Babies are tough to understand, and yet pretty easy to figure out at the same time.
Let us explain this contradiction. First of all, there is, of course, the major barrier to understanding: the fact that babies don’t learn to talk until, say, about six or so months. And even then they've only just said their first word. Given their limited vocabulary, it can be tough for them to say exactly what they mean, something which would make the whole ordeal of dealing with a crying baby much less complicated.
But then again, there’s only a relatively small pool of things that a crying baby is asking for. And, within that pool, about 90% of the time, the little one is communicating the same basic stuff: “I’m hungry,” “My butt is wet,” “I feel uncomfortable or in pain” and “I don’t know why I’m crying but I just feel like it.”
Thankfully, babies don't cry about things like “You made an embarrassing comment about me the other day and it’s affecting my self-esteem,” or “This Halloween costume looks atrocious and the colors clash. Please me get out of it.” Because if that happened, decoding her cries would require far more than parents’ intuition.
Despite the fact that this does make parenting remarkably simpler, there are quite a few things that parents do that puts the baby’s diapers in a bunch. And we’re not talking about run-of-the-mill baby crying. We’re talking about the little one really being in distress.
15 Feeling Ignored
Let’s start with the obvious: when parents ignore their baby’s crying, the little one will fall more and more into distress. Of course, it’s important to recognize that sometimes the “ignore her until she falls asleep” method does work and can be a good parenting strategy when necessary. However, there are some cases in which the baby legitimately does need something. And at that age, she simply does not understand why she is not getting what she’s asking for.
While this might not do much harm, if it only happens occasionally and purposefully, in the long term it can be damaging. This is especially if the little one learns that her cries are not important and, therefore, not an effective means of communication. She might learn to hide her emotions and, worse, be unsympathetic to the needs of others when she grows up. So if the little one might need something, best get out of bed and address it.
14 Being Bundled Way Too Tight
Some parents, or another of the baby’s caregivers, might occasionally put the baby’s clothes or the diaper on too tight. Sure, baby’s clothes are generally designed to be relatively loose. But it's still possible to just pull the string of a mitten, for instance, way too tight, especially when the baby is predisposed to taking things off. This tightness can cause much discomfort in the baby, and can thus cause crying that sometimes the parents may have difficulty figuring out, at least at first.
When this happens, it’s best to loosen up a bit. As a general rule, just make sure that the clothing is snug enough not to come off to easily. This is because overtight clothing can impair circulation into the affected area. If, upon taking the item of clothing off, the part of the body distal to it is way too pale and then becomes red instantly due to the blood rushing in, it was probably too tight.
13 Sudden, Unfamiliar Noises
If anyone has ever knocked over a vase in the room adjoining the nursery, the parents probably know that babies startle very easily. Even in the womb, the little one has already developed her sense of hearing, and it only gets more refined as the months go by. In the womb, however, much of the noise will be muffled by amniotic fluid and the layers of mom’s tummy. Outside the womb is where the baby will begin to notice noises that are sharp and unpleasant.
As such, the little one is likely to start and get distressed over noises that are sudden and unfamiliar. This is especially when someone in the room is being loud, like yelling, which is also compounded by the fact that babies can sense the negative emotions in the room, and even sneezing! The sudden, and loud sound of dad's (or mom's) sneeze can startle the little one even from a very deep sleep, resulting in a very unhappy, cranky baby.
12 Being Overstimulated
Ever notice how some babies have a keen dislike for parties? And even those cuties who love all the attention often end up either in a mad fit of grumpy crying or dozing off a few hours later. This is mainly because too many people means the baby is feeling overstimulated. Introverted babies will be more sensitive to this than extroverted babies. But even the most outgoing of infants still do get tired from hanging around with so many people. And we all know that a tired baby is an irritable baby.
It is, of course, best to learn of the little one’s temperament before planning any parties. If the little one absolutely can’t stand large crowds, it’s probably better to make her entrance brief. For babies that are more tolerant of it, maybe an hour or two out in the open will do. And it’s probably better off to limit time out, since crowds can inadvertently carry illness-causing germs.
