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Which type of crying should be considered irregular?


  • Every time you finish feeding milk to your baby, you should hold them to your shoulder and rub their back to help them pass wind. This will make them feel more comfortable and prevent against flatulence.
  • In cases where the baby is experiencing stomach cramps, passing blood, has a lump that can be felt on their stomach or is vomiting up their milk frequently, seek medical attention.
  • It has been found that a baby’s temperament is affected by their genes and the environmental factors they experienced while in the womb.


Understanding Newborns’ Cries

Generally, newborn babies tend not to cry much within the first 2 weeks of their lives. After this early period, however, they will begin to cry more for attention, often without any clear reason. This can lead to parents and caregivers becoming anxious, which is a completely natural reaction. When an infant is between 6-8 weeks old, they will cry for around 3 hours a day on average. After this, between 10-12 weeks, their crying will decrease to around an hour a day on average, with this form of crying having no direct negative effects on their health or development. This type of crying is referred to as ‘colic’.

The crying of a newborn may cause some parents and caregivers to become concerned about how to find a solution to their child’s problem as the child is unable to vocalize the issue or let their parents know what they want. Let’s take a look at some reasons why your baby may be crying and some of the methods you can use to help.

Causes of crying and methods for comforting your baby

  • Crying out in hunger
    This is the first thing that mothers usually think of when they hear their baby cry as the child is dependent on his/her mother for milk. Mother’s milk is easily digestible which means that a child will feel hungry quite often. Mothers should aim to feed their child every 2–3 hours while carefully observing their child post-feed to see if their crying stops. If it does stop, they can conclude that their child was indeed crying in hunger.
  • Crying because of illness
    This type of crying has numerous causes, such as:
    Stomachaches are  a common complaint due to a baby’s digestive system not being fully developed which can lead to flatulence. Therefore, each time you feed your baby, it is important that you hold the baby over your shoulder and rub their back gently to encourage them to burp. This way the baby will feel more comfortable as its flatulence is relieved. Cases where the newborn is screaming uncontrollably due to stomach cramps, passing blood in their stools, or a lump in their belly,could be an indicator that they are suffering from intussusception. 

Alternatively, if they are suffering from any of the following symptoms, they should be given medical attention as soon as possible:

  • Vomiting up milk frequently or projectile vomiting is something that should be checked by a doctor.
  • Ear ache as a result of swelling in the ear requires medical attention to find the cause of the inflammation and provide subsequent treatment for the condition.
  • Ant or other insect bites should be checked by taking off the infant’s clothes and inspecting the bitten area to see if there is any insect bite reaction.
  • A damp or soiled nappy is a possibility. Each time your baby is crying, check their nappy to see if it is damp or soiled as this could cause them to feel uncomfortable.
  • Feeling tired, fatigued and sleepy may be the cause.  Some babies will not fall asleep easily because their surroundings may not be conducive to sleep. The more tired they become in these situations, the sleepier they will get and as a result cry to show their discomfort.
  • Symptoms of fever may display themselves if the baby is unwell. Observe the child’s temperature carefully and if they are found to have a temperature consistent with a fever. For newborns under a month old, a temperature over 37.5 degrees Celsius constitutes a fever, whereas for babies over one month, a fever would be a temperature over 37.8 degrees Celsius. Also check if they are displaying other symptoms, such as looking despondent, experiencing a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and a runny nose, they should be taken to see a doctor.

Environmental factors and baby’s temperament also impacts’ the child’s crying

Environmental factors such as hot weather, being held too tightly or a lack of access to fresh air can also cause the child’s body temperature to rise.

In addition, each child has his/her own temperament, and this is of huge importance to how their mood is affected, as well as how likely they are to cry out. It has been found that a baby’s temperament is affected by their genes and the environmental factors they experienced while in the womb. Temperaments are categorized into 4 main groups as follows:

  • The easy group: This is the most common group, with up to 40% of newborns falling into this category. Members of this group usually eat well, sleep well, can adjust to new surroundings easily and are therefore easy to care for.
  • The difficult group: 10% of newborns fall into this category. These infants respond badly to changes in their surroundings. They cry a lot, are easily frustrated and find it hard to adjust. Parents of this group of infants must therefore be extremely patient and accepting of their child’s temperament, as well as make sure they do their best to respond appropriately to their child’s needs.
  • The slow to warm up group: Up to 15% of newborns will be slow to warm up. This is a temperament categorized by a child’s susceptibility to stress, inability to adapt and general shyness. Parents must therefore try to understand their child’s needs and give them time to adapt to new things so that this temperament does not affect their future development.
  • The average or mixed temperament group: 35% of newborns fall into this category.

A difficult temperament is another reason which could lead to a baby crying more than usual. Parents of these children must therefore show patience and an understanding of their child’s specific needs as this will help the baby develop and adapt more quickly thereafter.

Ways to help your baby when they are crying

  1. Carefully observe your child’s behavior and temperament type so that you can respond appropriately to their needs. Parents should be especially responsive to the needs of a newborn within the first 6 months of life as this will help build a strong bond of trust between the child and their parents. The child will therefore gain a strong belief that their parents are capable of solving any issue and dealing with any problem that arises. Holding and cuddling your baby throughout the day can help to reduce their crying.
  2. Construct a comfortable environment for your baby when you are giving them care. They may also want to find an experienced caregiver to help take care of the newborn, too. All caregivers should take turns to hold the baby and offer them comfort. You may also want to play soft, soothing music when the baby is crying a lot. If they begin to sweat, wipe them down with a cool cloth or bathe them to keep them feeling fresh.
  3. Parents may need to adapt as well. It is important to remain calm, try not to feel anxious and understand that a crying baby is completely natural.

If your baby displays any irregular symptoms, it is important that you take them to see a doctor as soon as possible. Such symptoms include diarrhea, passing blood in their stools, projectile vomiting, a fever, looking despondent and/or a loss of appetite.


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Tanisa Kwanbunbumpen, M.D. Summary: Pediatrics Pediatric Nutrition