Know how some people are able to tell that someone could be stressed just by looking at him or her? As human beings, we should be able to tell, especially if the person in question is a close friend or relative. Just by looking at an individual's face and his or her body language, we can tell whether he or she is excited to see us, afraid of us, is sad to see us, or if we are a source of stress to them.
However, when it comes to babies, knowing what he or she is going through could be a bit of a challenge because babies and adults are so different. Unlike adults who know how they are supposed to behave in the presence of others, including knowing how to express their feelings, babies don't know. Babies usually just cry in case something is stressing them, and it is up to their caregivers to try and find out what the baby is saying in the midst of all the screaming and yelling.
Experienced moms will usually know what is disturbing the baby just by listening to their cry, and they're usually in a position to meet their babies' needs and comfort them, a level first-time moms admire to get to. Regardless of whether you are an experienced mom, a new mom, or not even a mom at all, here are 20 reasons why a baby can look stressed and even cry uncontrollably. Chances are that this list will cover all the possible situations that could stress out a baby.
20 Baby Could Be Hungry
Do you get a little cranky when you feel hungry? Probably one of the most common reasons babies look stressed is that they could be hungry. A newborn’s stomach is as small as the size of their fist and cannot hold much inside it. Therefore, they need to feed frequently when they are very young, which is approximately every three to four hours for a newborn.
A hungry baby who does not feed on time or regularly will cry consistently and generally look stressed. Keeping this in mind and knowing when to feed the baby will ensure that the baby is healthy and stress-free.
19 He Or She Could Have Gas
A newborn can get gas trapped in his or her stomach, which can really make him or her uncomfortable. This can occur during bottle-feeding or breastfeeding when they tend to swallow lots of air. Furthermore, a baby allergic to cow’s milk protein may also suffer from trapped gas if the mother is breastfeeding while taking a diet rich in dairy products. This can also be the case if a baby is drinking baby formula containing cow’s milk protein.
Crying after feeding is a classic sign of gassiness. Burping the baby is one way that a parent or caregiver can help a baby get rid of the trapped gas. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends burping the baby regularly during and after feeding to help the newborn relax and feel comfortable.
18 Baby Could Be Sleepy
Newborns can manage with just a little over 45 minutes of being awake before getting tired and cranky. The length of time they need to stay awake increases as they get older. Therefore, when they do not fall asleep in time, they tend to release stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline, which keep them awake.
Fussing and crying over anything, staring blankly into space, rubbing their eyes, and being quiet are just but a few of the ways in which babies show that they are tired. Therefore, frequent naps throughout the day will prevent them from being too tired, aid in the baby’s developmental process and ultimately less stressed.
17 The Baby’s Diaper Could Need Changing
Some babies can go for hours without a diaper change and they will not even flinch in the slightest way unless their skin develops some irritation. However, some get hysterical if they are uncomfortable down there even for a minute. Many babies protest and look stressed if they have wet their diapers or even pooped.
Therefore, parents or caregiver should check their babies' diapers frequently to see if they do in fact need a diaper change. Investing in a set of diapers that can indicate whether the baby’s diaper needs changing is one of the ways that caregivers can work towards improving their babies' comfort round the clock.
16 He Or She Could Be Experiencing Separation Anxiety
Toddlers quickly learn who their parents or caregivers are and they see them as their security as well as being their protectors in every way. Therefore, if a baby is away from his or her parent or caregiver for a period, he or she may start to worry and feel anxious, and this will lead to crying because of the stress. In some cases, this can lead to separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety normally peaks at later stages of development and usually affect some babies to a certain degree, though it affects others to a very pronounced degree. It is also more prominent in toddlers as they get older and may persist for a very long time. Babies find comfort in knowing that their parents or caregivers are within reach, should they need them.
15 Baby Could Be Over-Stimulated
While a baby needs attention from his or her caregivers, it is important to note that overstimulation can stress a baby to a great extent. Babies can get a sensory overload especially after getting passed around from one person to another, or simply being around many people.
In addition, if the baby is in a noisy environment with bright lights, or where people are trying so hard to get the baby's attention, the baby is sure to feel stressed by all that is going on. Therefore, this may trigger the release of the baby’s stress hormone and they may seem stressed.
14 Exposure To Environmental Stress Factors
When a baby is born, he or she may experience some difficulty trying to adjust to his or her new environment and routines. However, as soon as they establish these, suddenly exposing them to unfamiliar environments can take a huge toll on them and contribute to the baby’s stress levels increasing. When this happens, babies will sure end up being fussy, irritable, and cranky. Such sudden changes can cause even the calmest child to show signs of distress.
Therefore, parents should try to minimize such occurrences and in the event that this is inevitable, they can try mimicking the environment their baby is accustomed to as much as possible. Carrying the baby’s toys or bedding they are familiar with can help.
13 He Or She Probably Wants To Be Held
Babies, like adults, love affection. They are the most jovial when they are with their parents or caregivers. They tend to cry out of loneliness because no one is holding or rocking them consistently. They crave for such attention the most, especially immediately after birth.
