Babies cry, and they always
cry for a reason. Newborns may cry when they are hungry, need changing
or are craving to be held. Sometimes, they may just be having trouble
adjusting to life outside the womb. But some
babies cry more than others, and the wailing may signal colic or another
underlying medical condition. Many physicians and child-development
experts say you shouldn't worry about spoiling your baby by responding
to his cries. Instead, parents should try to determine the cause of
baby's distress. Recent studies show that babies will cry less often if
their cries are promptly answered. Colic is a different matter, however,
since that condition will probably run its course no matter what parents
do. Generally, though, if an infant's needs are not met, her crying
escalates and she becomes more difficult to console. This hinders the
parent's ability to meet the baby's needs and the problem becomes a
Author and pediatrician William Sears says parents need to understand
the language of crying to determine the cause of their child's tears.
According to Sears, the biological and hormonal changes a mother
experiences when she hears
her baby cry
urge her to pick up and comfort her baby. It's important to listen to
your own biological cues when your baby cries, since most parents have
natural instincts for calming their infant, Sears says.
Reasons for Crying
Crying has two main functions:
One is a message to
parents that something is going on. A baby's cry is really designed to
be listened to. Babies cry in a pitch that adults are very sensitive
The second function of
crying is a self-regulatory one. Babies use crying as an adaptive tool
that helps them regulate themselves to their environment. For example,
in an airplane an infant's crying is the body's attempt to deal with
the change of air pressure in the plane. The cry actually helps
balance the pressure in the inner ear.
There are two kinds of excessive criers: those who are crying because
of colic or
some kind of internal discomfort and those who are just not sleeping
Colicky babies tend to cry few hours a day, every day, for weeks.
Often these episodes occur late in the day and are accompanied by
babies scrunching up their faces and pulling their knees to their
chests. There is no set cause or treatment for colic, several
strategies for parents are often recommended:
Sometimes a change of
formula is helpful.
In breastfed children, a
review of the mother's diet may be in order, since certain foods
transferred through mother's milk may not agree with the baby's
parents need to develop consistent strategies for dealing with
infant crying. They need to teach infants self-soothing skills and
keep them on a regulated schedule. A reliable, predictable pattern
of care can be very comforting to a baby.
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A more recently diagnosed
condition for infants with symptoms similar to those of colic is gastro
esophageal reflux. Reflux is the regurgitation of stomach acids, which
causes indigestion-type symptoms in infants. This may result in
inconsolable crying that appears to be due to pain.
There are two levels of treatment for babies with reflux. A more natural
approach for babies with less severe cases includes elevating the head
to help keep milk down or adding oatmeal to the baby's formula to help
keep the stomach acids from rising. More severe cases may need
prescription-drug treatment to cut down on an infant's stomach acid.
Older Babies Need to Comfort
During the first few months of life, parents' main concern is comforting
their infants by making sure they are well fed and cared for. But after
the third month of life, in addition to
parents need to teach babies self-control and help them develop
self-soothing capabilities. Babies wake up several times each night and
need to be able to comfort themselves so they will go back to sleep.
After the third month, parents should set up a routine with a regular
Calm your baby with a bath
and a feeding.
Read the baby a book and
put him to bed awake, but sleepy.
Let the baby fuss a bit,
then go in and comfort her. But do not pick her up.
Babies who learn to go to
sleep independently at bedtime will learn to soothe themselves at other
times and cut down on their crying.
What's Normal and What
Many parents ask, 'What is normal crying?' Some babies need to cry for
several hours during the day, just as some babies need to sleep more or
eat more than others. It is time to worry when babies cry even when they
are full, are fretful and look like something is hurting them.
If parents try all the steps suggested and their baby is still
crying, bring the infant in for a physical exam to determine if the
child is ill or has a condition like reflux.
Babies are difficult. They are not able to give clear signals of
what they want. And it doesn't help that parents are bombarded with
conflicting advice on how to deal with crying babies.
Listening and responding to a baby's cries are skills that will be
perfected as parent and baby get to know each other better. What's
important, he says, is letting your infant know you are there for him
when he needs you, while also giving him the chance to learn how to