Babies cry for many reasons and this can be frustrating for parents.
I know when my baby was having colic during the night, she would cry for what seemed like hours, and I would feel so helpless despite all my pediatric knowledge about managing colic.
Parents naturally want to calm and soothe their baby…
…which is not always so easy. Parents have to be patient when trying to calm them. Many times parents feel they must be doing something wrong. Actually, every baby cries unless there is something very wrong with the infant. Crying is normal and the way babies communicate.
Babies do not have many ways to communicate…
…so they cry and have different types of crying for different reasons. For example babies often feel their surrounding environment is new and unfamiliar, which is unsettling to them as they learn about the world around them. So they cry to communicate that they are anxious and afraid, especially if they cannot see their mother. Once they see their mother they usually calm down and relax and stop crying.
Newborns cry around 2 hours a day. From birth to 6 weeks, crying increases to 3 hours a day. After 6 weeks, crying decreases.
The primary reasons babies cry are the following:
- Soiled diaper
- Tired and need to sleep
- Stomach upset such as colic or gas, etc.
- Need to burp
- Too cold or too hot
- Want to be held and cuddled
- Want more stimulation
There are different cries for all the above reasons and more. When a baby cries the baby has gestures, facial expressions and body language.
Here are some examples of a baby’s body language and what it means:
- Moving side to side means baby is tired.
- Turns away means baby needs to move.
- Turns side to side and stretches neck back while opening her mouth means baby is hungry.
- Nodding means baby is tired.
- Scrunched up face means baby is having gas or pain or having a bowl movement.
- Red eyes means baby is tired.
- Closing slowly and quickly open means baby is tired.
- Lips tighten means hungry.
- Baby looks like she is screaming but no sound comes out means she has gas or some other pain.
- Bottom lip shakes means baby is cold.
- Baby brings hands to mouth and sucking them means she is hungry.
You should contact your pediatrician:
- If your normally calm and content baby cries for more than 2 hours
- If your baby is crying excessively and also has…
- Seizures or Convulsions
- Pale or blue skin
- Unusual bruising or rash
- If your baby never cries or if her cry is weak and sounds more like a kitten or cat.
Dr. Gina Lamb-Amato is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician with medical practices in Manhattan, NY. She has a masters in child therapy and works with a child psychologist performing office and home consultation for newborns and parents, office and home developmental assessments, school consultations and parent child playgroups where play and art along with baby massage and other techniques are used to help parents bond and support their child’s development. She has extensive experience in Early Head Start programs which work with infants from prenatal to 3 years of age.