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Help! I Don't Know Why My Baby Is Crying

Aug 17, 2007
From the moment of birth, a baby's first cry is the first 'word' you hear. But what is your baby trying to tell you? Probably it's something like "what just happened, how did I get here and where is my warm, cozy home?"

When your baby cries again, does it sound the same? As you listen to the crying, you should begin to distinguish a difference. This is a baby's only form of communication, other than facial expressions or other body language. But, this still doesn't solve the problem of knowing what your baby wants or needs.

Particularly if this is your first baby, you will soon learn that much of parenting is based on trial and error. As the weeks progress, you will begin to develop a mental list of the most common reasons for crying. Work through the list to determine the most likely immediate need and respond accordingly to soothe your baby.

Okay, this sounds like a place to start, but what are the most common reasons babies cry?

The first thing that probably comes to mind is that the little one is hungry. You'll learn to distinguish these fussy noises, and if you're breast feeding, the movements in search of 'food' when you pick up your baby. If you catch the 'words' quickly enough, you can usually prevent full-blown crying. Food may not stop the fussing or crying immediately, but as long as your baby is eating let them continue. There's nothing like a full tummy to take their mind off crying.

Naturally, the next thing that comes to mind is that the baby's diaper needs to be changed. Wouldn't we all be fussy if we were wet and had irritating diaper rash? Oddly, though, some babies put up with a soiled diaper because it's warm and comfortable. That's hard to believe, but for some babies it's true. To be on the safe side, check the diaper often and change it when needed. By anticipating a need you may well prevent a crying episode.

When you visit a newborn in the hospital nursery, you'll notice that they're tightly wrapped in a blanket. This is a comfort factor, since they like to feel warm and cuddled. If it's time for a diaper change or bath, a baby may cry when they're undressed and exposed to the cold air. They're not happy! This is one of the easier items on the crying list to figure out. But how do you stop the crying? Work as quickly as possible to change the diaper or immerse them in the warm bath. Keep their upper body covered by a blanket during diaper changes and have a soft, hooded towel to wrap them in when the bath is finished. One word of caution - babies can also be fussy if they're too hot, so don't overdress them or have their room too warm. They typically need an extra layer beyond what we would wear, but keep the layering from being too heavy.

Sometimes your baby is simply crying because they want to be held and cuddled. As newborns, the sound of a parent's heartbeat and voice is calming. As they progress they love to look at their parents' faces and can even detect their unique smell - particularly their mom's milk. They may initially want to be fed, burped or have their diaper changed, but then it's time to be held and maybe rocked. Some babies like to be held more than others, so this is part of the trial and error process.

Another idea is to try and mimic the time they were in the womb. They were tuned in to the mother's heartbeat, movement and sounds as they developed. Studies have shown that playing soft music - particularly Mozart, singing a lullaby or having the steady rhythm of 'white noise' like a vacuum cleaner can stop a baby's tears. What about putting your baby on the dryer while you're doing the laundry (but don't leave them for a minute) or go for a ride in the car to simulate soothing, somewhat familiar motion?

Often when grandparents and other family and friends visit, the baby is passed around so much that they can actually become sore from being handled in so many ways. Try to limit this as much as possible and you won't have a crying baby later that day - or even the next - because they hurt. It is okay to pick up a baby and give them attention without spoiling them. Just let them be the guide in terms of how much is enough. While they thrive on attention, the over stimulation of noise and activity can just be too much. If they start to cry and you're not able to stop it, take them to another room and try to calm them down. It's okay to let them cry for a bit to 'vent', but then do what works to get them to sleep for awhile.

What if your baby has been fed, burped, had their diaper changed and they're warm and comfy but still crying? Check to see if a clothing tag is irritating their neck. If you've tried everything and still your baby won't stop crying, what is wrong? Maybe it's colic. The episodes can range from short periods of hard crying to inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day for at least three days per week.

One thing that can help is to rub your baby's tummy or back, which is very soothing when they have gas pains. Also, sucking on a pacifier can calm the stomach and quiet the heart rate, which relieves the tension caused by the pain. Contact your pediatrician for additional advice.

Most parents will immediately suspect that their baby may be ill if they can't stop their crying. The first thing to do is check their temperature. If it's normal, listen carefully to their crying. A sick baby's cry will be different. If you've tried everything and things just don't seem right, it's time to call or visit your pediatrician.

The stress from a crying baby takes its toll on the parents. You have to look after yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby. It's okay to put them in their cradle or crib, close the door and let them cry for a short while. Put on some music that is soothing to you, call a friend for advice or call for back up. Family, friends and neighbors can be a great resource to help you maintain your calm. They may even have a valuable tip they can offer based on their experience as a parent. You don't have to go it alone!

Hang in there. It may feel like an eternity, but after 8 to 12 weeks most babies will outgrow their crying phase as they start to become curious about the world around them. Patience, loving care and self care are the best remedies for a crying baby.
About the Author
Janet Winter is a web designer, owner of three e-commerce sites, and writer on many topics including babies, dogs, wild birds, the Internet and travel. Her e-commerce sites are: WelcomeBabyGifts.com , APamperedDog.com and WildBirdGoodies.com
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