WHY DO BABIES CRY?
Young babies are completely dependent on a caregiver for the provision of food, comfort and physical contact. Crying is their only means of communication and parents at first often have a difficult time figuring out what may be wrong when he or she cries.
Young babies may cry for a total of one to three hours each day. The frequency and duration of crying will vary with a baby’s personality and will lessen as baby matures.
Older babies and toddlers are able to communicate better through gesture and speech and crying is used by them more as a means of getting attention and of expressing their anger and frustration.
COMMON REASONS WHY BABIES CRY
- Pain or discomfort
- Desire for continued non-nutritive sucking, physical contact or warmth
- Desire to seek attention
- ‘Infant colic’
INFANT COLIC AND MANAGEMENT OF THE CRYING INFANT
Infant colic is a self-limiting condition where babies cry for prolonged periods in spite of being properly fed and made comfortable. Bouts of inconsolable crying start in the first month of life, tend to occur in the evening, may last for some hours and are often associated with redness of the face, drawing up of the legs and the passage of plenty flatus. These bouts usually stop at around age 3 months but may go on for longer. It is presumed that baby is experiencing abdominal pain (colic) but the cause of the pain remains undetermined. There is no generally accepted medical treatment for infant colic but probiotics have recently been suggested as being effective.
STEPS FOR MOTHER TO TAKE WHEN BABY CRIES
1. Feed the baby if you think she is hungry
2. If crying continues, check the diaper
3. If crying continues after diaper change, wrap baby firmly in a blanket, hold him close and walk around with him. Gently rocking him in your arms or while sitting with him in a rocking chair may also help
4. If crying persists, try offering her a soother
5. If crying still continues, try singing softly to him, or playing gentle background music, or creating ‘white noise’ (vacuum cleaner; washing machine)
6. If still unsuccessful, take her for a drive in the car
THE FINAL STEP
7. If none of these measures work, recruit your spouse/partner to take over duty and catch up on your sleep!
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BABY
Babies and mothers become increasingly aware of each other’s behaviour and reactions during the process of bonding that starts at birth. Exclusive breast feeding enhances the development of maternal bonding and mothers soon learn to distinguish between the cries for hunger, fatigue, discomfort, annoyance and illness.
Babies express their individual personalities from the moment of birth. They react to the same environmental influences in different ways. Some babies sleep for shorter periods, are constantly interacting with their surrondings, have a high level of motor activity, are more demanding of attention and cry more easily. Other babies sleep for longer periods, are more laid back and leisurely in their interactions, are less demanding and cry less readily.
Toddlers are at the stage of development where they are trying to establish their identity. They easily become angry and frustrated and begin to cry if their desires are not immediately satisfied.
WHEN SHOULD A MOTHER SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION?
- When crying is inconsolable
- When baby seems to be in severe pain
- When crying is associated with signs of illness such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, excessive sleepiness or seizures
- When baby is not gaining weight
- When baby’s development also seems to be slow
- When mother begins to feel helpless, exhausted, or depressed
- When the neighbours begin to complain