Why does a baby cry?
The sound of a baby’s first cries brings joy to everyone in the birthing room. Doctors and midwives love to hear this as it indicates the baby lungs . Newborn babies don’t cry because they’re complaining, that cry is the first time their lungs are breathing air. The baby will continue to cry until all the amniotic fluid and mucus is expelled. It’s a miraculous part of the whole process and always a great relief.
There are many reasons babies cry in the first six weeks of life. Babies don’t like being unwrapped so they’ll cry while you’re changing their nappy or undressing them. We know giving birth is tough for the mother, well the journey down the birth canal can be difficult for the baby too. In utero the baby is surrounded by the safe, firm uterus that is their whole world. Suddenly it is removed from that warm haven and delivered into the unknown. Being naked is another reminder they’re no longer in the snug uterus and the freedom can frighten them all over again. You might notice a ‘startle’ (primitive moro) reflex or jerky movement when your baby is sleeping. This is another response to the unfamiliar space surrounding them.
Babies will also cry when they’re hungry. They might cry when they are alone and awake. Their lungs will get a workout when they feel cold, for example when they are taken out of a warm bath, or if they get a sudden fright from a loud noise. They will cry because there’s a lot to get used to in this new world they’ve found themselves in & it’s the way they can tell the mother they are
In these first, amazing weeks crying is your baby’s main way of communicating with you. Coordinating breathing with eating is a skill it takes some time to learn so maybe there’s still some air trapped in their digestive system. Like most of us, they don’t like being too hot or too cold so it’s important to dress the baby appropriately. Babies love to be held close & remember you cannot spoil a baby by holding it close to you.
If a baby is crying and cannot be soothed it’s important to ensure the baby does not have a high temperature or is unwell. If you are worried about your baby’s crying, always seek advice from your GP. Remember you know your baby the best and you will notice any change in behaviour & in the way the baby is crying.
As a baby grows in weeks & in weight they are easily soothed by comforting the baby – there are different ways to comfort a crying baby starting with picking them up and holding them close. Do what you can to stay calm and as your breathing and heartbeat slows, the baby will naturally follow you. Sometimes you can quieten them by holding them skin to skin, letting them hear your heartbeat.
It’s important to only carry out one action at a time. New parents will try anything to soothe a crying baby so gentle patting, quiet shushing, gently bouncing, softly singing & talking to the baby can ease their distress.
There are times a crying baby will upset, frustrate and exhaust you. If you feel worried, always reach out for some help and support. Try to remember crying is the key to life & the way your baby communicates to you that it is hot, cold, hungry, tired and unwell.
A baby crying at night seems loud especially when everyone is asleep…remember the early days with a newborn baby goes so fast, enjoy every day and every night as they are babies for such a short time.