Crying in infancy is described as a loud, high-pitched sound made by infants in response to certain situations.
Infants have a cry reflex that is a normal response to some stimuli, such as pain or hunger. Older children and adults cry for emotional reasons such as pain, fear, sadness, or frustration. Premature infants may not have a cry reflex, so they must be monitored closely for signs of hunger and pain.
See also: Crying in childhood
A cry is the infant's first verbal communication. It can be interpreted as a message of urgency or distress. The sound is nature's way of ensuring that adults attend to the baby as quickly as possible, because few people can simply listen to a crying baby.
Almost everyone recognizes that infants cry for many reasons and that crying is a normal part of infancy. However, the stress and anxiety that parents experience in response to frequent or constant crying can be considerable.
The sound is perceived as an alarm, and it is very frustrating not to be able to figure out what's wrong and soothe the baby. Parents, especially first-time parents, begin to question their ability to cope if the child frequently cannot be comforted.
WHY INFANTS CRY
At times, infants cry for no apparent reason. In general, though, crying is a response to something. It is sometimes difficult to figure out what is bothering the infant at the time. Some possible reasons include:
Crying is probably part of the normal development of the central nervous system. Many parents say they can hear a difference in tone between a cry for feeding and a cry caused by pain.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A BABY IS CRYING
When you are not sure why your baby is crying, try eliminating the sources that you can address:
Here are a few ways to soothe a crying baby:
If the crying continues for longer than usual and your baby is not consoled by any of the methods listed above, call a health care provider for advice.
Try to get enough rest. Exhausted parents are less able to care for their baby. Use the resources of family, friends, or outside caregivers to allow yourself time to recover your energy. This will also be helpful for your baby. It does not mean that you are a bad parent or are abandoning your child.
For most of human history, people raised their children with the aid of extended families, so there was less pressure on the parents than there is now. A baby's grandparents may be very helpful. Don't worry that they won't do everything the way you would. As long as they are taking safety precautions and comforting the baby when necessary, you may be sure that your child is well cared for during your break.
Call your health care provider immediately if your baby's crying is associated with any significant symptoms, such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, breathing difficulty, or other signs of illness.
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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