Crying. We all have to work through it. At first, it all sounds the same. It can be for a few moments or an eternity. It can grate and irritate. For me, my daughter can find a particular pitch and tone that literally rings in my ear. Then, there is just the shear volume: both frequency and intensity.
So why do babies cry? It is not manipulation. A baby is crying because something stresses him or her. Fortunately, there is a short list of things that cause that physical, emotional, or mental discomfort:
- A soiled or wet diaper
- Physical discomfort
- Being too hot or too cold (a rule of thumb: infants should wear one more layer than you)
- Gas (needing to burp or flatulate)
- Acid reflux (from a developing esophagus)
- Laying on something (a car seat’s or bouncy seat’s buckle)
- Emotionally overwhelmed
- Fear or feeling alone
- Physical pain (something is wrong)
The challenge is to stay calm, walk through the list and find what ails your child. This is easy if caught early for it may rapidly change from squirming to crying before becoming a raw full-throated scream. It may be obvious: the poop that squeezed out the back of the diaper but other times it is less so. Just be calm and patient. A fussy child is not a sign you are failing as a father; it is nature taking its course as you and your child learn to communicate.
Sometimes just the growing pains, the mental exhaustion and the body’s efforts to normalize to its new environment can be overwhelming and there is little you can do to comfort other than be there. Your child has literally reached the end of his or her ability to cope. Now is the time to soothe just as you do your wife when she reaches the same point. (Sometimes at about the same time!) Just If you have ever traveled abroad and been overwhelmed and drained at day’s end, I can only imagine it is greatly amplified for an infant who does not speak the local language! Know that your calm presence is making a difference.
Special Note: If your baby cries inconsolably, incessantly for more than two hours, contact a medical professional. What ails your child may be beyond your reasonable ability to address. There is no shame in that as you do what you can and honor your limits. This is not about ego; it is about your baby’s health.