11 Being Exposed To Allergens
For moms with a family history of allergies, it might be worth keeping track of what the baby is exposed to. Allergens can hide in food or the environment, potentially causing harm to the little one. As such, concerned parents should be vigilant in checking the labels of anything they feed the baby, as well as keeping the surroundings monitored for anything suspicious.
It’s also important to keep in mind that allergies can present in a number of ways. The baby might develop a eczema or a rash that might be confused with diaper rash. She might also experience gastrointestinal problems such as constipation or diarrhea. In some cases, it may present with symptoms that remarkably resemble a cold. In yet others, allergens can result in asthma, which is basically bronchial spasms which can impair breathing. Because some of these presentations can be risky, it’s always best to be vigilant about any possible allergies in order to identify them as early as possible.
10 Needing A Diaper Change
When the baby needs a diaper change, it’s best to give it to her regardless of whether she’s already crying or not. Don’t wait until she’s screaming at the top of her lungs at how uncomfortable she is. After all, any adult would not wear dirty underwear for hours. There’s no reason to expect that an infant will want to. And even if some kids do “get used to it” so their threshold of tolerance for wet underwear decreases, this also has other dangers.
For one thing, poop and pee both contain bacteria which can irritate the little one’s skin. Left long enough, it can cause rashes or even more serious lesions. In tandem with moisture, which promotes the growth of microorganisms, this just might also result in a skin infection. For another, this can make it more difficult for the child to cooperate with potty training later on. And, trust me, this is one thing that all parents want to go through with the least stress possible.
9 Needing To Burp
When the little one is feeding, she is inevitably going to suck up some air along with her milk. Babies who are bottle fed are particularly prone to this, as they will need to release their suction on the teat periodically to keep the milk flowing. In addition with the last gulps of milk, which may have some air mixed in, this can result in plenty of gas. With breastfeeding, the vacuum has a better seal, and so not as much air gets in. However, this does not mean that the little one won’t be occasionally gassy.
Every parent must, therefore, at least attempt to burp their little one after feeding. The feeling of gas inside the baby’s tummy is extremely uncomfortable, and so the baby will naturally be restless when it builds up. So if the little one begins crying soon after a feeding, maybe consider that there’s a burp that wants to come out.
8 Feeling Bored
On the flip side, sometimes sheer boredom can cause distress to the average baby. Usually babies find entertainment in exploring the world around them or interacting with people. But, often it's parents’ fear that the little one will hurt herself in her adventurous excursions, so they might keep her in her crib or the nursery for extended periods of time. And while this is sometimes necessary, especially if there just aren’t enough adults to look after children and chores, it can cause a considerable amount of distress to the baby.
It’s really best if the baby has someone to watch over – and entertain – her at all times. Once stranger anxiety kicks in at around six months, this is preferably someone who she knows well. And it’s also best if this person has plenty of tricks up their sleeve to keep the baby busy. One handy way to do this is to keep in mind developmental milestones and tailor activities around these.
7 Harsh Handling
Sudden movements or a way too tight grip can cause much harm to the little one. Parents must therefore learn to be gentle, especially when they’re handling their first baby for the first time. It might help to start with the guidance of friends who may have older babies (or even dolls) to get a feel of the grip and handling that’s safe for the newborn. Learn how to support the head and the neck, and ease the baby into positions that don’t strain her muscles.
Also, parents must avoid shaking their babies. Some might do this while playing with the baby or while trying to get her to sleep. Yet others might do this in frustration, when the baby is crying and they don’t quite know what to do. Remember, however, that there is such a thing as shaken baby syndrome, which many probably don’t want their little ones to fall victim to.
6 Not Enough Cuddling
Babies crave human interaction, not just for the fun of it, but also because it is essential for them. Touch is essential to a baby’s growth. And this isn’t just a sentimental bit of advice. Actual research shows that infants and toddlers who are barely touched (the test group was children in orphanages who didn’t have regular access to caring adults) had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to those who were raised by parents that gave regular interaction.
