Is your baby crying? Here’s what it could mean

Is your baby crying? Here’s what it could mean

Probably nothing upsets a mum more than a crying baby, especially when you don’t know why he or she is crying her heart out! Babies cry for several different reasons, sometimes to express discomfort, sometimes hunger, tiredness and sleepiness, and sometimes to indicate they are in pain. Even though it’s really difficult to understand every time why your baby might be wailing, here is a handy guide to decode your baby’s crying.

Why do babies cry?

Even if it seems that a baby is crying for no reason, remember that there is always a reason. Usually, babies can be cranky due to a wet diaper, hunger or sleepiness. However, there can be many other less obvious reasons too:

Environmental overstimulation

Many babies tend to go through fussy periods and cry at night. When newborns cry more than usual, it just might be their way of 'letting off steam' or adjusting to the normal stimulus of their day. Babies are vulnerable to the outside world and get easily stimulated by the slightest of changes. But things get better when they grow up and become more familiar with their surroundings. Stranger anxiety is another reason why a baby might cry, as he or she is unfamiliar with the person concerned.

Gas and colic

Colic usually causes a baby to experience a sharp pain, which comes and goes, in the abdomen. This is because their digestive system is still developing. Colic is known to occur in 1 out of every 5 babies and is quite common. Constant crying without any clear reason, which lasts for 2 to 4 hours in a day, and for at least 5 days in a week, might indicate colic. By itself, colic is normal and shouldn’t cause much worry. However, if your child becomes constipated or you notice a change in the stool colour, and if the constant crying is accompanied by abdominal bloating, vomiting, or fever, consult a doctor immediately. Colic usually begins when your baby is about 2 or 3 weeks of age and subsides by 12 weeks. The good news is that, most often, colic disappears by 3 to 4 months of age.

The causes of colic have not been confirmed yet, but it can be due to various reasons like:

  • Swallowing of air while feeding
  • The type of food the mother consumes when she is still breastfeeding might cause gas in the baby
  • Other medical conditions like formula allergy or reflux issues

Abdominal discomfort due to swallowing of air during feeding

Don't let your breastfed baby get desperate for a feed as she might gulp and take in air, which can cause discomfort. If your baby is gulping milk and also air, experiment with different feeding positions. Maintain 60-degree and upright position during all feeds or carry him over your shoulder in an upright position until he settles down. Frequent burping of your baby, for about 5 to 6 times during and after feedings may help relieve gas. Don't wait until the end.

Feeding quantity

Don't overfeed. When in doubt, feed less. Keep feeling your baby’s stomach during feeding. You also do not want to feed to the point where the stomach is completely full and swollen. More frequent feedings are recommended as opposed to larger feedings.

Mother's diet

If you are breastfeeding and your baby seems to always cry after you eat or drink certain foods, it might indicate that your child is sensitive to those foods. So, try to avoid dairy products and/or caffeine for a week or two, to see if it makes a difference. Tweaking the mother’s diet can help in most cases, as foods like garlic, onions, chocolate, and spices (including chillies and peppers) can often affect the quality of breast milk adversely. Also, try and see if removing veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts helps. Fruits such as oranges, strawberries, and grapes might be causing a problem too. Sometimes, wheat items, eggs, and fruits with stones in your diet might cause discomfort in your little one.

Formula allergy

Crying is common in babies who are bottle-fed and sensitive to cow's milk. It can also occur in those who have had a problematic birth. If your baby always cries during feedings or right after, and keeps spitting up a lot, he or she might have reflux esophagitis.

A formula or milk allergy might be indicated if your baby cries 30-60 minutes after a feeding and also vomits or experiences diarrhoea. In such cases, babies don’t gain weight well. What you can do is try and give him soy formula or an elemental formula for a week or two. However, always consult a doctor first before changing formulas.

Ear pain

If your baby has been crying nonstop and you know he is not hungry, tired, or colicky, then it makes sense to check for ear pain. You need to consult with your doctor and then administer the baby with the prescribed dosage of pain medicine, which is usually a dose of crocin. Make sure you pay a visit to your paediatrician and get his ear checked for infections.

How to deal with a crying baby

  • If a baby is suffering from colic, maintaining a calm environment might help.
  • Cuddling, swaddling and rhythmic rocking are some common ways to comfort your little one. You can also take him for a ride or walk, give him a warm bath, or sing a soothing song. A pacifier might also help.
  • Movement usually soothes babies who are crying due to colic. So, you can carry him in a sling as you move around, or rock him in a cradle. Or, try to take him outdoors in his stroller.
  • You can also try to place your baby in a face-down position on your lap and over a towel that is rolled up. This pressure can sometimes soothe the colic. Try and place a mildly hot towel on your baby's stomach for relief from colic. However, monitor closely to avoid burns as your baby’s skin is highly sensitive.

Lastly, remember that babies tend to get affected by their mothers’ emotional state. So, stay calm and ask for help from a friend or family member if need be. It is important to understand that dealing with infants is a learning curve, and an adventurous journey filled with new challenges. But, when you finally see your little one smile, all the efforts will be worth it!