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What Does Your Baby’s Cry Mean?

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

Please stop crying!

Babies cry for many different reasons, but quite often we, as their parents, have just a few responses to their cries. In the early days this is okay, but as they grow, this can lead to us misunderstanding and misinterpreting their cries causing them to cry for longer.

Parents’ Typical Responses:

  1. “My baby needs something!” This leads to a quick analysis of whether your baby is hungry, tired, in pain or has a dirty nappy. These are all relatively easy to resolve once you get the right answer.

  2. “Please stop crying!” This is a strong emotional feeling which can trigger sadness, fear, anxiety or panic leading to feeling physically sick. The desperate need to stop the crying and make your baby happy again, leads to bouncing, rocking, jiggling, pacing, singing, “boobing”, slinging, driving laps of the M25, walking round the block repeatedly at midnight etc.

  3. Feed, feed, feed.

What very few parents seem to register is that their baby’s crying is their only way of communicating. Their babies are trying to say something to them but more often than not, parents respond by trying to stop the crying before establishing what the problem is… A bit like going to see your GP and him handing you a prescription before you’ve had a chance to tell him your symptoms. The drugs may help, but the chances are they won’t and you will be back to the GP again soon, complaining again, and possibly shouting loudly to be heard.

Instead of trying to stop a baby crying by jiggling, bouncing, rocking and distracting them, a better option is to “stop, look, listen, think”! (Yes, I grew up in the 80’s.)

  1. Hold your baby or move close to them

  2. Look them in the eye for a moment if you can

  3. Watch how they move

  4. Listen to the tone, rhythm and volume of their cry

  5. Think about what could be wrong

  6. Try to resolve the problem

By following this simple sequence, you will have a better chance of working out what is wrong with your baby and you will learn to read and understand them better than if you go into stop-the-crying mode. Babies are not always hungry, tired or dirty. Sometimes they are just bored or in need of a shout or a cuddle.

Your baby won’t be damaged in any way by crying like this. It is actually more healthy to allow them to cry and express their emotions than it is to force them to suppress them by encouraging them to laugh and smile when they are feeling sad.

If you ALLOW your baby to cry, whilst you cuddle and support them, they will cry far less after a day or so. And as they get older, they will use words more than tantrums. You will feel happier. You will be a more relaxed parent. It may seem difficult in the beginning, but once you’ve done it for a day, you will realise that you are responding to your baby in a far more positive way and you will feel more connected to them.

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