Why do babies cry?

Why do babies cry?

By Nicole Roehrig, MSN, RN
Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist

Did you know that all babies cry? Some will cry more than others, but parents and caregivers need to have a plan for what to do if the crying becomes too frustrating. On April 19th, Swedish is implementing a new program called The Period of PURPLE Crying to teach families about a normal, developmental phase of increased crying that all babies go through.

“Purple” in The Period of PURPLE Crying stands for:

Peak of crying: babies may cry more each week, peaking around 2 months, and ending around 3-5 months

Unexpected: crying can come and go, and you may not know why

Resists soothing: babies may cry no matter what you do

Pain-like face: babies may look like they’re in pain, even if they’re not

Long lasting: crying can last up to five hours a day or more

Evening: babies may cry more later in the afternoon or evening

Healthy babies can cry from 20 minutes a day to 5 hours a day, and this can be very frustrating, but the good news is that it does end! When your baby cries, check to see if they are hungry, tired, or need changing. If that doesn’t work, it is important to continue to try soothing and comforting techniques such as walking, singing, warm bath, skin to skin contact, soothing sounds, or a car ride.

These interventions may work to calm your baby some of the time, but not always which may make you feel upset or angry. These feelings are normal, but remember to take a break, put your baby in a safe place and walk away for a few minutes to calm yourself down before trying again. Never shake or hurt your baby.

Crying is the number one reason parents or caregivers shake their babies and this can happen when they become so frustrated and angry. Shaking can cause serious, lifelong problems such as seizures, blindness, learning and physical disabilities, and in severe cases even death.

Be sure to tell everyone who will care for your baby about this period of increased crying. Tell them that crying is normal and this can cause frustration. But, also tell them about the dangers of shaking a baby and that it is OK to put the baby in a safe place and take a break. Remember to ask your nurse and healthcare provider about more information at your next hospital or clinic visit.

What are your tips for coping with crying? Share your tips and experiences below.

Comments
Robin
The best advice I got from my own mom was to remind yourself that "this too shall pass". Each phase of your childs life is something to be cherished and enjoyed. Even though sometimes the "enjoyment" comes much later in the future when you look back and reflect on all the good (and not-as-good times).

My babies are 25 and 27 and sometimes I wish I could have them back for an hour or so like they were when they were newborns. I guess that is what Grandchildren are for - I look forward to hearing them cry, and then I can pass on the advice my mom gave to me.

I applaud the work you are doing here - education and support is so important.
4/22/2011 11:13:35 AM
Sheila
One good piece of advice I was given early on is to remember that babies cry in order to communicate with us. Babies don't cry because they are being bratty; there is usually an explainable reason why they are crying. Some of these reasons may be subtle, but you should never act out in anger or frustration toward a baby. Walking away and taking a break is excellent advice!
4/20/2011 6:11:25 PM
Alysia
I never knew that babies could get acid reflux, but I learned the hard way that they can. My daughter cried every night from 10 pm to around 2 pm. We were exhausted and frustrated. One day I just gave her over to my mom and sat in some church parking lot and cried for an hour. I was wondering why I had kids at all. I wondered if this was what parenting was supposed to be like. My lifelong dream of being a parent was shattered because I hated it. A ray of sunshine FINALLY. So we figured out that Isabel couldn't drink the milk formula and switcher her to soy. We also figured out that she had acid reflux. She was put on Ranitadine and HALLELUJAH the crying stopped and she became a happy little baby. Some crying is not normal and it's best to check with your doctor when you feel like something is wrong. Trust your instincts because most of the time, mother really does know best. Goodluck and it really does get better.
4/20/2011 7:09:31 AM
Jennifer Wojciechowski
Thank you, Nicole, for bringing to light the very important topic of infant cying and how it unfortunatly may lead to cases of Abusive Head Trauma /Shaken Baby Syndrome.

New parents need to understand how vitally important it is for them to not shake the baby, even if they get very frustrated. Babies do cry and there are lots of different soothing techniques that may help like walking, white noise, and swaddling.

However, I would like to caution parents about using car rides as a soothing technique. Although there has not been a formal study on this scenario, there are other studies that we can draw from. We know that driving while exhausted is dangerous, and that nearly 90% of car seats are not used/installed properly. It is also recommended for babies to sleep on a flat, firm surface in regards to SIDS risk reduction, instead of sleeping for long periods of time in their car seat.

Along with the other soothing techniques you've mentioned, they might also try calling the Swedish New Parent Line (206)386-MOMS (6667) or the Parent Trust of Washington Family Help Line (800)932-HOPE (4673).

Thank you, again, and keep up the great work!
4/18/2011 1:45:21 PM
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