Why Babies Cry

Why do infants cry?

Crying is a part of human development.
Crying is a part of human development.

Understand the reasons why infants cry

A crying infant causes panic in new parents but crying is a natural stage of development. For an infant, crying is an automatic response to new stimulus. Fresh out of the dark, warm and quiet mother’s womb, it is squeezed violently out into a cold, intensely bright, noisy and spacious place where it is clipped and whisked away from its mother. Hands feel rough as they wipe the placenta from the baby’s soft body and suction the amniotic fluid from its nostrils and mouth. Crying is an involuntary reaction and serves a purpose: breathing in oxygen into its lungs for the first time.

Newborns cry often because everything is a new, unsettling experience. Diaper changes, wetting, burping, being passed from hand to hand. Everything causes distress. The only calming feeling comes when it is nestled close to the warmth of its mother, which is familiar and soothing. For nine months, the infant has grown accustomed to her heartbeat and her voice that he could hear while in the protective care of her womb.


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When an Infant Cries Check for These

A wet diaper. Wetness not only feels uncomfortable but the acidic urine burns the fresh skin of an infant. Diaper rash results and brings more discomfort and pain.

Cold. Infants like warmth. They were nice and warm for nine months as they grew. Wrap an infant in a tight blanket bundle to keep him warm.

Heat. Infants may not cry when overheated because crying makes them hotter. Check for beads of sweat and loosen blanket and clothing as appropriate.

Security. Infants like to feel secure as they did in the womb which is why hospitals bundle up infants in baby blankets. It keeps them snug. Leaving an infant in a spacious crib could cause him to cry out of insecurity. Infants always feel secure in their mothers’ bosom. Holding an infant does not “spoil” it. In fact, not holding an infant and allowing it to struggle with early insecurity has been known to cause emotional problems later.

Hunger. Infants need to eat frequently because their tiny stomachs do not hold much volume and the liquid feedings pass through their digestive systems quickly. This is why more infants are fed every three hours. Your pediatrician will give you guidelines based on the size of your infant and the type of food it is receiving.

Intestinal gas. If your little infant cries and draws up its legs, it may be experiencing abdominal pain from gas. New digestive systems may not be ready for certain types of formula. Also, while breast milk is the safest food for babies, breast milk can pass on harmful ingredients depending on the diet of its mother. Drugs, alcohol, medication and even spicy foods should be avoided. Eating certain foods while breast-feeding can cause gas in the infant. Check with your doctor if you need to take medication while breast-feeding.

Allergic reaction. Some infants may be allergic to certain formulas or materials. Check for redness around mouth, skin irritations, vomiting and diarrhea. Some “spitting up” is normal when infants receive too much milk in one feeding but if your infant continuously cries and can’t hold down any food at all, take him to a doctor.

Pain and discomfort. Infants cry if they are in pain. Check for uncomfortable positions, scratchy clothes, constipation, diarrhea, injury, mouth sores and more.

Too much light. Infants’ eyes are young and overly sensitive. Keep strong light out of their faces. They shouldn’t be in harsh sunlight anyway. Infants burn quickly.

Teething. Older infants cry when their first teeth erupt which first occurs between three to seven months of age.

Other Reasons Infants Cry

Chronic and unmitigated crying may signal a serious problem. Don’t feel shy about taking your infant to a doctor if the crying is continuous. Press your doctor about finding the source. Too many doctors brush off crying as merely a nuisance. There have been many cases when an infant was suffering from a life-threatening condition. For example, one infant was born with a blockage in its intestines that went undetected for days.

Medical condition. If the crying is accompanied by a fever, take the infant to the doctor immediately. If the crying continues non-stop for longer than an hour, even without a fever, still take the infant to the doctor or emergency room. Some infants when ill cannot manufacture the necessary white blood cells to fight an infection and thus will not be able to have a fever which is the body’s way of elevating body temperature to kill germs.

Involuntary response. Infants will cry because everything-even passing from one set of hands to another-feels new and strange. A ringing telephone or a barking dog might startle an infant, sparking a crying bout.

How to swaddle a newborn

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Swaddling can help

Newborns are used to being tucked snugly inside their mother's womb for nine months of gestation and suddenly feeling loose or having flailing limbs they can't yet control can make them feel insecure. Swaddling a newborn in a snug blanket offers the reassurance they like.

Be careful not to swaddle too tightly or for too long. You don't want to cut off circulation of the blood or numb the limbs. As infants grow more comfortable with their new world, they won't need or want to be swaddled. Here is a video by a pediatrician that explains guidelines of swaddling.

Benefits of crying

Crying settles down as an infant becomes acquainted with its new living environment. Some seasoned mothers know it is best not to create an artificially quiet home for a new infant so it will get used to new sounds. Otherwise, an infant will not be able to tolerate natural noises of this earthly life.

Crying does have some benefits: it strengthens an infant’s lungs and teaches the infant that it is connected to its new world. When it cries, loving arms arrive and take care of its needs. Crying is the first form of human communication. But remember that while crying may be part of an infant’s development, it may signal serious distress so give it proper attention.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

Don't let sleep deprivation keep you from enjoying your baby. The No-Cry Sleep Solution is full of reassuring advice and words of wisdom from other parents who have had success with the program. It will give you the tools you need to effectively and gently reach your goal--a good night's sleep for everyone.

 

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Comments 3 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

This is good info and well-written, one to refer others to. Thanks very much.


nina 5 years ago

Crying doesn't strengthen the lungs.That is an old wives tale and false. Please do your research and speak to a medical professional before making such statements.


Chi 5 years ago

Yes, it does strengthen an infant's lungs just as good aerobic exercise, with deep and rhythmic inhalation, strengthens an adult's lungs. That is not to say it is good to let your baby cry and cry. But a little crying is quite natural and not harmful. There are, indeed, old wives' tales, but this is not one of them.

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