There is nothing worse for a new mother than a constantly crying baby when she does not know why it is crying. Many new mothers think that it is their fault that their baby is crying and feel terrible that they cannot distinguish one cry from another. This can lead to post-partum blues, depression, anxiety and major stress for new mothers, but never fear, help is at hand.
Firstly, you need to understand that all babies cry; crying is the only way that a baby can express itself. A study at the University of London has stated that there is absolutely no correlation between a persistently crying baby and obstetric complications, a stressful environment, birth order, bottle or breast-feeding, inadequate parenting, or gender. Babies cry when they are uncomfortable, lonely, hungry, tired, or just need to release pent up stress.
As you get more used to your baby you will understand what they are crying for and will be able to respond accordingly until your newborn gets a bit older and learns other ways to communicate, such as body language, facial expressions, and eventually speech.
The Five Cries Of A Newborn
Pricilla Dunstan, an Australian mother, realized that she could distinguish five very distinctive cries in her newborn son. She found this phenomenon in other crying babies too, and upon doing research in over one thousand babies, theorized that all newborns, regardless of race or gender made the same five newborn cries, and each meant exactly the same thing.
Since she discovered this in 1998, further research was done by research collaborators at the University of Wollongong, using a research protocol for a clinical study that was developed by professors from Brown University in the USA. Other studies have been done in the Philippines in 2009, and by The Leading Edge, a commercial research organization, in the UK, Australia and the United States in 2006 & 2007.
This research is great for mothers of newborns who do not yet know what their crying babies need. The knowledge imparted by the Dunstan Baby Language (DBL) program is incredibly important for all mothers of newborns, with 100% of newborn mothers agreeing that the DBL works. You can actually listen to the different cries and find out more about DBL here. The key is to listen to the pre-cry to determine what it is your crying baby needs from you before the pre-cry turns into the hysterical cry.
According to DBL, the 5 cries of a newborn are:
1. Neh – means “I’m hungry”. According to DBL, this sound is made when a baby’s sucking reflex kicks in and the tongue is pushed up to the roof of the mouth
2. Owh – this sound is made in the reflex of a yawn and means “I’m sleepy”
3. Heh – means discomfort. In other words, your crying baby is uncomfortable, itchy, cold, needs a diaper change, or needs to change position
4. Eh – means your baby needs to be burped.
5. Eair – means gas in the lower regions. It is a deeper sound that comes from the abdomen, and is generally accompanied by the newborn either pushing down and out with his or her legs or pulling his or her knees and a look of discomfort in the face.
It is important to ensure that you listen for the beginning of the cries so that you can distinguish between them, as they sound very similar. In the beginning it may be a bit difficult to distinguish between the 5 different cries, but with a bit of practice you will soon be able to differentiate between them all and give your crying baby what it needs before they become hysterical.
Respond Or Ignore A Crying Baby?
Decades ago, some physicians decided that if left to cry it out, a crying baby would eventually settle themselves and become less demanding. This course was followed by many parents, even though it was difficult, until researchers Mary Ainsworth and Sylvia Bell did some studies in the 1970’s which proved that infants who were attended to quicker and were nurtured by their mothers were less likely to continue crying for attention at the age of one year, were more secure, less manipulative, whined less, and communicated better than those that were ignored.
Further studies showed that babies who were attended to promptly and received more nurturing when they cried became less clingy and demanding and cried seventy percent less. Those who were left to cry-it-out cried for much longer and in a far more disturbing manner. The research also revealed that the mothers who were more restrained and did not nurture their babies when they cried became desensitized to not only their baby’s crying, but also became insensitive in other aspects of the parent-child relationship.
Proponents of the cry-it-out system also believed that crying is “good for baby’s lungs” but that is so far from the truth that it is scary. Research in the late 1970s showed that the heart rates of babies who were left to cry shot to very perturbing levels, and the oxygen levels in their blood decreased rapidly. Once these crying babies were soothed, their cardiovascular system returned to normal very quickly. Leaving a crying baby to cry-it-out creates physiologic as well as psychological distress.
How To Help Your Crying Baby
When your baby cries it is because they need something from you, and the best way to know what they need is to learn your baby’s language as quickly as possible, through using the Dunstan Baby Language system or by observing your baby and learning what their pre-cry signals are. These signals range from anxious facial expressions, flailing arms, ‘rooting’ at the breast, wriggling, changes in breathing, little grimaces, and various other noises that let you know that they are working up to a good cry. By paying attention and deciphering what these signs mean, you will be able to respond quickly in a nurturing manner and avert the hysterical crying.
