Babies, like all of us, have needs and wants. However, they are unable to communicate these in manner that older children and adults do. Thus, they use their most basic, yet effective, means of communicating their wishes – crying. Infants need to eat, sleep, be kept comfortable and healthy.
In addition to these, they require attention as well as affection and have emotions like anyone else. In order to understand an infant’s crying, parents and caregivers must first know the reasons why these precious beings cry and the differences in crying for different purposes.
Decoding the signals
Babies are individuals. Something that upsets one child may not bother another, but all at some point will cry for one reason or the other. It’s crucial that parents take time to pay attention to their babies, because in doing so they’ll be quicker able to identify and understand why their infants cry.
Changes in a baby’s mood, although difficult to detect at times, can be used to preemptively avoid crying spells. For instance, an infant may be like clockwork with his or her daily nap and feeding routine, allowing parents to ‘prepare’ in advance.
Children who follow biological routines may become easily upset if there is a sudden change to their schedule or environment. While at first, to the untrained ear, all cries may sound the same, parents soon begin to notice subtle differences in their children’s cries. A hungry child may cry differently compared to a child who is sleepy or in pain. Differences in cry may be noted based on pitch, level, intensity, and duration of the cry.
It is rather difficult to decode the cries of very young infants, because these cries may overlap. However, those infants who are older may show subtle, yet distinct differences. A hungry child may have a cry that is low-pitched and rather short, which oscillates up and down.
Infants who want to be left alone, perhaps due to overstimulation, may also have a similar cry to the hunger cry. In contrast, babies who are in distress, pain, or are ill, may have a high-pitch and long cry that contains a pause and flattening wail at the end. Turbulent cries, on the other hand, may denote anger.
Responding to a crying baby
It goes without saying that the reason for causing the child’s crying must be dealt with in order for that child to stop crying. A hungry child should be fed, while one with a soiled or wet diaper should have it changed. Taking care of an infant’s needs will no doubt soothe him or her.
By paying attention and trying to pinpoint differences in their babies’ cries, parents will be able to quicker address their infants’ needs. It’s normal that parents may feel helpless when they are unable to decipher what is wrong with their children. In cases where babies are fed, comfortable, and healthy, it’s ok to let them cry, as it is well known that this may help them to fall asleep.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc