If you’re a first time parent, or any parent for that matter, listening to your baby cry can be nothing short of traumatizing. You may be able to deal with those first few little sobs, but when they turn into outright wailing, you can become desperate as you try to figure out why he’s crying and what you can do to stop it. Fortunately, there are some specific reasons why your baby cries, and I’ll detail some of them here.
The fact is your baby is limited in how it can communicate with you. Its verbal communication skills as an infant are pretty much limited to crying. That’s the only way they can tell you about what’s wrong and about what they need. While having a newborn might be traumatizing for you, think of how traumatizing life is for them at that stage. They’ve transitioned from your safe and cozy womb, where they could always hear your heartbeat and your voice, to someplace that may seem terrifying to them.
They’re Hungry — Your baby will cry when they’re hungry, but if you learn to read the signs you’ll be able to feed them before they start to cry. If they are crying, they’ve already reached the late stages of hunger. I’m an adult, and I don’t like severe hunger pangs. I don’t start to cry, I get myself something to eat. Your baby is fully dependent upon you, so that crying is necessary at this point. And if their hunger continuously and to the point where they start to cry, you might be setting yourself up for unnecessary feeding problems in the future. So watch out for these signs: smacking their lips, putting their fists in their mouth, or just being generally fussy.
They Need to be Changed — Some babies will let you know immediately when they need their diaper changed, while others will be able to tolerate it for a little bit longer. But ultimately they will cry to let you know, and fixing their problem is easy to remedy.
They’re Sleepy — Especially if the baby is overtired, or just over stimulated, it might be difficult for them to simply fall asleep. Some babies will actually fight going to sleep, and it becomes a battle. The more you wish they go to sleep, the less likely they will.
They’re Over Stimulated — Sometimes they have just had enough. If they’re in a room where there’s far too much activity and things are noisy, your baby may just close their eyes and start to cry. Or they may turn their head away and start to cry. This is just a signal that they are overwhelmed, and they want you to take them somewhere peaceful.
They are Lonely — If you fed your child, and laid them down to sleep, only to have them wake up moments later crying, they may just be missing their contact with you and don’t like being alone. Crying is their only way of calling you back.
They’re Uncomfortable — You and I don’t like it when we’re uncomfortable, but we’re typically able to do something about it. If your baby is crying, while at the same time squirming or arching their back, something could be making them uncomfortable. It may be that they are too wet, too cold, or to hot.
They Are In Pain — This will be a different kind of cry than the kind you’ll experience when they are simply uncomfortable, as mentioned above. Just like anyone, young or old, getting hurt often translates into an immediate cry of pain. Your baby may let loose with this initial shrill cry, cry for long after that, and then pause. Typically, that pause is while they get their breath back, and then they’ll start crying again. If this happens, first of all, check their temperature, and then undress them to see if you can find any source of pain.
They are Frustrated — I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel like crying when I’m frustrated. Think of all the things your baby is trying to learn in a very short period of time. If they see you doing something, or an older sibling doing something, they may want to do it as well, but lack the strength or coordination. If so, they could begin to cry. But a little help from you should rectify the situation.
Fear, Fright, or Worry — Life is sometimes very scary for a little one who has little or no control. If your typically happy baby suddenly starts crying when you pass them into the arms of someone he’s never met before, he’s scared and wants to be returned to the security of arms that he knows.
They Have Colic — If your baby cries incessantly for hours and hours each day, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to console them, there’s a good chance they have colic. This is especially true if this typically happens in the evening hours. The baby may be fine for the rest of the day, and then as soon as suppertime rolls around, they begin to cry, and cry. Unfortunately, to date, the medical community still doesn’t really know what causes colic. There are several theories, one of which is that it may be because of flatulence, or indigestion. Others feel that the cause may simply be that the babies gut is still immature, and therefore still somewhat sensitive.
However traumatizing it is for you as a parent to have to live through your baby’s colic, it typically doesn’t last beyond three or four months of age. And despite the fact that it seems as if they will scream the house down, colic is neither dangerous nor harmful, and it has no long term effects on the baby.