Several generations ago, people believed that babies cried for no reason, and that responding to a baby’s cries would spoil the baby. Now we know that babies cry to communicate needs to us. There’s always a reason for the crying, but uncovering the reason can prove challenging, particularly for a new, overworked or under-rested parent. If you’re interested in learning how to be more responsive to your baby when she or he is crying, here’s what you need to know:
Baby Cries: Boredom
Babies rely on adults to get them everything they need, and life without being able to walk, pick things up or even roll over means a tendency toward boredom. Babies may cry when they need attention, stimulation or something new to look at. These cries are typically understated cries. Most often, a bored baby will simply fuss or whimper inconsistently. Your baby may smile, then fuss, then smile and fuss some more. If your baby is doing this, pick her or him up, talk to your baby, show things to your baby or provide her or him with a change of scenery.
Baby Cries: Hunger
Hunger is perhaps the easiest cry to decipher in babies because it is very consistent. A hungry baby will start out by fussing with some regularity (rather than fussing and then smiling or fussing and then stopping), escalate to full-on crying, and then begin screaming if her needs aren’t met. If your baby’s crying has been slowly getting worse, odds are good she is hungry.
Baby Cries: Pain
Babies cry as a result of two different kinds of pain: sudden pain, like having a finger slammed in a door, and pain from illness like gas or a sinus infection. A baby who suddenly begins screaming is a baby who is suddenly experiencing discomfort. Pain cries as a result of gas or illness may start out more slowly, but quickly escalate to full on screaming. These cries can be stopped momentarily with distractions, but after the baby stops crying she or he is likely to go back to full screaming rather than just whimpering or fussing. If your baby is screaming out of nowhere, or goes quickly from being calm to screaming, you can bet something is hurting.
Baby Cries: Sleepiness
When babies cry as a result of exhaustion, the cries often start out similar to a boredom cry, with fussiness interspersed with a cheery mood. Babies who are sleepy, however, quickly graduate to full crying. While babies who are tired may scream, the screaming is inconsistent. If your baby is alternating between crying and screaming, with brief pauses in between the two, your baby is likely tired.
Dunstan Baby Language
The Dunstan Method has recently gained popularity as a way to understand baby’s cries. I’m skeptical of this method for a couple of reasons. First of all, though babies may make similar sounds across cultures, the sounds an individual baby makes are heavily influenced by the language he or she hears, even at a very young age. Dunstan, however, claims that with very young babies her method may work quite well. I think this is more plausible as long as we keep in mind that the method only works with very young babies who have not had much exposure to language and other social conditions. If you’re interested in trying the Dunstan method, here are the sounds babies make and their meanings:
-Neh: “I’m hungry”
– Owh: “I’m tired”
– Eair: “I have gas”
-Heh: “I’m hurt”
-Eh: “I need to burp”
Deciphering your baby’s cries can be a difficult task at first, but listening carefully to your baby when he or she cries , in conjunction with responding effectively to those cries, will make communication with one another an easier task. It may also mean more peaceful nights and less stressful days!
“The Secret Language of Babies~Understanding the Cries of Babies 0-3 Months Old,” WordPress.
“Understanding Babies’ Cries,” LuckyMom.com.