As a loving parent, its upsetting to hear your precious baby cry. Your natural response will be to try to placate her cries. However, if you finding it difficult to identify the cause of her distress, this makes the task of soothing her so much more difficult. This article describes common reasons why physically well babies cry.
Common reasons why babies cry
1. Hunger or thirst
Working out whether your baby is hungry or not is not always as simple as it appears! If you find you have a very hungry baby, who is feeding more often than you feel she should, you may be misinterpreting her cues.
Breast fed babies don't need additional water until they start eating solid foods. Breast feed your baby whether you think she's hungry or thirsty.
Formula fed babies don't necessarily need additional water until they commence on solid foods. However, in warmer climates (or possibly heated homes) small amounts of additional water may be helpful, provided baby is thriving and drinking good amounts of formula for age and weight. (Water should not replace milk feeds.) Offer 1 oz of cooled boiled water if she's less than 3 months old, or 1 - 2 oz if she's over 3 months, once or twice a day, in addition to regular formula feeds if you think she's thirsty.
If your baby was tired she would fall asleep right? Not necessarily! Some babies will sleep anywhere, anytime. Others need to be provided with the opportunity to sleep in a low stimulating environment.
If your baby needs you to provide her with opportunities to sleep and you miss her cues (signs that indicate she's tired), there's a risk she'll become over-tired. Once overtired she can experience great difficulty "switching off" and eventually she can get to the stage of screaming from sheer exhaustion.
Babies show signs of tiredness quite differently than we expect. Tired signs for a young baby include clenched fists, waving arm and leg movements, facial grimaces, fussing, whining and grumbling followed by crying. Often these signs are misinterpreted as boredom or hunger.
Also your baby's learned sleep associations will have a strong influence on whether she falls sleep readily or not, and how long she naps for. So it really pays to know what her sleep associations are, and how these affect her sleep.
Newborn babies in particular are susceptible to becoming distressed due to overstimulation. Every baby is very different and each family unique. Although some babies will not be bothered by any amount of noise or activity around them, others are more sensitive. Some babies can become very distressed by the stimulation from day to day activities that parents take for granted. It can take time for a young baby to adjust to their new world.
4. Tummy discomfort/pain
Newborn babies are also susceptible to experiencing tummy discomfort due to lactose overload.
5. Other types of discomfort
As parents, we tend to over-dress our babies. This can make a baby feel overheated. Your baby needs to wear similar layers of clothing as you are wearing. While she's sleeping, she may need to be covered with a sheet and/or blanket/s. Don't cover her head with a hat while she's sleeping. Alternatively, she could be feeling chilled. Think about how you would feel if you were dressed or covered the same as her.
Your baby could be sensitive to the feel of her clothing. Some clothing fibers can feel scratchy or uncomfortable. The seams of clothing could bother her by rubbing against her skin or her clothes could be too tight. Where possible, dress her in loose fitting clothing made from pure cotton.
Wet or dirty diapers (nappies) can be uncomfortable for your baby, particularly if she has a diaper rash.
Babies have a very good sense of smell. Some odors that may be familiar to you, could be distressing for your baby, for example the smell of cigarettes (or nicotine on your hands) or strong perfumes or colognes.
Temperament, personality, disposition or nature, whatever you like to call it, we're all different and so are babies. Each baby may respond differently to what's happening around them. The temperament of some babies makes them more likely to cry for longer periods and more difficult to settle into a predictable routine.
A baby certainly needs loving interaction (talking, signing and playful stimulation) from parents or caregivers. But it is far more common for babies to cry from over-stimulation than it is from boredom. Boredom is rarely a problem for newborn babies, except in incidences of neglect.
Although she's learning all the time, your baby doesn't need to be amused every waking moment. Just as she needs your loving interaction, she also needs some quiet time to listen and learn from the sights and sounds around her. To discover how she can control the muscles in her limbs and body is a task in itself.
Sometimes your baby will cry because she's wants to feel the security of your loving arms. If your baby stops crying as soon as she's picked up, the reason may be that she simply wants to be held.
Where your baby regularly falls asleep while being cuddled, she could also want to be held because she's learned that "this is the way I go to sleep". In which case, she may also want to be picked up when she's tired and wants to sleep.
9. Separation anxiety
'Separation anxiety' begins around the age of 6 months, peaks at around 9 months and continues until approx 2 - 3 years. When your child experiences separation anxiety she will cry as soon as her main caregiver leaves her sight. As frustrating as this can feel for parents, this is normal behavior and is a healthy sign of a attachment to her main caregiver.
The first took generally appears around the age of 6 months. But babies can be born with teeth or for some the first tooth may not appear until 15 months. While teething, your baby's gum may become swollen and sore at the spot where the tooth is breaking through the gum. Teething discomfort usually last for no longer than a few days.
We live in stressful times! Babies can feel stress, especially when parents or caregivers are stressed. If there's a lot of tension, arguments or raised voices around her, your baby can be affected by this.
When your baby cries for excessively long periods of time for an unknown reason it's understandable that you would start to worry that she could be unwell or have a physical problem, that's causing her crying. Rather than worry have her seen by a doctor.
Written by Rowena Bennett.