What Does It Mean When Baby Cries?
Babies cry. All babies cry.
For lack of any better form of communication, a baby's crying is used to express a need - be it physical or emotional. Depending on the type of crying involved, your baby may be expressing a routine desire, such as hunger or fatigue, or may be indicating a need for more serious attention.
Above all else, it's important for parents to recognize an abrupt shift in their child's crying. If the crying suddenly becomes piercing or jagged, you may need to seek urgent medical attention. Experts strongly encourage parents to listen to the rhythm of baby's crying and make sure it remains more or less "normal."
How and Why Everyone Cries
The formation of tears is an intricate and multi-purpose physical process. Of course, crying is sometimes the body's defense against threats to the eyes such as pollen, dirt particles, or injury. The more emotionally-oriented form of crying, or weeping, comes as either an emotional or physical response to outside forces, or what doctors call stimuli.
The emotional crying process begins when a jolt to the brain's limbic system (the part of the mind which controls emotion and motivation) provokes a response in the brain's hypothalamus, which has a certain amount of control over the lacrimal glands, which help produce tears. Spurred by a surge in activity caused by stimuli, the limbic system encourages the formation of tears until such time as it again becomes calm.
Seen as the brain's response to emotional shock, tears can be seen as healthy, even vital for good emotional health.
Crying in Small Children
For toddlers and small children, who are often experiencing new situations and challenges for the first time, crying becomes a way to deal with "sensory overload"- too much information or stimuli for their young minds to process all at once. Surprise is also a common cause of crying in the very young. As babies and children depend on structure and routine to feel secure, the unexpected event - such as a fall or bump against an ordinary object, or other accidental injury - often threatens their sense of security. True to the mind's processes, tears almost inevitably result.
Crying In Infants and Babies
As said before, babies cry as a means of expressing an urgent need. One of the most common needs, of course, is hunger. Another instance, though with more controversy over its meaning, is when babies are laid down to sleep. Recent research suggests that crying is perfectly natural when a child is put to bed. As children crave the comfort and feeling of security given by close proximity to their parents, being separated from that security provokes the crying emotional response.
Some studies have even shown that babies that sleep next to the their parents (a practice known as co-sleeping) show a significantly lower chance of falling victim to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Babies and Colic
Persistent crying or long bouts where the baby is seemingly past the point of comforting by bouncing or soothing are traditionally known as colic. Colic may be caused by any one of a number of minor pains, including gassy indigestion from such vegetables as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and garlic. Colic can also result if the baby is allergic to glutton or something else in its diet.
The number one cause of colic, however, is a simple allergy to cow's milk proteins found in the formula of the breastfeeding mother. This is a different condition than lactose intolerance, however, which is almost never found in small children or babies. Constipation, lack of adequate sleep, and diarrhea are also very common causes.
Getting Baby Past the Crying
No parent is perfect, and sometimes the urge to simply shush the baby may be overwhelming. For more than a century, parents have been encouraged to control their infant and small child's outbursts with discipline or mollifying. However, recent evidence suggests that preempting or ending a baby or child's crying fits may, if done consistently, cause severe emotional and psychological damage.
Though it may sound too much of a relief to be true, modern analyses point towards gently nurturing and comforting your baby through his or her crying fits. Lightly bouncing, embracing, and whispering, "ssh, ssh" in a non-threatening voice all work to provide the baby with the craved sympathy without risk of damage to the psyche. Verbal commands, such as "you're okay" and "it's all right" actually have a somewhat negative impact, as they may communicate disbelief to the child. Instead, the light "ssh" noise works to give support, and may even reflect the comforting sounds of the womb.