Apart from offering your crying baby what he or she needs, such as a diaper change, food, a bottle, or burping them, there are also a myriad of other ways that you can nurture and console your infant:
Provide Womb Service
Womb service means to ease the transition from womb to room by cuddling your baby on your chest, against your bare skin, where it can hear and feel your heartbeat.
Swaddle Your baby
Swaddling is another method of ensuring that your little bundle of joy is made to feel comfortable and secure, as it recreates the feeling of a womb. Swaddling generally helps baby to settle down and fall asleep, and to sleep for longer periods at a time.
Protect Your Baby’s Senses
It is imperative that you protect your baby senses in the first few weeks by avoiding changes in temperature, lots of handling by other people, bright lights and sudden movements.
Rapid Response Time
Contrary to some schools of thought, there is no such thing as spoiling a baby. A crying baby needs to be attended to quickly, or they will continue crying and cry harder and harder until they get attention which is not good for them or you. Responding to your baby’s cries quickly is important in order to nurture and comfort them, and especially so if you are still breastfeeding, so that the baby is not so worn out from crying that they cannot suckle and feed correctly and sufficiently.
Wear Your Baby
Carrying or Kangarooing your baby, as it is also known, means carrying the infant in a sling against the front of your body, where it is warm and comfortable for them. Make sure that you face the baby towards you during the first three months, as this will provide the extra head support it needs. This action is very good for helping to reduce the stress levels in your baby and for relieving symptoms of reflux and colic.
Give Your Baby Your Finger
A tried and tested method of calming a baby is to give it a finger to suck on. The sucking action is very comforting to babies and will help them to relax when a breast is not an option or the baby is not hungry. It is preferable to give the baby a finger to suck on rather than a binkie or pacifier whilst it is still breastfeeding so as not to create confusion in the infant between the two different types of suckling.
The Gentle Massage
Warm your hands a little and massage your baby with warm oil and warm hands when he or she is calm, so that they associate the action with relaxation and nurturing. A tummy massage can help when baby has a stubborn wind that will not budge, can ease constipation, encourage digestion, and generally calm baby down.
Using White Noise
If you have a crying baby and nothing you have tried seems to help, try using white noise such as the sound of a vacuum cleaner, a fan or a hair dryer to block out other random noises that could startle your baby when you are trying to settle them down. Many babies respond favorably to the rhythmic whooshing sounds, or white noise, that these appliances make. If there are no appliances handy you could try shushing quietly.
Babies love being rocked gently, as it calms them down, possible because it emulates the feeling of the womb when you walked around. You can either sit with baby and rock them or walk around rocking them. There are also various baby swings that soothe baby to sleep. Some babies love the motion of being driven in a car.
The Rhythm Of The Beat
Baby could hear the constant beat of your heart whilst in the womb, which is why they love being held close. Playing some gentle music with a regular beat or singing a lullaby will also calm baby if they are stressed, and may even lull tem to sleep.
The Colicky Baby
Sometimes a crying baby will not stop crying no matter what you try, and this may be due to colic. Colic generally develops in babies between the second and fourth week, and is very uncomfortable for the baby and may cause them to cry out or scream in pain whilst kicking their legs and passing gas. Colic is often delineated by an enlarged tummy, and generally occurs in the early evening although it can occur at any time of the day.
Whilst there is no specific treatment for colic, which can make things very difficult for any new mother, there are a few things that you can try to make your crying baby more comfortable. Try the ‘colic carry’ which means letting your baby lie face-down across your arm, with his or her cheek at your elbow, or carrying them with their backbone against you and their knees pressing up against their stomach.
Alternatively you can lay your baby across your knees, tummy down, with a hot-water bottle in your lap. If your baby is restless, hold it up against your shoulder whilst gently rocking back and forth or walking.
Feeding A Colicky baby
If your crying baby will not stop crying and you fear they may have colic, consult your pediatrician, and change his or her feeding habits:
- Make sure that you do not overfeed your baby
- Buy some baby bottles that are proven to be better for colicky babies
- Burp your baby frequently between feedings to reduce gas
- Discuss changing the baby’s formula to a hypoallergenic formula with your doctor
- Eliminate allergenic foods such as eggs, wheat or milk one by one if you are breastfeeding
- Consult your doctor to see if they feel that your baby would benefit from probiotics and/or herbal remedies
Remember, a crying baby is not your fault, all babies cry in the first few months. If your baby cries a lot, remain calm, attend to it as soon as possible and try to distinguish between the different cries so that you can learn what they need when they cry, and if you are over-stressed ask for help.