Some newborns barely make a murmur; others come out kicking and screaming and carry on that way for several months. Although chronic crying was once thought to be caused by tummy pains, some experts believe it’s actually a normal part of child development.
One possible reason? A newborn’s brain is very small at birth, in order for the head to fit through the birth canal. In the three months after birth, the brain increases in size by 20 per cent. While most babies manage that growth without too much distress, some cry constantly as their brain connections mature and their minds become more ordered.
Whatever the cause, studies show crying is designed to trigger a caring response in parents and that babies cry in different ways depending on the reason.
So if your baby is a crier, don’t despair – you’ll soon learn to distinguish each and every whimper as you get to know her. Here’s how to differentiate those cries:
‘I’m hungry, feed me NOW!’
The cry: Usually starts off quietly and escalates in urgency the longer it’s ignored.
What it means: Newborns eat constantly so the most likely reason for crying is hunger. Even if your baby’s just been fed she may be going through a growth spurt and need to feed more frequently. This cry is often accompanied by ‘rooting’ reflex.
‘I’m tired and need to sleep’
The cry: Sounds more like low-grade whining or moaning than piercing wails. Often accompanied by rubbing her eyes or tugging her ear.
What it means: Otherwise good-natured babies often cry when settling down to sleep, and when left a short while will drift off.
‘It hurts, help me!’
The cry: High-pitched and sudden.
What it means: This is an indication that your baby is in pain. It could be anything from an uncomfortable tag on her clothes to tummy ache. Pick her up, undress her and make sure she’s not hurt. If the cry continues for several hours, it’s time to check with your GP as it may be a sign of something that needs treatment.
The cry: Crying and squirming at the same time, as if trying to get away from the pain.
What it means: She’s too hot, too cold, too wet, or uncomfortable in some way. Pick her up, change her nappy and remove or add a layer if need be.
‘I’ve had enough’
The cry: Accompanied by averting her face or closing her eyes.
What it means: She may be overstimulated and is trying to tell you to leave her alone and give her some space.