Babies cry! It’s one of the most important ways they talk to you. To avoid frustration for you and your baby, you need to learn this new language – to figure out what those cries mean and find ways to answer your baby’s distress.
by Debra Weaver
When your baby is cranky, and you don’t know what to do, you and your spouse get cranky yourselves. It’s not just the constant crying. It’s the frustration of trying to translate the baby’s code. What are those cries trying to tell you?
Elizabeth Pantley, a parent educator who has written 10 books on parenting children including Gentle Baby Care, says to start with checking for obvious causes of distress. Is the baby wet or hungry? If not, look for another source of discomfort. Is Baby too hot or cold? Typically, the baby will arch his back when crying, as if to get away from the source of distress.
If the baby is decreasing his activity, rubbing his eyes, looking glazed, or yawning, it may be tiredness. Naptime is the solution. If the cries are weak or moaning, Baby may be sick. Take his temperature and look for other signs of illness. Call your healthcare provider if necessary.
Sometimes the environment is to blame. Too much noise or too many people causes over-stimulation. Author and pediatrician Tanya Remer Altman, M.D., who practices in Southern California, explains, “Sunday nights are usually fussy baby night. All the relatives come over and play with them, so it takes them longer to put themselves to sleep.”
However, if the baby is alone or faced with a stranger, the baby may be fearful, and just needs the familiar face and comforting touch of Mom or Dad.
Learning is a frustrating process for a baby. “Your baby is just learning how to control her hands, arms, and feet,” says Pantley. “She may be trying to get her fingers into her mouth or to reach a particularly interesting toy, but her body isn’t cooperating…she can’t accomplish what she wants to do. All she needs is a little help.”
If the baby cries for long periods of time every day, especially if at the same time every day, it may be colic. Though doctors don’t know the cause of colic, it may be related to a baby’s immature digestive system. Medications are available for colic and gas. Colic passes by the time the baby is 4 or 5 months old.
Whether your baby is colicky or not, try these comforting techniques. Experiment to find the most effective ones for your child.
With practice, you can decipher the clues to what’s making your baby cranky. Once you learn the meaning of different cries and ways of comforting your child’s distress, home can be more peaceful for you and your little one.
Debra Weaver is a writer and educator with 12 years of experience in classrooms and more in youth programs. She has written pieces for a variety of electronic and print publications, including the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.