The crying infant

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

READING a good number of ethnographies about the different cultures worldwide made me see a wider perspective about childrearing practices.

But diverse it might be, there are common themes that emerge regardless of cultural background.

Perhaps, one of the most problematic areas in caring for a baby or infant is how to comfort his or her cry.


It is a common knowledge to us all that crying is the baby’s main form of communication, thus, their crying carry a different meaning compared to older children.

But one must bear in mind not to reduce crying to pain or the feeling of sadness as far as the infant is concerned.

Instead, it is rather rewarding to think that as the infant grows older, crying becomes less and parents are therefore less worrisome.

While most of the causes of crying can be readily explained -- the baby is hungry, sick or wet -- a lot of fretting queries about it cannot.

Here are some helpful questions I’ve gathered from different sources in sorting out infant’s crying.

1. Is the baby hungry?

Regular feeding of your baby establishes a certain pattern recognizable both to the baby and caregiver.

However, studies have shown that there are babies who do not seem to develop this pattern of feeding despite attempts of the caregiver or mother to feed the baby regularly.

One reason maybe that the baby was not full during her last feeding.

But if the baby cries two hours after a full feeding, experts warn that it is unlikely that the cause of crying is hunger. It could be something else worth assessing.

2. Does the baby crave to suck?

This is actually a Western practice of providing comfort to the crying infant.

And this is well-rooted in the famed pediatrician-turned-psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud who had theorized that the most pleasurable anatomical spot for infants is in their mouth.

Therefore, sucking on something, whether or not they get milk in return can be comforting for them.

However, many mothers, especially in the Philippines do not readily turn to this Western remedy probably due to misconceptions and the controversy brought about by the “pacifier scam” in Cebu.

3. Is it feeding problems?

The baby may encounter feeding problems that are due to poor positioning (if breastfeeding) especially if the infant has cleft or lip palate or conditions such as “colic” or “teething.”

Another fact may be that the baby has been waking up earlier than the usual time.

It only follows that he or she gets hungry earlier as well than what has been set in her feeding pattern.

4. Does the baby need to be held?

Most experts would share that young babies need to feel the physical sensations of being held and rocked in order to calm down.

Other infants find comforts over being swaddled, wrapped up snugly in a blanket as it re-creates the feeling of being inside the womb.

5. Does the diaper need changing?

Some babies are not as fastidious as their caregiver in terms of diaper hygiene but being soiled or wet does create a sense of discomfort that even infants are so concerned about.

If the diaper is dry, try checking the feet or legs for hair or thread wrapped around that may have caused the baby to cry.

6. Is it indigestion?

Statistics have shown that this problem is more common among bottle-fed babies than they are for the breastfed.

However, if it happens for the bottle-fed, it is rather wise to consult your doctor who may suggest a certain formula that the baby’s young stomach may tolerate.

Medical professionals may also rule out allergy for certain milk formulas.

On the other hand, for the breastfed baby, the mother may want to cut down on caffeine or certain food supplements that may affect breast milk.

Although generally speaking, breast milk does not cause allergy to the baby under normal circumstances.

Likewise, breast milk is more easily digested by the baby than any milk formula substitutes.

7. Is it heartburn?

Medically speaking, heartburn in infants is called “gastroesophageal reflex disease” or GERD.

It happens when the infant spits up milk a lot more often that it irritates the esophagus (the milk coming from the stomach has already mixed with hydrochloric acid) babies suffering from GERD may cry as soon as after feeding.

Burping alone usually does not relieve the symptoms and a prompt visit to the pediatrician may help give you professional advice to its management.

8. Is the baby sick?

Babies cry when they are unwell. Initial signs usually appear as irritability, running nose, cough or loose bowel.

If the baby looks different than his or her general appearance, behavior or color, you must take her temperature and contact the doctor immediately.

9. Is the baby fatigued?

Some babies cannot drift to sleep easily compared to other babies.

These types of babies, in the long run, develop fatigue that is expressed through crying frantically and loudly.

Another cause of fatigue among babies is being with strangers or new nannies. New environment can also cause fatigue.

Experts suggest that a gentle motion as being pushed back and forth in a rocking bassinet, or held in the arms may be all that is needed.

Another suggestion by experts which is true among babies who have been very tired is to put the baby on bed or crib to cry alone for a few minutes for him or her to settle down may also be done.

10. Is the baby spoiled?

Perhaps this is among the century-old misconception that I have ever come across with in my ethnographic readings.

Although behavioral experts claim that “spoiling” is a possibility among older babies, it may not hold true for the infant.

The fact is, something is bothering him or her. And the caregiver must find out what it is.


Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 26, 2014.


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