Babies cry as a method of communicating their needs to their parents.
All babies cry at some time and it is not unusual for a newborn infant to cry for up to 2 hours a day. Babies cry so their needs will be met. Picking up and cuddling or nursing your fretful baby will not start bad habits or spoil him/her. Responding to your baby's crying will provide your baby with a sense of comfort and security. Prolonged crying, however, can be distressing for parents and often leads to feelings of despair and anger.
Some babies have frustrating periods of intense, inconsolable crying known as Colic - Infantile. Colic is often defined as crying for more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. Colic episodes are most common in the late afternoon or evening. The crying often begins suddenly and for no apparent reason. During an episode, your baby may be difficult, or even impossible, to comfort.
Below are some common reasons why your baby may be crying:
• I'm hungry. Most newborns eat every few hours around the clock. Some babies become frantic when hunger strikes. They may get so worked up by the time the feeding begins that they gulp air with the milk, which may cause spitting up, trapped gas or more crying. To avoid such frenzy, respond to early signs of hunger. If your baby begins to gulp during the feeding, take a break.
• I need to burp. During and after each feeding, take time to burp your baby. Your baby may need to burp between feedings as well.
• I've got a wet/dirty nappy. For some babies, a wet or soiled nappy is uncomfortable. Gas or indigestion may have the same effect. Check your baby's nappy often to ensure it is clean and dry.
• I'm tired. Tired babies are often fussy. Make sure your baby is getting enough sleep. For newborns, this often means up to 16 hours, or even more, every day.
• I'd rather be bundled/wrapped. Some babies feel most secure in a swaddle wrap. Snugly wrap your baby in a muslin/cotton or other small, lightweight blanket.
• I want to move. Sometimes a rocking session or walk through the house is enough to soothe a crying baby. In other cases, a change of position is all that is needed. Keeping safety precautions in mind, try a baby swing or vibrating infant seat. Weather permitting, take your baby for a walk in the stroller.
• I'm lonely. Sometimes simply seeing you, hearing your voice or being cuddled may stop the tears. Gentle massage or light pats on the back may also help.
• I'm hot. A baby who is too hot or cold is likely to be uncomfortable. Add or remove a layer of your baby's clothing as needed.
• I want to suck on something. Sucking is a natural reflex. For many babies, it is a comforting, soothing activity. If your baby is not hungry, try a clean finger or pacifier/dummy.
• I've had enough. Too much noise, movement or visual stimulation may be upsetting to your baby. Move to a calmer environment or place your baby in the crib. White noise, such as a recording of ocean waves or the monotonous sound of an electric fan or vacuum cleaner, may help your baby relax.
• It's just that time of day. Many babies have predictable periods of fussiness during the day and require extra comfort and closeness during these times.
• I'm not feeding properly. If you are breastfeeding your baby who is constantly fussing and fighting and the breast you may need to talk to your Doctor or lactation consultant who can help with problems like poor positioning and attachment of your baby at the breast, milk let-down reflex problems or hunger.
Most crying babies are not sick, however if your baby cries inconsolably for long periods each day, you will want to make sure he/she is not sick by having a thorough check-up with your Doctor or Paediatrician. Many crying babies end up with the label 'windy' or 'colicky' because no other reason can be found and the problem resolves itself after three or four months. This can be a very difficult time for parents and it is very important that during this time you eat well, take every chance to rest, and accept help from friends and relatives during these difficult weeks that the crying lasts. It also helps to talk to other mothers who are sharing this experience.