Child Care: Common Causes for Crying in Children

1. Normal Crying Pattern of a Newborn

New-borns cry at night for the initial 4-6 weeks and sleep during the day. This is just the opposite of what adults do (called “circadian rhythm.”) It is very disturbing to the parents because they can’t get proper sleep during the night time. However they should realise that it is not the baby’s fault but just a continuation of the intra-uterine pattern. During fetal life, the mother’s activities during the daytime have a rocking effect on the fetus and thus lull him to sleep. During night the opposite happens. This pattern persists after the baby is born and only by 4-6 weeks is the baby able to change and fit its sleep rhythm to the adult pattern.

2. Crying During Passing Urine/Stool

She may cry and strain temporarily while passing urine or stool (parents may misinterpret this as the baby having some problem in her urination or stooling, while actually it is normal). If the stool is very hard or the baby is having dysentery (loose stools with mucus and/or blood), then the baby may cry due to pain while passing stools. Similarly, if the baby has urinary infection, he may have pain while passing urine and may cry. But in the majority of cases, in a small baby, it is normal if the baby strains, groans or cries while passing stool/urine.

3. Hunger

This is the most common reason, and can be easily dealt with by feeding. Particularly, during the first few months, the most common cause of crying is hunger, which of course most of the parents learn to recognise over a period of time. Also, the natural impulse of a mother, whenever her baby is crying, is to offer milk to it. If the baby is crying due to hunger, it will suck vigorously and be satisfied.

There are two exceptions to this. Firstly, even if the baby is hungry, her mood should be good! The baby may have been left unattended and hungry for a length of time that exhausts her patience. Examples are when the parents have to prepare milk in a bottle that is not washed. During this time, the baby may go on crying with hunger. When finally you offer milk to her, though she is hungry, she is also angry! So she may balk at it initially. However if you gently persist and say soothing words to the baby, take her in your lap and caress her, it is usually enough to calm her! Then she will start sucking nicely.

Another cause may be that though the baby is hungry, yet for some reason it is unable to have a smooth, uninterrupted sucking of milk. Examples are when the nose of the baby is blocked (the baby will have to leave the nipple intermittently to breathe through the mouth) or the baby is having cough (she has to leave the milk whenever she wants to cough). The hole of the nipple may be too big (too much milk may flow, giving her a sensation of choking. She may even have a bout of coughing if some milk goes into her windpipe) or too small (she has to strain and suck a lot to get the milk).

The hole of the nipple may become clogged with some milk/sugar particle (so that the baby in spite of sucking does not get milk). A change in milk formula and hence the taste of the milk may also affect her. Whatever the reasons, a baby who is unable to have a smooth supply of milk will become angry and irritable and thus cry. The parents must keep all this in mind before reaching to the conclusion that the crying of the baby is due to a cause other than hunger.

4. Pain

The baby may cry if the gas in her stomach has been incompletely eructed out due to less burping/no burping after her milk intake. So, parents should burp their baby properly. Pick him up, hold him over your shoulder and pat his back. The parents should also check whether any external factor is causing the baby discomfort (e.g. there may be something pricking the baby or the bedding may not be comfortable). Bites of ants and mosquitoes may make the baby cry. The baby can’t scratch herself to relieve itching and so parents have to scratch and massage the affected part. Another common reason is pain of the ears, particularly if the baby is suffering from cold and cough.

5. Heat and Cold

If the temperature of the surrounding air is uncomfortable i.e. too hot or too cold, the baby may cry because he may feel cold and miserable or hot and uncomfortable (parents may have wrapped him in excessive clothing that the state of weather doesn’t warrant). Parents should check it out and take steps to make the environment comfortable.

6. Is He Wet ?

A baby may cry if her diapers are wet and soggy. Check the nappy. Many babies dislike having a wet or soiled nappy, as it makes them feel uncomfortable

7. Loneliness

Maybe he needs your phsysical presence to be reassured and comforted. Babies have a natural and instinctive urge to be held close and be given lots of contact comfort.

8. Boredom

Some babies really do want to be in the centre of things all day. So try and prop up your baby in such a way that he can see and hear you, all the time if possible.

9. Getting Undressed

Some babies dislike being undressed-they are frightened by the feel of their skin being exposed to air, and hence may cry. While dressing, you could try keeping the baby calm by laying a towel, nappy or shawl across the chest or stomach. This can be very soothing.

10. Over-stimulation

Some babies, if they are too much stimulated, may react by becoming irritable and tense. Instead of it being easier for them to fall asleep, it may be harder. (A similar situation occurs with adults when their mind is in a state of excessive stimulation). Though the baby is fatigued, it has to “wind down” its tensions. Parents may be at a loss and fail to understand why their baby, in spite of being tired and not having slept in the afternoon, is not falling asleep. If the parents force the baby to sleep, she may resist and cry frantically. Then gradually, as she becomes exhausted, the crying stops and the baby goes to sleep. For such a situation, it is best for the parents to “wind down” their babies by rocking her, caressing her, talking to her in a soft melodious voice etc. before sleep.

11. Extra-sensitive Babies

There are some babies who are extra sensitive. If they are in a strange environment away from home (e.g. when you visit someone), they may be acutely uncomfortable and be agitated. These babies are tense and restless, fretful and fussy during the first few weeks and require a lot of cuddling and fondling. Some parents may have experienced that the baby starts crying the moment they put the baby on the bed (thinking that it has slept, while actually the baby is yet not in a state of deep sleep).

While, if they carry and rock her or sing some soft melodies, the baby is soothed and goes on sleeping. For such babies, it is best for the parents to be patient and put her in bed only when she is in a deep sleep in their laps. During her sleep also, the baby may easily get startled, get up and start whimpering on a slight noise or by a change in her position etc. Usually she will go back to sleep if the parents murmur soothing words, pat and caress her. It is important for the parents to keep their presence of mind and cool in the middle of the night and not get angry with their baby, for it will only worsen matters. Such babies do best on:

• Some sort of a pacifier (e.g. a rubber nipple in their mouths in between feeds)

• A quiet regime: i.e. quiet and dark rooms, few visitors, low soothing voices, soft melodies etc. During daytime, such babies should not be stimulated much e.g. too much noise, too much T.V., too many visitors etc., otherwise they may become too excited and take a long time to wind down & relax sufficiently to fall asleep during nighttime.

12. Infantile Colic

There remains a subgroup of babies (and their number is quite large), who cry because of “Infantile Colic.” Colic means intermittent pain. These babies suffer from intermittent spasmodic pain of the intestines. The condition commonly begins at the age of 2-4 weeks and subsides by the age of 3-4 months. The baby typically cries in the late afternoons or evenings, the cry is more or less continuous, may last for hours and is resistant to the usual soothing methods.

The baby’s abdomen may become distended, it may pull its legs up on the abdomen, the face may become flushed and the baby may even perspire. Many babies will pass flatus and/or stool and this may provide relief to the baby. This picture is not limited to a single day but may occur more than 3 times/week and continues till baby is 3-4 months old, when it stops regardless of the management strategy.

It is indeed a very testing time for the parents. Parents become distressed even if their baby cries for 5-10 minutes. Imagine the agony of the parents whose baby cries for hours and that too in a stereotyped fashion day after day. Worse there is no guaranteed method to stop it. These parents just have to wait and wait with a lot of pabence and heartburn for their baby to become bigger. The parents wonder how long the baby can keep this up and not become exhausted. They wonder how long they can stand it without becoming “crazy.”

When a baby has infantile colic, the mother’s first instinct is that something may be wrong with the baby’s feeding. If the baby is on breast milk, the mother may attribute the crying due to some thing wrong with her milk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *