Stop Crying, Baby!
Babies cry for a reason
Ways to soothe an infant
Crying is a natural reaction for an infant and not all crying is a signal of distress.
Babies cry for different reasons and, depending on their age, there are ways to help soothe and comfort them. Infants cry as an involuntary response to its new environment. Out of the protective womb of its mother, the infant finds every stimulus is strange and threatening. Light, sound, touch, smells can all trigger a crying bout.
For some infants with immature lungs, crying is a way to get more oxygen through those deep inhalations after a wail. The old wives' tale of crying as a way to "exercise" the lungs has some merit. However, this is no reason to let your baby cry without first ensuring his comfort.
Obvious signs of distress?
Be sure that the baby is not in any obvious distress:
Change its diaper. Wetness is uncomfortable and urine burns tender newborn skin.
Treat diaper rash. Diaper rash is extremely painful, especially when the skin is touched even by water. Use plenty of doctor-prescribed ointment and keep the infant in dry diapers. If possible, leave the area exposed to air for quicker healing.
Feed the infant. The stomach capacity of an infant is tiny and the liquid feedings pass through their digestive system quickly. That’s why infants need feedings every three hours. Check with your pediatrician for feeding schedule guidelines that should be based on infant size and type of formula.
Burp the infant. Babies suckle air along with milk and the air bubbles can be painful until burped up. Hold the infant upright either on your lap or against your shoulder and pat on the back until the bubbles come out.
Wrap the infant in a snug baby blanket. Infants prefer warmth and snugness because they spent the previous nine months that way in their mothers’ womb. Leaving an infant loose in a spacious crib feels insecure. He cannot control his own reflexes and the jerking startles him. For this reason, pediatricians recommend snugly swaddling the infant until he grows accustomed to his new environment.
Give the infant to its mother. An infant knows the heartbeat, sounds and smells of its mother because it developed in her body. Most of the time, an infant will stop crying when it is held tenderly next to its mother. Skin on skin is best so place it in bare arms and neck close to the bosom.
Hum, sing or talk to the infant. A mother’s voice will soothe the infant.
Rock the infant. Slow and rhythmic rocking feels like being in the watery amniotic sac. Use a rocking chair, rocking crib or just your rocking arms.
How to swaddle a newborn
Lower the lights. Bright lights feel harsh to the sensitive new eyes. A darkened room once again recreates a womb-like environment.
Use white noise. Play a CDs with white sounds like ocean waves or trickling streams. This is why some babies will be quieted when parents strap them into car seats and go for a drive. The noise of a driving car, along with the gentle car movements, put them to sleep. However, if the infant becomes accustomed to this, parents will be driving their babies to sleep every time it needs to nap so it is not a good habit to begin. Try a stuffed toy with a mechanism inside that replicates the beating of a heart or plays soothing tones.
Refrain from being tense or anxious. An infant can pick up on the nervous energy around him. Get used to the fact that crying is part of an infant’s developmental stage and it will cry less as it learns how to communicate in other ways.
Take the infant for a walk in a pram or carriage. Shield its eyes and body from the sun and go for a walk if the air is cool and fresh, not hot. The carriage movements and fresh air will be soothing.
Just hold the infant in an upright position. As long as you know that the infant is safe, secure and healthy, it’s all right to let the crying subside on its own. Crying is involuntary and infants will settle down in time. They are learning that new and startling stimuli are part of its new life and will come regularly.
Some short crying jags can help strengthen its lungs and exercise its new muscles. But this is not an excuse to leave the infant alone to “cry it out” in another room. There is evidence that ignoring an infant teaches it that it has no effect on its environment or its caretakers and can cause emotional and developmental problems. Babies such as these learn to withdraw into their own emotional/mental world. Parents sometimes praise a non-crying infant as a “good” infant when in fact, it could be learning not to reach out.
When Crying is a Serious Sign of Trouble
Chronic, continuous crying may be a sign of that something serious is wrong. If your infant cries for longer than an hour and has the following symptoms, take him to a doctor right away:
Fever. Fever is always a sign of the body fighting off an infection or injury. Fever with crying could signal an undiagnosed medical condition.
No fever but continuous crying. But some infants may be too ill to manufacture enough white blood cells to have a fever which is the body’s way of elevating the temperature to kill germs.
Refusing to eat. Infants should have a healthy appetite every three to four hours. If the baby cries and refuse to eat, take him to a doctor.
Vomiting. Infants spit up a lot after a feeding because their tummies are too small. They usually spit up a small amount and are not distressed by this. But vomiting and not being able to keep any of its milk down and distressed crying is a sign of trouble.
Diarrhea or constipation. Bowel movements are clues to its medical health.
Legs drawing up. If an infant cries and draws its legs up close to its body, it could be experiencing abdominal pain.
Unmitigated crying. Some infants cry a lot but unmitigated crying can be a sign of problematic health conditions, including developmental disabilities from a myriad of syndromes. Fetal alcohol syndrome infants, for example, are known to cry as their bodies experience withdrawals from the addictive substances introduced while in their mothers' wombs.
Some babies are prone to more crying than others. But nonetheless, never feel apprehensive about taking your infant to your pediatrician if you cannot determine the cause for your baby's continuous crying.
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