My baby keeps crying. What should I do?
Without language, crying is the only way your newborn is able to communicate their needs to you. It is a normal reflex that attracts attention from the caregiver enough to have them respond. Biologically, the sound of a baby’s cry is enough to trigger a reflex in the mother that allows her to lactate and want to nurse her child.
It may be overwhelming for new parents in trying to figure out what need to be done to soothe their baby. Especially in the first 2 months or so, it can quickly become stressful if there seems to be nothing that can soothe the crying baby.
Possible reasons for crying
There are many reasons why a baby would cry. The way in which they cry may be dependant on their temperament. Some reasons for crying include:
- Hunger and/or thirst
- A wet nappy
- Feeling too hot or cold
- Fear or overstimulation
- Need for comfort
Colic refers to frequent and prolonged crying in an otherwise healthy baby. Each crying episode can last 1-2 hours and be as frequent as more than 3 days a week. For babies who have colic, it may start from when they are 2 to 3 weeks old, and last until they are 3 to 4 months old. During this time, it may appear as if nothing can console your baby.
Presently, nobody fully understands the reason for colic. Some have observed, however, that gassiness in babies aggravate the crying. Colic crying, although very stressful for parents, is harmless.
Knowing the difference
As you get to know your baby, you will begin to be able to identify the different cries associated with your baby’s various needs. If you note a sudden difference in tone or intensity of your baby’s crying, they may be in pain and require medical help.
When crying is not soothed, your baby remains in distress. From a psychological perspective, some researchers also believe that babies who are left alone to cry over a long period may develop insecurity and distrust towards their caregiver. As for the physical aspect, crying can cause your baby to swallow a lot of air, adding to their discomfort. If the crying is out of character and is accompanied with other symptoms of illness such as diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, seek medical help immediately.
Trying to deal with a persistently crying baby can be very stressful and frustrating. Some parents may even be driven to a point where they might hurt their baby. If ever it starts too feel too overwhelming to handle, trade off with your partner or alternate caregiver. Calm yourself down for a few minutes before going to your baby again. You need to remember that they are not doing this on purpose and that this phase will pass.
Dealing with Colic
It is best to first ensure that your baby is healthy. Apart from signs of illness, check to make sure that your baby’s airway is clear and their lips and extremities are pink and warm. It is normal for the hands and feet of newborns to be a little cooler than their torso. This is because their circulation system is still developing.
You can then proceed to ensure that their basic needs are met. Make sure they are not hungry, or too hot or cold. Especially for newborns, the world is still so different from the environment in the mother’s womb. They may still want to feel that familiar sense of comfort and security. Swaddling your baby can help them feel secure. Holding them close to your chest, allowing them to hear your heartbeat and the sound of your voice can also help to calm them. Limit the noise and stimulation if this seems to be the problem, though often white noise such as the sound of the vacuum cleaner or the ceiling fan may soothe your baby.
If you suspect that your baby uncomfortable and crying because of gas, ensure that they are burped frequently in between and after feeds. If bottle-fed, ensure that the milk flow is not too fast and try using a bottle that is anti-colic. Some parents have turned to using traditional remedies such as feeding their child gripe water or applying ointment (e.g. minyak telon or Chinese medicated oil), though if you are unsure, check with your doctor. Breastfeeding mums may also want to be careful with the food that they eat, since foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beans and dairy have been found to cause gas in some babies. To help minimise your baby’s discomfort, you may wish to massage your baby’s belly in a downward motion, or move your baby’s legs up and down, as if they are cycling in the air.