of a dirty nappy so ensure you check their nappy as part of your check list as to why your baby is crying.
Is the most common cause of crying and is a completely normal physiological process that can occur anytime during the day or night. On average it lasts for 30-60 minutes.
It is thought to be due to your newborn’s neurological development and the effect on your baby’s mood when certain brain connections are being made. This results in a natural release of anxiety or tension.
It peaks at 6-8 weeks and diminishes by 10-12 weeks.
It is a low level incessant grizzly cry.
Once all your basic crying checks have been done ie: feeding or changing etc, start to recreate the environment of the womb as this is all that is needed to soothe your baby and will give your baby the security and reassurance they need. Trust your instincts and respond to your baby’s needs. Swaddle, cuddle and help your baby to settle if they need your help.