BYD Blog

8 Reasons Why Babies Cry

by | Jun 13, 2016

8 Reasons Why Babies Cry

Crying baby

It is important and tricky to figure out a newborns cry.  The ‘I’m tired’ cry does sound similar to the ‘I’m dirty cry’.  Over time you will be begging to hear the differences but in the middle of the night, all cries do sound the same.

To understand why they are crying start by asking yourself “What does my baby need.”

  1. Hunger– when a baby is hungry they show you with small easy to miss cues.  They might smack their lips, make small squirming body movements, root or turn toward the breast area and put their hand up near or in their mouth. If these cues are missed then the baby will cry.
  2. Dirty diaper– Many babies are very comfortable in a dirty diaper and others cannot stand to be wet or dirty. This is an easy cry to assess and fix!
  3. Touch– your baby has been surrounded by his/her mother for 9 months.  It is cruel to think that once they are born we expect them to be self-contained and self-soothing individuals.  Babies love to cuddle, they want to hear your heartbeat, smell your skin, and even look in your eyes. You cannot spoil a baby by holding them. So if your baby desires a lot of touch or your arms tire easily there are many different forms of baby carriers to choose from.
  4. Gas– In utero your baby was completely dependent on you. You fed them, rocked them, and oxygenated them.  So when your baby is born their system may take some time to work the kinks out. Their immature GI system may struggle a bit. They may take in too much air when feeding and need to be burped or pass it as gas later. All that air when trapped in a tummy can cause discomfort. To soothe your gassy baby try infant massage, laying them on their back and bicycling their legs, tummy time, and bouncing movements.
  5. Temperature– Just like adults baby can be temperature sensitive. Too hot or too cold and they will let you know by whimpering or crying. In the first few weeks when your baby is not on your skin, keep your baby swaddled or dressed warmly. A good rule of thumb is the baby should have on one more layer than how you are dressed. In a few weeks try to dress your baby as you like to be dressed.
  6. Stimulation– All babies have a unique personality that is all their own. Some are curious and like to watch and explore while others may be tentative and enjoy feeling enveloped. If your baby becomes over stimulated try swaddling them. Swaddling makes the baby feel secure and cradled like in utero. If your baby desires stimulation, try babywearing when at outings and events so that they can look around and participate in their own way.  Babies also enjoy vestibular movement. Going for a walk, bouncing on a ball, driving in the car, or being in a swing can be calming and relaxing.
  7. Teething– Most babies get their first tooth around 4-7 months. A teething baby may cry and drool excessively. The drool can cause both a rash around the mouth or around the anus in the diaper. Reach into their mouth and rub along their jawline looking for a swollen nub or a budding tooth.
  8. Not feeling well– Trust your instincts, they are usually right. If something doesn’t feel right, reach out for support.

What if your baby is still crying?

There are a few more reasons why babies cry. They can be overtired or overstimulated. They could have sensitive skin and the diaper or clothing tag is rubbing the wrong way. Check their position to make sure their leg is not caught up in the clothing or if they have a cramp. Here are some general strategies to help your baby to self-soothe.

  1. Suckling– when a baby suckles it calms their central nervous system. They can suck on their finger, your finger, a breast, or a pacifier.
  2. Babywearing or swaddling– reduces the newborn’s spastic movements while holding them tight. It increases their ability to focus and relax especially when combined with rocking or humming.
  3. Rhythmic motion– Your baby is used to moving in mom’s abdomen for hours every day. So babies can feel best with rhythmic movements. Try rocking, swaying in your arms or a swing, or bouncing on a ball.   They will also love running water and being bathed.
  4. White noise– When inside the uterus the baby was surrounded by loud sounds: digestive sounds, veins pumping blood, voices, and the dog barking.  So there is no need to tiptoe around your sleeping baby.  Babies love the sound of the vacuum, showers, and white noise machines.  Babies will also mimic their breathing pattern of the person closest to them. If you can quiet your breathing, your baby will mimic you and you both will quiet.
  5. Change of environment– Get outside, visit a friend, and move around.  Both you and your baby need a change of scenery.  Fresh air is wonderful and promotes rest.  At home, move around the house and property. Play music, use aromatherapy and change activities.
  6. Infant massage– using 1% lavender oil in a carrier oil you can gently massage your baby and soothe them. Classes are available to learn specific massages for gas, colic, and high needs babies.

Break Time

Every parent needs a break. You cannot do this all alone. It is not a reflection on you or your parenting style rather than crying and minimal sleep can cause stress. Know that it’s ok that your baby cries. And no one expects you to be a master soother. By holding them as they cry, you are helping them! Just slow your breathing and they will mimic you. Ultimately they are learning that you care every time you respond to them. Eventually, the crying will slow and stop.

It’s important to do practice self-care. Make time for yourself and get out for a while. Ask for help. You might be surprised at the number of people who would like to help you by holding your baby, doing chores, or cooking meals. And when help is not available put your baby in a safe place like a crib and take five minutes to yourself.

Other helpful strategies when a baby is crying might include: breathing deeply counting to 10, changing the environment like going for a walk, practicing a mantra such as “I love my baby” or “This too will pass”, and reaching out to professional help with housework, sleep or your mental health.

Colic- beyond crying for need

Colic is a generic term that is overused.  True colic is defined by the rule of 3: symptoms show after week 3 and are baby younger than 3 months, they cry for more than 3 hours in a row for more than 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks usually around the same time of the day. The cry is inconsolable with a distended belly and the baby will pump his/her legs while crying.  Colic is usually due to reflux or an immature GI. Talk to your provider and try natural methods to help them such as massage, probiotics, heat, and tummy time before moving to medications.

This material is the intellectual property of Ursula Sabia Sukinik/Birth You Desire. Do not reproduce or distribute without written permission from the owner. © Birth You Desire in 2013. All rights reserved.


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