Parenting Advice: Understanding and Comforting a Crying Baby

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Babies cry, not because they are unhappy, but because they are not content and they want something done about it. It's not surprising. Babies have limited communications skills, but they quickly learn to use crying quite effectively. It's up to the parent to determine what source of discontent is causing the crying. Are the clothes not right? Is the baby hungry? Or, does your baby need a nap?

Understanding is Important

When I had my first baby, my extended family was eager to offer child rearing advice of all sorts. One piece of advice that I never followed was to let the baby cry more. The suggestion was that by responding to the crying too quickly, I was encouraging the behavior, and the crying demands would become more frequent.

There is a modicum of truth implied by that advice. When children reach an age where they can speak and communicate their feelings well, crying may become a tool for manipulating parents. When this is the case, letting the child cry, otherwise known as a tantrum, makes sense. However, when babies can communicate only by crying, the crying is evidence of a need that the parent must try to satisfy.

Knowing the Causes and Comforting Them is Key

Hunger is a common crying trigger. Dirty diapers are often a cause. Being overtired brings on crying and general crankiness. Babies who are crying for any of these practical reasons are usually easy to please. Correct the situation with a bottle of formula, a diaper change, and a nap; perhaps all three. The most difficult type of crying to recognize and respond to is that caused by physical discomfort, illness, loneliness or fear.

In many ways, babies are simply miniature versions of their parents as far a human behavior is concerned. Put yourself in the baby's place for a moment. If your clothes are dry, you've had a nice meal, and a nap, you're probably ready to seek out some sort of stimulation to add interest to your day. Babies are the same.

I can recall many mornings, or the times immediately after a nap. The baby would wake up, content at having been fed, happy to be in dry clothes, and comfortable with a full tummy. For a time, perhaps thirty minutes or so, I could hear the baby cooing as he enjoyed the colorful dancing of his crib's mobile. At the end of the thirty minutes, however, the short attention getting cries would begin, followed soon by loud crying, followed by angry bellowing. The baby had become bored and was demanding participation in the family's social life. The solution was usually simple; pick up the baby and give it some loving attention.

Usually, as described above, crying from a well-fed, rested, and recently changed baby requires only parental attention and affection. There are times, however, when even parental attention is not enough, and the baby continues to cry and exhibit discomfort. This could be a problem with gas, which is not uncommon. Hold the baby upright against your chest and rub his back to help move the gas to where it can be expelled. Sometimes a warm bath helps to move the gas and sooth the baby. When the traditional home remedies don't seem to work, call your pediatrician.

There is one final cause for babies' crying that is worth discussing, and that is fear. Babies can have fearful experiences that would not be perceived a frightening by the average parent.

Babies cry to communicate, and they do so for many reasons: physical discomfort, hunger, boredom, and fear, all of which can be managed by a watchful, aware, and loving parent.

What is your best parenting advice when it comes to a crying baby?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Amy Brown, a stay-at-home mom, is an editor of Livesnet, a site offering baby gear reviews and parenting tips. Please visit Livesnet and read recent hot articles on the First Years Wave Stroller and best convertible car seat 2011.

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