Soothing Your Crying Baby
Babies cry. That's a fact of life. But as a parent, you want to do whatever
you can to make your bundle of joy, well....a bit more joyful. And let's face it,
a crying baby doesn't do much for your nerves either.
Some babies cry more than others, but they all do cry, says Elizabeth
Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care. Why? "Simply put," says
Pantley, "babies cry because they cannot talk. Babies are human beings, and
they have needs and desires, just as we do, but they can't express them...their
cries are the only way they can say, 'Help me! Something isn't right here!"
Your Crying Baby: What's He Trying to Say?
Babies have individual temperaments, just like adults do, says pediatrician
Myron Rosen M.D. of Baylor Medical Center at Garland.
As you get to know your baby, you'll become the expert in understanding your
own baby's cries, Pantley says, "Over time, you'll recognize particular cries
as if they were spoken words." In addition to these cry signals, you often can
determine why your baby is crying by the situation surrounding him. Some of the
reasons for a crying baby are:
- Hunger: If three or four hours have passed since his last feeding,
if he has just woken up, or if he has just had a very full diaper and he begins
to cry, he's probably hungry. A feeding will most likely turn a crying baby
into a contented one.
- Tiredness: Look for these signs: decreased activity, losing interest
in people and toys, rubbing eyes, looking glazed, and the most obvious,
yawning. If you notice any of these in your crying baby, he may just need to
- Discomfort: If a baby is uncomfortable--too wet, hot, cold,
squished-- he'll typically squirm or arch his back when he cries, as if trying
to get away from the source of his discomfort. Try to figure out what's causing
his distress and solve the problem.
- Pain: A cry of pain is sudden and shrill, just like when an adult or
older child cries out when they get hurt. It may include long cries followed by
a pause during which your crying baby appears to stop breathing. He then
catches his breath and lets out another long cry.Check your baby's temperature
and undress him so you can check his body for any obvious sources of pain or
- Overstimulation: If the room is noisy, people are trying to get your
baby's attention, rattles are rattling, music boxes are playing, and your baby
suddenly closes her eyes and cries (or turns her head away), she may be
overwhelmed by all that's going on around her and wants to find some peace.
Take her out of the situation and spend some quiet time together.
- Illness: A weak, moaning cry may indicate that your baby is sick.
This is his way of saying, "I feel awful." If your baby seems ill, look for any
signs of sickness and call your healthcare provider.
- Frustration. Your baby is just learning how to control her hands,
arms, and feet. She may be trying to get her fingers into her mouth or to reach
a particularly interesting toy, but her body isn't cooperating. She cries out
of frustration, because she can't accomplish what she wants to do. All she
needs is a little help.
- Loneliness: If your baby falls asleep feeding and you place her in
her crib, but she wakes soon afterward with a cry, she may be saying that she
misses the warmth of your embrace and doesn't like to be alone. Cuddling her
back to sleep should do the trick.
- Worry or fear. If your baby suddenly finds himself in the arms of
Great Aunt Matilda and his happy cooing turns to crying, he's trying to tell
you that he's scared. He doesn't know this new person, and he wants Mommy or
Daddy. Explain to Auntie that he needs a little time to warm up to someone new,
and try letting the two of them get to know each other while you hold your baby
in your arms.
- Boredom. Your baby has been sitting in his infant seat for 20
minutes while you talk and eat lunch with a friend. He's not tired, hungry or
uncomfortable, but he starts a whiny, fussy cry. He may be saying that he's
bored and needs something new to look at or touch. Turning his seat so he can
see something new or giving him a toy to hold may help.
- Colic. If your baby cries inconsolably for long periods every day,
he may have colic. Babies with "colic" will cry for several hours a day,
usually in the evenings, says Rosen. They are fine at other times of the
day, and they eat and grow well. No one knows what causes colic, says
Rosen, but one theory is that it is a way for the baby to "vent" after a long
day of new experiences and stimuli. Just like adults, babies have
differing abilities to tolerate new experiences. Whatever the cause of
colic, you'll be happy to know that it doesn't usually last past 4 months of
age, Rosen says.