Crying is a normal communication response that babies use but unfortunately, it can be hard for parents to listen to. A young baby's cry tugs at a parent's heart strings which can leave an adult feeling anxious, tense and guilty for not knowing why their baby is crying.Should they be responding to their baby's cry straight away? Or should they leave him or her to 'cry it out'?When a parent gains experience, coupled with professional knowledge and facts about why babies cry, it allows them to make parenting choices with confidence.Why do Babies Cry?· Hunger
· Physical discomfort such as too hot, cold, abdominal bloating, pain, sick or wind
· Passing a bowel movement
· In need of a reassuring cuddle
· Release of accumulated 'stress'During a baby's first 8 weeks of life they often experience a "fussy" period which can last 4 - 5 hours each day. This period is often known as the 'witching hour' and usually occurs in the late afternoon from about 3 -4pm. During this fussy period, a baby will cry fitfully and appear hungry, gassy and unable to sleep. Settling techniques and patience from parents will be needed to cope during this time. These settling techniques may include carrying your baby in a sling or carrier, a deep warm bath, an extra feed, a walk outside, cuddles, electronic swing or handing them to another carer.Once a parent has learnt to identify their child's different cries, it is then a matter of what can they do to help. Below are some ideas based on both personal and professional findings over many years. Remember not all crying is 'bad' and does not necessarily need to be stopped. A parent's knowledge and perception of their baby's crying will determine their response to it.1. A Hunger CryDuring the first few days after birth, a baby can be nursed from both breasts whenever they cry and at least every 2 hours during the day until breast milk has 'come in'. When there is breast milk present, a baby should be encouraged to nurse from one breast each feed until the breast is empty (approximately 30-40 minutes). Babies need to be kept awake while nursing to ensure a good nutritive suck. Offer the second breast only if they are still hungry.From 3 weeks old a breastfed baby should be nursed at least every 3 hours during the day and every 4 hours if a baby is formula fed. This may mean waking your baby if they sleep too long during the day.Tips: Feed more frequently during a growth spurt. (approximately 7 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months)
and ensure good attachment to the breast otherwise they will tire themselves out by feeding without getting enough milk.2. Physical Discomforta. Massaging your baby daily will facilitate a conditioned touch relaxation response which is beneficial for your baby's maturing central nervous system.b. Have your baby assessed for 'Reflux' if they are:-Always unsettled and crying.
-Will not lie happily flat on their back.
-Screams after spitting up.
-Gulps and swallows even when not feeding.
-Wakes after 20-30 minutes sleep on a regular basis.c. Identify any intolerance to foods particularly dairy and wheat products. There are telltale signs and symptoms with a breast fed or formula fed baby that can be assessed by a local health care professional. Some of these signs include but are not limited to eczema or rashes, vomiting, bowel changes and bloating.d. Prevent excessive weight gain by not over feeding.e. Dress a baby with one layer more than the parent who feels the heat the most.f. Try using a pacifier.g. Sing or read to them. Babies are calmed by the rhythmical sounds of your voice and don't worry if you are off key!h. Observe for fever, listless and less than 6 wet diapers in a day which would indicate the need to see a Doctor.3. Overstimulated· Allow a baby space after each feed to move their limbs and be free of being held.· Be aware that some babies find lights, too many people, smells and noise of shopping centres and other 'busy' areas overwhelming and will be unsettled and cry either during the visit or after they have returned home.4. Tiredness· Be mindful of how much sleep your baby requires and ensure they are given the opportunity to sleep at regular intervals.· Establish sleep 'cues' such as swaddling or offering a pacifier. These cues can help your baby recognize it is sleep time.· Become aware of, and watch out for tired signs such as jerky limb movements, facial grimacing, yawning, breaking eye contact and clenched fists. These are signs that your newborn baby is ready to be settled to sleep.5. Overtired· Try not to ignore the tired signs outlined above, as this is the window of opportunity that makes it easier for a baby to settle into sleep.· A baby will not attend well to the bottle or breast if they are overtired. Therefore, always feed them just after they wake not before they are about to sleep.· If a young baby needs to cry, they do not need to 'cry it out' alone in their crib but you can instead hold them and be calmed and comforted while they cry in your arms.