Why is your new baby crying, again?! It’s easy to get frustrated when your tiny baby cries. She can’t tell you what’s wrong and will just keep bawling until her needs are met.
But crying is, in itself a form of communication for your newborn, says Dr Simon Ng from Babies and Children Specialist Clinic at Mount Alvernia Hospital. She may be hungry, frightened, in pain or experiencing some discomfort, and craves your attention.
And, contrary to popular belief, babies do not cry to be “difficult” or to irritate their parents and caregivers, the consultant neonatologist and paediatrician adds.
Babies have different types of cries, from the soft whine to the loud, wild scream. The crying can last for a couple of minutes or go on for hours. There may be plenty of tears, or none at all.
Each is an indication of a problem that your little darling is experiencing. Here’s how to decode them.
1. The hunger cry
What it sounds like Your baby’s cry may range from weak to high-pitched, depending on her level of hunger. She may open her mouth wide, stick out her tongue and pucker her lips, as if anticipating a feed, says Dr Ng. She may also move her head from side to side, as if searching for your breast. Or, if you touch the side of her face with your finger, she may turn her head in that direction. She may also suck on her fingers, toys or clothing.
What to do A newborn’s feeding schedule can be unpredictable, so it’s worth getting to know her hunger cues, such as the stirring and sucking motion. Offer her milk before she gets to the frantic crying stage, says Dr Ng. As she gets older, you won’t have to feed her as frequently.
2. The “change me” cry
What it sounds like Your cutie may give a weak cry, whine and fret a little if her diaper is wet or soiled. Her skin may have become irritated as a result, says Dr Shiv Gill, general practitioner at My Health Partners Medical Clinic.
What to do Clean and change her immediately, advises Dr Gill. However, not all babies cry when their diapers are dirty. So, check her diaper regularly throughout the day – such as after feeding her – to make sure that she hasn’t soiled herself. The longer you leave her unchanged, the more likely she will develop diaper rash. Give her a warm bath, too; she’ll enjoy the sensation of being buoyant. Dry and wrap her immediately to prolong the feeling of comfort.
3. The reflux cry
What it sounds like She may cry soon after a feed, and the episode may be accompanied by regurgitation or repeated vomiting, says Dr Ng. She’ll also look like she’s in extreme discomfort.
What to do Dr Ng suggests burping your little darling and propping her up for 30 minutes or so after feeding her.
(Also read: 5 ways to handle clingy babies and toddlers)
4. The “I’m frightened” cry
What it sounds like Your baby may look afraid and bawl intermittently, says Dr Gill. She may also put her hands together as if protecting herself. Perhaps she was startled by a loud noise or heard a voice that was unfamiliar to her.
What to do She wants to feel safe and protected, so comfort her by holding her close to your chest. When your baby was in your womb, she could hear your heartbeat. That steady, rhythmic sound may still have a calming effect on her. Gently pat her back while whispering reassuring words in her ear. You can also try rocking her slowly from side to side until she stops crying. She’ll find comfort in that repetitive motion.
5. The pain or illness cry
What it sounds like If your bub has been crying non-stop for more than an hour, then she’s likely to be in pain or unwell. This type of crying is also loud, intense and frantic. Look out for symptoms of illness, such as fever, vomiting, coughing, diarrhoea or constipation, says Dr Ng. Sometimes, it’s the less obvious issues that may have lead to her protest. For example, she could have been bitten by an insect, or the buttons on her outfit are poking and pressing into her skin, suggests Dr Gill. Or maybe she’s just feeling too warm or cold.
What to do Take her to the doctor to get her checked out. Any underlying illness should be treated as soon as possible, says Dr Ng.
(Also read: 3 things not to do when your baby has a fever)
6. The colic cry
What it sounds like Colic typically affects newborns in the first two months. When all the other causes of crying have been excluded, then your tiny bundle’s cries may be attributed to colic, says Dr Ng. This condition refers to a severe and often fluctuating pain in the abdomen. As her digestive system is still developing, she may have issues with gas passing through her intestines. The muscles there start to spasm, causing her discomfort and pain, and she may cry for hours at a time. If your baby is being bottle-fed, Dr Gill says to watch that she is not sucking in air, as this can cause her tummy trouble, too.
What to do Dr Ng suggests burping or cuddling your baby. Try massaging her, too. Use baby oil or lotion to gently rub her back, tummy, arms and legs. This is also a great way to bond with her. If none of these methods work, discuss with the paediatrician if you should give your little one probiotics or a wind drop.