All babies cry for a reason
Your job as a parent is to work out what the cause is and fix the problem, so that your baby feels happier and the crying stops. There are many different things that can cause your baby to cry:
- Wet or soiled nappy
- Tired or overtired
- Tummy pain or constipation
- General pain
- Illnesses or just feeling unwell
Although any of the above can cause a baby to cry, the four main causes of crying in a newborn or very young baby are: hunger, wet or soiled nappy, wind or being overtired.
These four possible causes need to be at the top of your radar when your baby cries. So when she starts to cry, think of these things:
- Does she have a wet or soiled nappy?
- Does she have wind? Put her over your shoulder and pat to check for any immediate wind that may come up as a burp.
- Is she still hungry? Does she need a top-up feed if she didn’t feed particularly well, or is she just looking to suck for comfort – in which case she can be offered the dummy.
- Has she been awake too long and got herself overtired?
If you are sure that none of the main things suggested are causing the crying then it is worth investigating the other causes of crying on the list.
A very young baby is unable to be manipulative. A newborn baby will cry for a reason. As her parent, you need to respond to that cry as quickly and as effectively as you can, and try to eliminate the problem. As soon as you manage to do this, the crying will stop. Sounds simple right? I definitely think that if you have a daily structure it makes it easier to identify the cause of any crying.
A baby who is fed on demand and just left to doze as and when will be much harder to entertain and keep happy, than a baby who has a daily routine.
If you are demand feeding on the breast every one to two hours then your baby will definitely feel hungry a lot of the day in spite of the regular feeds. This is due to her not obtaining enough of the fatty hind milk at each feed. It is comparable to you snacking on salad and fruit all day as opposed to being offered a few hearty filling meals. Understandably, that is likely to make her fairly cranky and irritable on a daily basis and continue to need to feed frequently to satisfy her hunger.
Equally if she is cat-napping all day for 30–60 minutes at a time, she will very quickly end up overtired. It is so important to encourage good sleeping habits from a very young age. A quality amount and length of sleep is good for us all, and your baby will be in a much better mood from day to day if her feeds and sleep are structured as much as possible.
If you ensure that your baby’s sleep and feeding needs are met regularly and effectively then you can usually eliminate those two reasons for her crying.
Babies do tend to have cries that sound slightly different to the trained ear which mean different things. The main carer, usually the mother, can, with time, learn to distinguish between her baby’s cries and what each one means.
This is only usually possible when your tiny baby has a daily structure and feeds and sleeps are at similar times each day. If she doesn't have a routine then she will probably cry a fair amount on a daily basis anyway, as she will be hungry and tired a lot of the time.
If you are hearing your baby cry frequently on a daily basis then it will be a lot more difficult to learn to understand the differences between the cries and their meanings. One cry will blend into the next, and you really won’t be concentrating on what the cry means if it just goes on and on.
The biggest cause of crying in a baby with no routine is usually over tiredness. Structuring sleep times will help every other aspect of her day and make her a much happier baby. The whole world seems a much brighter place when you are not facing a constant battle with over tiredness – this is true for all of us and our little ones from the start. I’m sure as a new parent you can also relate to this.
If you sleep well or get a few hours of sleep in a row, it seems so much easier to cope. Routine is helpful for the following reasons:
- Your baby will feed better if she isn't so tired, as she will be more alert and feel refreshed from her regular daily naps.
- If she is feeding well and in bigger quantities rather than snack feeding at frequent intervals then she is less likely to suffer from as much wind or colic.*She is also less likely to get either bored or over-stimulated if she is getting a regular amount of sleep.
It is a win–win situation and promoting good sleeping habits from a young age will mean your baby grows into a toddler and older child who continues to settle and sleep well for as long as you encourage it. Babies and children learn what they are taught where sleep is concerned. Remember that all babies have the potential to be ‘good sleepers’. With lots of patience and perseverance yours can be one of them.