Incidentally, this effect extended beyond the immediate test period. The same kids still had higher stress hormone levels in their school-age years! High levels of cortisol impairs wound healing, increases blood sugar levels and raises blood pressure, all a recipe for chronic illness. Besides, babies are calmer when they’re held. It just turns out that this interaction isn’t optional, it’s actually necessary to keep her healthy for the long term!
5 Being Too Cold
In long periods of time where the baby isn’t held, especially when she’s sleeping or taking a nap, it’s important to keep her warm. This is especially important in babies who are premature or underweight, as they don’t have as much body fat to help keep them warm. Often, babies get too cold at night if they aren’t wearing warm clothing. This is especially the case since many parents opt not to swaddle their babies, because this in itself has many health risks (which we’ll talk about shortly).
If the little one is too cold for a long time, she might experience cold stress, a phenomenon in which much of the body’s energy is diverted towards keeping her warm instead of, say, helping her grow. If left like this for too long, she may experience problems with her circulation, heart rate and breathing. So when the little one cries at night, it’s best to check if she’s too cold.
4 Being Too Swaddled
If mom and dad want to keep the little one warm, they’d best use warm clothes instead of a swaddle. Swaddling restricts the baby’s movements, which could potentially cause injury or impair circulation, especially around the legs and arms. Most importantly, however, it increases the baby’s risk of hip dysplasia, a serious, painful condition that she could suffer from for years.
Swaddled babies are also at increased risk for suffocation, as the swaddle may come loose during the night and cover the baby’s airway. Finally, it could also be a cause for overheating which, if not addressed right away could result in a dangerous heat stroke. Overheating has also been found to increase babies’ risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This can be a difficult line to toe, considering that being too cold is also risky for the baby. However, by keeping the little one’s temperature monitored in the night, the baby should be fine.
3 Being Yelled At
There’s more to yelling at a baby than a loud noise. Babies are, after all, attuned to the human voice, particularly those of their parents. As such, they very soon learn to detect the nuances of mood and expression in their voices. Some parents, however, have the tendency to yell at their babies when they lose their patience. And while this may seem cathartic for the parent, this can be bad for the baby.
After all, the little one may not yet understand the context for the parent’s frustration and may perceive that she, the baby, is undesirable and unlovable. One study shows that yelling at children actually changes the structure of their brains significantly. Even though babies can be difficult at times, have patience! It’s not just for the baby’s good, but for the parent’s as well. And additional studies show that releasing anger through yelling may actually make you angrier rather than calmer.
2 Having A Cold
Children get sick all the time. Sometimes, therefore, a parent will just ignore a little cold thinking that it will go away. Many times, it actually does. But it’s still extremely important for every parent to know the parameters that define whether a simple illness is likely to go away, or whether it will progress to something far worse. As a general rule, for infants less than three months old, any sign of infection does warrant a visit to the doctor. This is because their immune systems are not yet well-developed, such that they may not be able to fight infection.
For older babies, call the doctor if the symptoms last for a week or more, or if the little one begins to experience danger signs such as cyanosis (i.e. turning blue), difficulty breathing or dehydration. It’s best to go over, with the doctor, other warning signs that may indicate a more serious problem as well. This way, mom knows when to do home care and when to worry.
1 Being Exposed To Smoke
One of the most damaging behaviors that can negatively impact babies is smoking. We all know that secondhand smoke can cause a whole plethora of health problems in the little one. But that isn’t all. More recent studies now show that even thirdhand smoke can affect baby as well. Thirdhand smoke is basically smoke that sticks to the parent’s clothes, the curtains, the furniture or practically anything on which smoke particles can settle. The smoking parent, therefore, needs to be extra vigilant to make sure that the little one is not exposed to cigarette smoke of any sort.
Among the problems that smoking can cause in babies include asthma, bronchitis, childhood cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The chemicals in smoke can also impair the baby’s immune system, making her prone to ear infections, meningitis and pneumonia. Needless to say, babies who are often exposed to cigarette smoke are often distressed!