Monday, July 13, 2009

5 tips for figuring out why your baby is crying.

Babies cry. They cry and cry and cry. Sometimes you know why they are crying, like when they are hungry, tired, lonely and when they have gas, and sometimes there is no obvious reason for all the hollerin'. After you have been a parent for a few months, you will get much better at deciphering your little megaphone's yelps, but there will still be times when the underlying cause remains a mystery. Here are a few lesser-known reasons why your baby might be crying, and some tips on what might help.

1. Cramping.
Your little china doll's insides are delicate. Every time gas or solids move through her bowels during the first few months it is quite a workout. Gas stretches tissue, solids require her abdominal muscles to continually contract and release, to move things along. The discomfort that your baby experiences feels something like a cross between how you feel after doing 50 crunches, and how a woman feels while having her period each month. Some babies are more sensitive to this type of pain than others, but if your sweet little cherry blossom is crying and you are not sure why this could be the reason. Now don't go rushing off for the Ibuprofen just yet, medicating your baby is tricky, and should only be done under the direction of a pediatrician. Instead try some homeopathic remedies first, like a warm towel, gentle clockwise abdominal baby massage and lavender or rosemary aromatherapy oils (just a drop or two on a favorite blanket will be sufficient), though be sure these oils are aromatherapy grade and do not contain any chemicals such as turpentine.

2. Motion sickness.
Just as your little snugglicious huggy monster is getting used to the world as a solid object, something happens that turns everything on it's head. Whether that is a bumpy stroller ride, a weaving car ride, or even being tossed into the air by a fun-loving daddy, sudden motion can sometimes trigger a panicked screaming fit from your baby that you have never experienced before. This type of crying can be very hard to soothe, but the solution is really quite simple. Bouncing. Yes, motion sickness can be cured by more motion. I am not entirely sure of the reasons this works (a pediatrician once talked to me about small "pebbles" in your baby's ear canal, that are not secured yet because they are so young, which somehow become dislodged from time to time and which can be relocated to their position of origin by bouncing your baby up and down while holding him upright against your chest) but the fact remains that a baby who is screaming for no reason can sometimes be greatly soothed by being held close to you while you jump straight up and down, or sit on an exercise ball and bounce. The calming should be obvious within a minute or two of bouncing if this is the reason your baby is crying.

3. Over-stimulation.
People talk a lot about over-stimulation when it comes to babies, but what does it mean, and what can you do if this is causing your baby to cry? First of all it should be remembered that stimulation is great. It is how your baby learns about the world around her. Everything around your baby is stimulating in the beginning, from the feel of her blanket, to the sound of the clock ticking, to the subtle currents of air that circulate over her sensitive skin. Your baby files the information she gathers from stimulation away while she is sleeping, and as she processes different types of stimuli, she files them away in her mind for future reference. This makes the most common types of stimulation not as demanding of her attention as she gets older. Often large amounts of stimulation will lead to a very sleepy baby who dozes off in order to process it all. However, when so much stimulation is coming in that it disrupts your baby's ability to relax and go to sleep, there can be a build-up of stimulation that still needs to be processed. This build-up is basically what over-stimulation is. At this point if you try to bounce your baby, sing to your baby, or take your baby on a walk, chances are that it will only make her more unhappy. Strangely enough the counter intuitive solution for over stimulation is noise. Not just any noise, a loud and unvaried noise that can block out all others just long enough for your baby to relax and go to sleep. I recommend a hair-dryer, a vacuum cleaner or best of all, a loud fan. Combined with a dark room and familiar scents, this form of soothing can really save a baby (and her parents) a lot of grief.

4. Fear.
In the beginning everything in this world is unfamiliar to your little wide-eyed blankie bug. But as time goes by, there are certain sights, sounds and smells that your baby learns to associate with safety. For some babies some of these things are more important than others. If as soon as your baby's great aunt who prefers a very pungent type of perfume picks him up he starts to scream like someone is pulling his hair out, it is most likely a case of unfamiliarity. This type of fear can be triggered by many things. Sometimes it is a new sound (remember that your baby's hearing is much better than yours. Since he is sensitive enough to perceive very high frequencies even turning on and off of a light bulb is something he can hear.), unfamiliar facial features, an uncomfortable texture of a new blanket or the absence of a familiar smell which could happen simply from changing your bathroom hand soap. Don't worry though, as soon as your baby is surrounded by familiar smells, motions and imagery he will calm down. Try not to be discouraged, give your baby a second or third try at the cause of his distress after a nap or two. Chances are that after one or two exposures he will overcome his fears and go to his great aunt without a fuss.

5. Charley-horse.
A charley-horse or a small muscle spasm, can cause your baby a sudden rush of pain, which could last anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes. To figure out if your baby is crying because of a charley-horse, gently squeeze her legs feeling for tight balled-up muscle bunches. You should also check your baby's arms and neck, because some times charley-horses can happen there as well. If you find the tightly knotted muscle, place a warm towel over the muscle and massage the area around it softly with your finger tips. Then very gently try to stretch the muscle as if your baby was preparing for a run. Charley horses can be caused by several things, too much exercise (was your baby in the jumper too long today?), injury (sometimes your baby's body can interpret things like getting a shot at the pediatrician's as an injury), dehydration (was it too hot out today?) and a low supply of calcium or potassium (have you been taking your multi-vitamin if you are breastfeeding?). Most of the time charley-horses are isolated incidents, however, if you find that your baby is having these muscle spasms on a regular basis, or more than once every couple of months, be sure to bring it up with your pediatrician.

The sun shines, rain falls and babies cry. Try as we might, we parents will never be able to eliminate all of the reasons our babies cry, but it doesn't hurt to know a few more things to look for and a couple more ways to make it better. Add these possible causes for crying to your list, and you will be just that much better prepared the next time your baby cries and you don't know why. If you have found these tips helpful please pass them on to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!

By: Naomi Tripi

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