It is an amazing experience when newborn babies cry for the first time at birth. The cry is a confirmation they have successfully dispensed with amniotic fluid in the lungs and breathed in their first fresh air.
The crying is also a pointer that celebrations can now begin.
It is a different story, however, when babies refine their crying in the days and weeks that follow. Every new mother is puzzled and frustrated as to why her one (to three) month-old baby is crying all the time!
Even worse her baby may cry so loud in all the wrong places, say a public facility, in the company of strangers. Besides the irritation the crying creates, everyone else somehow seems to have an answer to the crying nightmare, except the mother!
They will tell her stuff like ‘undress the baby‘, ‘sing for the baby‘, and ‘make the baby burp’!
Buoyed by the public attention, the baby may suddenly stop crying or worse, cry even more!
The truth is, babies, don’t necessarily want to cry. They would prefer to talk and save themselves the pain of having to scream.
But it is all they know!
In the meantime, babies use a set of gestures, sounds, and facial expressions known as ‘baby language‘ to make themselves understood. They will use these expressions all the time, long before they start crying.
It is the inability on the part of parents and caregivers to respond to these reflexes that leave the little fellows with limited options.
If your baby is giving you sleepless nights by crying a lot, this is probably why:
Of course, babies may cry for no reason at all, like when they want to sleep, wake up, and even deep in sleep!
Still, there are other pertinent reasons why the little fellows will cry:
1. Babies cry when hungry
Hunger is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when your little baby begins to cry. The crying starts slowly but is upped when milk is not coming fast enough!
Before your baby starts crying, she will try lip-smacking and/or placing fingers in the mouth, as a reflex signal, to let you know it is time to feed.
If you respond fast enough, your baby will probably not cry, but again, babies are constantly demanding milk, and it’s hard for moms to keep up to speed with their demands.
Otherwise, when she runs out of gestures and patience, the verbal reflex will kick in, and crying will be the next course of action.
The quest for milk and the crying will happen repeatedly throughout the day, especially in the first three months.
The frequent need for milk may puzzle first-time parents because it happens every so often. Babies usually want milk every hour in the first 1 month but will cut this down to two or three hours, at 2 to 3 months.
This is due to the fact they have small tummies and can only store little milk at a time. Milk is also digested pretty fast and this explains the frequent nursing.
With additional months, the tummy gets bigger and can now accommodate more milk at any one time. This increases the intake of milk and reduces the frequency of feeding, and therefore crying.
2. Colic will make your baby cry
Colic is when a baby cries intensely for longer than is normal, and when another underlying medical complication is not the reason. Your baby may arch the back during a colic fit.
All babies will always cry because of colic pains. The good news is that colic and crying will go away soon enough.
Though all newborns cry and show some fussiness, when an infant who is otherwise healthy cries for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week for at least 3 weeks, it is a condition known as colic. This can be upsetting, but the good news is that it’s short-lived — most babies outgrow it at around 3 or 4 months of age.
There is no defined medical explanation about what causes colic, but the following could be happening to the baby, according to WebMD:
- A growing digestive system with muscles that often spasm
- Hormones that cause belly pain or crankiness
- A sensitivity to light, noise, etc., or too much stimulation
- A developing nervous system
- An early form of childhood migraine
- Fear, frustration, or excitement
Holding your baby upright and walking outside will help make your baby relax and therefore cut down on the crying.
3. Babies will cry due to discomfort
Just like adults, babies too need to feel comfortable and at peace with themselves. If anything happens to disrupt this peace, they will let you know through crying. A wet bottom is one typical example.
Just like you wouldn’t want to walk around with a wet bottom, why would you expect them to sit still in a wet diaper for longer than is necessary?
Crying is also triggered by extremes in temperature, sound, light, and darkness, and discomfort resulting from fatigue, clothing, wet bottoms, teething, and cold feet.
Though uncommon, babies will also cry simply because they want to burp! Yes. This happens after hasty breastfeeding or bottle feeding which will make them inhale air into the stomach. Babies will cry as they struggle to get this out of their system through burping.
Elsewhere, children will only want you to change their sleeping positions or get them out of the house to explore the natural world outdoors. Even better, a little smile here and there and cuddling will soothe them.
Yes, cuddling. Simply carry your baby and walk around, even deep in the night and you will be amazed how fast the baby will relax and sleep.
I bet we all want them sleeping most of the time.
4. Babies cry due to natural reflexes
Sometimes babies will cry out of nothing at all, but out of reflex. Much as we expect them to respond to situations in a logical manner, the opposite may happen most of the time.
Sudden reflexes, also known as the Moro reflex can occur a few weeks after birth. These reflexes happen when a baby experiences sudden movement or extreme light, and besides crying, will shoot out its hands and legs.
When something triggers the Moro reflex, a baby will extend their arms — moving them outward at the shoulder and then straightening them — and throw their head back. They will often also extend their legs as well as their arms, but leg movements differ among babies. The baby will then curl their arms and legs toward their body. A baby may or may not cry during the reflex.
The Moro reflex can happen when children are sleeping or want to sleep.
Instead of calmly falling back to bed when sleep comes knocking, babies will go into a crying frenzy and throw all kinds of tantrums. They will want to be cuddled and have someone sing a lullaby for them to sleep!
It does not stop there. Babies may cry,
- when they wake up
- if they want to hear your voice and see your face
- when waking up from a bad dream
- if you raise the tone of your voice
- during moments of mood swings
- if they are over-stimulated
5. Medical complications can make your baby cry
Besides the complications associated with colic, babies will also cry due to other medical conditions.
These will manifest in simple pain, such as headache, a rash in the diaper, sore mouth and throat, and complex health issues such as fever and acid reflux.
Gastroesophageal Reflux can cause a lot of pain in babies, just like heartburn can haunt adults due to excess and spicy meal, for example.
GER isn’t just a problem for adults — kids can have it, too, even babies. In infants, it can cause vomiting and fussiness after feeding. And in older kids and teens, GER can lead to heartburn, and stomach and chest discomfort.
Sometimes, the problem could stem from allergic reactions. A mother could easily pass on the offending food type through breast milk which instead, upsets the tummy.
Your baby may be allergic to foodstuffs such as cow milk, formula milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, etc. You may want to experiment with a variety of food types and single out the offending one.
A tip for parents and caregivers
On average, babies cry for two to three hours every day, and there is no need to panic when these hours stay constant.
You can reduce these crying spells by paying attention to ‘baby language’ and responding quickly to their demands.
Pay attention to their gestures, facial expressions, and other sounds to interpret what they are going through. Better still, cuddle them, walk them outside the house, talk to them, and play soothing music to calm them down.
Beware though if crying exceeds what is usually normal. Seek professional help when you suspect colic and other symptoms listed above are not the cause of crying.
Contact your pediatrician immediately to have your baby examined and treated.