“Babies are genetically programmed to call out for comfort when distressed. Crying is your baby’s way of getting you to help her understand what she needs as the brain is not developed enough to manage this on its own. Babies DO NOT cry to exercise their lungs or to annoy you! They cry when they need to alert you to something that is bothering them either physically or emotionally and need your help to understand and meet their needs. The more these needs are met and understood over time the less your baby will cry as you will learn to understand what they need before they become upset.
Most young babies will cry to get their physical needs met initially so start with these needs first. If you have offered a feed, winded them, changed the nappy and ruled out overtiredness there may be another need that could be as simple as a change of environment or that they just fancy a cuddle. If you become anxious about the crying they may cry more which will make it more difficult to work out the real problem. So try to remain calm and work through what might be the problem.”
Young babies brains are not developed enough to anticipate hunger. Therefore when they realise that they need feeding a message goes directly to the brain to alert the baby to let their carer know they need feeding. This can happen very quickly and the force and escalation of the cry often catches parents out and can be quite worrying. If a baby has not been fed for 2- 4 hours then they may need to be fed. If they are soothed immediately by a breast or bottle then they probably are hungry. Babies over time will learn to regulate their feeds and often manage to have longer gape between feeds which will help you anticipate when the feed is due and reduce crying.
Wet or dirty nappy-
All babies are different. Some don’t mind a slightly dirty nappy while others will cry immediately it has been filled. Often babies will open their bowels straight after a feed so if they start to cry after a feed it may be that they have a dirty nappy. Often mistaken for them still being hungry. Try to change your baby’s nappy frequently to avoid distress
Babies have really poor self regulation due to immature brain development. When adults and older babies and children are tired we will either take ourselves for a nap or may just get a bit crotchety. Try to look out for signs in your baby of yawning, rubbing eyes and disengaging eye contact and becoming fidgety. All signs of tiredness. Once a baby becomes overtired they find it really difficult to calm down again which often causes anxiety for the parent and in turn the baby picks up on this and is even less likely to calm. A change of environment or carer may help. Or sometimes just allowing your baby to start use their own self regulation by placing them in their cot with you nearby may actually give them permission to fall asleep.
These cries can be quite frightening and are often very different to those of hunger or tiredness. They tend to be more high pitched and have quite a sudden onset. Trust your gut instinct. If you think your babies cry is one of pain take their temperature and check them over. It may be just that a piece of clothing is tight or they are in an uncomfortable position. If the cry continues seek medical advise.
Young babies brains are wired to crave attention so they can start to learn about the world. For this reason they become bored very quickly and will often alert you on a regular basis that they want you. Although this can mean you find little time to get things done , it is very important to respond to these cries to ensure your babies brain develops. Babies learn from you so try to set aside time to provide short periods of stimulating activities. This could just be talking to them or singing. They love your voice and eye contact. Try to avoid putting them in front of a tv. Even watching you hang the washing out is fun for them even if not for you.
Over stimulation –
Can be as hard to deal with as boredom. Babies brains are like sponges but can only take so much at a time. An over stimulated baby will become very fretful and be difficult to settle which may be mistaken for many other things. If your baby appears to be fretful and not settle with rocking or cuddling try taking them in to a quiet low lit room and just hold them still gently sshshhing and talking to them . It may take a little while to settle them but stick with it.
Wanting a cuddle –
Babies have emotional needs and having spent nine months tucked up in a nice cosy womb feeling secure often they can feel a little lost when out in the big wide world. Cuddling babies is important for their emotional development and growing ability to self regulate themselves. So don’t be afraid to cuddle your baby. It will not make them clingy in fact it will help them become more independent.
Being too hot or too cold-
Babies have immature temperature regulation which means parents have to regulate it for them. Babies lose heat from their heads so these should be left uncovered at all times. If a baby looks red with their crying it may be that they are too hot. Start by taking a layer off them . You may need to check their temperature to see if they are hot due to a fever. Equally babies may alert you to being cold by crying. Try to remember to always be aware that this may be a reason for them crying
Is avery common occurrence in young babies due to an immature digestive system. It can make babies feel very uncomfortable and difficult to settle leading to increased stress and anxiety for parent and baby. Causes are unknown however guidelines from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS Choices website both suggest that some babies may have short term problems with digesting Lactose (a natural milk sugar found in breast and formula milk). This is called Transient Lactase Deficiency. Introducing a lactase enzyme drop with feeds can often resolve the problem without having to change diet if breastfeeding or changing formula.
by Penny Lazell, Health Visitor 4U