For a new parent, hearing their baby crying can be an incredibly daunting experience. Hearing my newborn baby crying made me feel physically sick during the early days, I have to admit, it also made me cry too. I think it’s important for parents to realise that they are not alone in this and that it is OK to not be sure about what your baby wants every time they cry. As they grow older, you will soon get to grips with what your baby wants when they cry and your baby crying will no longer seem so heart-wrenching.
As parents quickly realise, the most common reason for a baby crying is that they are hungry. If you are not sure, there are often lots of other cues that signify a hungry baby. These include: your baby sucking their hands and/or fingers; your baby rooting around for your breast either on you or someone else (the funniest time was when my baby girl tried to suck my husband’s nipple – he screamed out in agony!) or perhaps your baby might make a special sound whilst they are digging around. If you are still not sure, you can always try feeding your baby; it will become clear if they are not hungry.
Another common reason for a baby crying is a wet or dirty nappy. In fact, a lot of babies cry whilst soiling their nappy. It doesn’t take long to check your baby’s nappy so this is a good first port of call if you know that your baby isn’t hungry.
Sometimes, after a feed or even during one, my baby will cry because she has wind. I try to wind her in the middle of a feed and immediately after to eliminate the chances of this but sometimes the wind is trapped. Signs that your baby has wind include fidgeting and him/her drawing their legs up to their chest. Some babies suffer with severe trapped wind so need help from something like gripe water. If you are choosing to give your baby something to help their trapped wind, always read the guidelines carefully. If you aren’t sure, seek the advice of your GP.
Another problem associated with wind is reflux. All babies are sick from time to time, but if you find your baby being excessively sick straight after a feed, they could have reflux. If you suspect that your baby has reflux, consult your midwife or GP and they should be able to help you.
My girl cries when she is over-tired. If I have tried her nappy and I know she is fed, I will try and rock her to sleep. If she starts to close her eyes, I know that she is tired. There are times when even though she is tired, me rocking her in my arms is not enough. I have often found myself driving up and down the dual carriageway trying to get her to sleep. I’m not the only parent to discover that the bumpy rhythms of the car can be a great antidote to a baby crying!
Now my baby girl is a little bigger, she has also started crying for attention. This type of cry is very different to her hungry or uncomfortable cry; it is more of a shout. While she is shouting, she looks at you as if to say ‘oi I’m talking to you!’ It is very amusing!
If your baby is poorly, it might make them cry. A cry is often a sign of illness if it is non stop and you have tried feeding, changing and winding your baby and none of these have worked. As babies are so precious, you can never be too cautious. If your baby is particularly irritable and you have tried everything else, take your baby to your GP. If he/she has any other worrying symptoms, it may be best to take them straight to A and E.
There are times when you have absolutely no idea why your baby is crying. As long as they are not poorly, the only thing you can do is try to sooth them. You could talk to them softly; stroke their face or rock them gently in your arms. My little girls loves leaning on my chest with her head over my shoulder when she is upset. This is almost guaranteed to stop her crying. Most importantly of all, a crying baby doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent. If your baby is well, loved, clean and fed then you have done your job and you should feel confident that you are doing your best! I have spoken to many experienced parents who say that it is good for a baby to cry. I’m not quite sure what I think of this but it’s hard to believe at the beginning that a baby crying can sometimes just be natural and doesn’t do any harm.