· When an overtired baby finally falls asleep, their sleep may be fitful and shortened, lasting only 15 - 20 minutes. Therefore try to avoid your baby getting to this stage.6. Passing a Bowel MovementA young baby often cries prior to a bowel movement which is called 'Infant Dyschezia'. This condition lasts for only 2 weeks and is not associated with any other bowel changes such as blood, mucous, froth or anal fissures which are signs that need to be assessed by a professional.7. In Need of a CuddlePrior to being born your baby has been close to their mother's heart beat and aware of other rhythmical muffled sounds from the womb and outside noises. They have been floating in the warmth of fluid and felt secure being encapsulated and tucked in close in the womb. Exposure to the outside world full of loud and sudden sharp noises, smells, brightness, wearing of clothes, taste of milk and bodily functioning can be a massive adaptation for your baby to make. A secure, reassuring and comforting cuddle may be just the thing that helps them feel everything is ok.8. ColicThe term colic is often used to describe a baby who is extremely unsettled, irritable and crying on a regular basis. It is a time when all the techniques that had been working or could work to settle your baby are not working anymore. Your baby is pulling their legs up and crying a desperate sounding cry. They may stiffen their back and not want to be held. All the usual comforting measures are not working and your baby, (and most likely you) are getting more desperate. This is a difficult time for most parents and not for just first time parents. You feel useless and hope that you are not missing something serious.There is often a good explanation for why a baby behaves in such a manner and with careful diagnosis and appropriate measures this distress can be reduced. These can include:-"Growth spurts" (occurring for approximately 24 hours at 3 days, 7 days, 2-3 weeks and 6 weeks of age).
-The 'witching or arsenic hour' lasting for 3 - 4 hours which is usually gone by 8 -12 weeks and is thought to be connected to a baby's developing nervous system.
-Misreading your babies cues e.g. trying to feed when crying from tiredness or putting to sleep when hungry.
-Your baby's temperament.
-Being handled by an over anxious and nervous parent or carer in a tense household.
-Inner rhythm known as "circadian rhythm" not yet established.
-Reflux, which can also be 'silent' with no vomiting.
-Allergies and/or intolerance to certain food.If all these options are explored and nothing is discovered, then that could be labelled as true colic, which can last until 3 months old. Not knowing why a baby is crying as well as dealing with the crying, can be extremely difficult and tiring for parents to cope with. A good support network is vital for parent's whose child suffers from colic, as it can be a very draining time both emotionally and physically.Some Settling Methods to Try:· Use the stroller to rock them off to sleep.
· Use an electronic swing, carrier or sling.
· Give your baby a relaxation bath either on their own or in a deep one with you. Try putting a cup of camomile tea in the bath water and a warm wash cloth over their tummy.
· Quick breast feed or suck on a pacifier.
· Go out and meet someone or take a brisk walk with them in a stroller or sling.
· Lay down with them and hold them gently.
· Play loud 'white noise' or music in their sleeping area
· Do whatever else you might think would work for your baby, making sure to take their personality into consideration. Try to stay calm yourself and always give your baby to the one who is the calmest.
· Relax in the thought that they will grow out of it - colic usually starts at 3 weeks and continues until around 3 months.
· If you are concerned about unsettled behaviour have your baby checked by your Pediatrician or Child Health Professional.9. Release of Accumulated 'Stress'Due to a baby's immature nervous system, overstimulation of any of their five senses through over-handling, overfeeding, loud noises, strong fragrances and excessive brightness can be overwhelming. Exposed babies to the sensations of the world gradually, as it will be less likely to be overwhelmed. This is particularly true for the prematurely born baby.What parents can do to help themselves cope with the demands of a crying baby.1. Have realistic expectations - all babies cry.
2. Say 'yes' to anyone that sincerely offers to help you.
3. Build social networks with other like-minded parents who have young babies and children
4. Be realistic with what you expect to get accomplished each day.
5. Slow down your pace of life, as this precious phase of nurturing your baby will not last for long.
6. Eat regular nutritional whole foods and avoid eating too much take-out.
7. Rest each day, especially in the afternoon.
8. Do some form of outdoor exercise every day.
9. Allow each parent "alone time" to do something that they truly enjoy.
10. If you are alone and your baby's crying is causing you to be extremely anxious or frustrated, put your baby safely in their crib or basket and leave the room until you are calmer. Call someone for help if you are frightened that you will hurt your baby. Staying with them when you feel this way could result in you lashing out aggressively.