By Dr Mike Marinus, dad to Megan and James plus a Chiropractor in Blairgowrie with a special interest in family practice and paediatric care. Click here to hear his podcast. This is the 2nd in our series on babies by Dr Marinus. Part 1 is entitled Why do babies cry?
Approaching a crying baby can feel a bit like walking into no mans land armed only with a wet wipe and your aunty Betty’s dated advice… but it doesn’t have to.
Don’t feel bad…they don’t know either
Brand new babies have no reference as to what it is to be too hot, too cold or what hunger feels like, let alone how to fix it. They just cry when they feel uncomfortable and it’s up to us to identify clues that will help us understand what they are trying to tell us.
What to look for
We need to focus on three things when decoding crying.
1. What does the cry sound like
Unknowingly babies make noise over reflexive actions their bodies make depending on their needs, for example, when they are hungry they will make noise and suck at the same time and that has a certain, unique sound to it. By spending time on this you can become ‘fluent’ in your child’s secret language.
What are the circumstances around the cry? Is it different to what usually happens at this time of the day? And lastly we need to physically look at our babies. What physical cues are they giving us? Again each need comes along with its own set of physical attributes. Tiredness is associated with eye rubbing, lack of eye contact and yawning, whilst discomfort brings with it squirming and jerky limb movements.
3. Good Times and bad times
All babies are different but there are certain times that most babies will generally cry. Before feeds, early evenings and after being in a stimulation heavy environment, are perfectly acceptable times for babies to cry. Be alert if you find your baby cries during feeding, straight after feeds are 10 to 20 minutes after they have been put down to feed. These are times that babies should be at their most comfortable and any crying at these times should be taken further.
The Cry Journal
All this information is great to make on the spot decisions but what makes us fluent in our baby’s language is knowing if it’s changing. By keeping a Cry Journal, in which you put down each bout of crying along with: Time cry occurred, duration, intensity, character, physical cues and how you fixed it, you will start to see patterns emerging day by day. If you find the pattern changes suddenly, it is a good indicator that something is up with your baby and you need to look deeper into the cause.
What to do
Now its action time! Your initial crying checklist should run something like this…Is my baby: In pain, hungry, tired, uncomfortable, in need of a change in environment. If you get to the end and nothing has worked and you are sure your child is not in pain, sometimes the action to take is…nothing at all, they just need to get rid of the stress of their day and you need to be there with them to lend a caring ear.