Caregivers should attend to their young ones empathically and as quickly as possible so their systems learn to be calm instead of agitated or aggravated. The baby needs lots of cuddling, physical contact, and reassurance to soothe them. When the baby seems stressed, this could imply that he or she just wants someone to hold him or her. They love to hear the sound of their caregivers' heartbeats and their warmth relaxes them.
12 The Baby Could Be Experiencing Stranger Anxiety
Babies will usually develop some form of attachment to their primary caregivers, and they will always want to be near them. When they are away from their caregivers, for example, when they get a new nanny, they tend to develop anxiety and as a result, may cry for long periods. They like to be in a familiar environment with recognizable faces, voices, and sounds.
When an unfamiliar person picks up the baby, the baby may experience stress due to the unfamiliarity. It is important to let people know, especially aunts and uncles, that they should let the baby warm up to them in order for the baby to be less anxious and less stressed.
11 Baby Could Be Unwell
Most parents know what their baby's usual demeanor is like when they are in good health. Being unwell can stress the baby and cause him or her to cry differently, to be less active, to moan weakly or, in some cases, to cry harder and longer than usual.
Other symptoms to look out for to determine whether the baby is unwell is if the baby is being fussy, irritable, developing a fever, and not feeding as usual. These and other signs of stress are a sure indication that the baby is unwell. In such a situation, caregivers must take the baby to the hospital for further investigations into their condition.
10 The Mother’s Milk Flow Could Be Too Fast Or Too Slow
The flow rate of a mother’s milk is important, and it can be a source of stress to the baby if it is not just right. Too fast a flow rate can cause the baby serious discomforts when suckling, even to the extent of choking and frustrating the little one. On the other hand, a slower flow rate can be frustrating to the baby because he or she will have to spend too much time and energy and might eventually end up hungry.
In this case, a baby may latch and unlatch frequently while crying and fussing because of the flow of the milk. If this happens to a new mom, she should visit her doctor in order to understand the situation better and look for solutions to this problem.
9 His Or Her Clothing Could Be Uncomfortable
Unlike adults, who can easily adjust or simply remove ill-fitting clothing, a baby can do neither of those two things and will often end up feeling uncomfortable up until when his or her caregivers notice there's something wrong. The only thing a baby can do is look distressed and eventually cry. When babies are uncomfortable, they tend to squirm and cry.
After investigating the four common signs of irritation, which are sleepiness, hunger, diaper change, and burping and they all check out, then chances are that the baby’s clothes are too tight or are irritating them. It could be as simple as a zipper on their onesie pressing down on their chest.
8 Baby Could Be Having Issues With #2
When a baby has irregular bowel movements, he or she has a high chance of developing constipation. There is no particular way of analyzing how frequent the movements should be. However, if the baby’ stool appears firmly formed, or they look like they are in pain while pooping, or spots of blood appear on the diaper, then they are definitely constipated. Babies who experience constipation generally, look stressed out.
To help comfort the baby, the parent can flex the baby’s legs in a cycling motion while the baby is lying on his or her back and consult a doctor for tips on how to stop constipation.
7 Limited Body Contact Between Child And Parents/Caregivers During Feeds
Breastfeeding is an essential exercise, as it creates a bond between the mother and child and the body contact always helps to soothe and comfort the baby. Therefore, limiting body contact during feeding time can be really stressful for a baby, regardless of whether a caregiver is breastfeeding the baby or using formula.
While it’s easy to attain this body contact during breastfeeding, in a formula fed baby it might not be so easy. Here, the parent or caregiver should hold the baby in the same cradle hold as is the case when breastfeeding the baby, in order to ensure body contact.
6 He Or She Could Have Colic
When babies cry inconsolably, even though they appear to be healthy, they may have a condition called colic. The American Association of Pediatrics describe it as a condition where an otherwise healthy infant cries more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, and for more than three weeks in a row.
This condition can cause distress to a baby and the baby may refuse all efforts to soothe him or her, which can also make the parents or caregivers anxious. Colic peaks at the early stages after birth from around two to three weeks and normally goes away by the third or fourth month of a baby’s life.
5 The Baby Could Be Mirroring Your Negative Emotions
When an individual is upset or depressed around a baby, he or she might not think that his or her moods can affect the baby in any way. However, a baby will usually sense the mood of the adult around him or her and even mirror the adult's emotions, whether they be of joy, sadness, or even anger.
Therefore, babies can stress out when their caregivers are going through negative emotions. It is essential to keep babies away from any negativity that might affect their mood as it leads to the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which leads to negative emotions and discomfort among babies. These negative emotions can have negative impacts on a baby and make them look stressed.
4 Baby Could Be Nervous
Babies suffer from anxiety when they are afraid, just like adults. In the instances where babies find themselves in the arms of strangers, most of them start to cry because they are not sure what will happen to them. These babies usually start to look around for a familiar face to feel safe or even try to move towards familiar places and sounds.
In addition, babies behave just like grownups in the face of frightening situations, so caregivers must never expose them to scary movies because they can affect them negatively. In addition, caregivers must eliminate any frightening or violent images around their babies, since they can cause distress.
3 Breaking Away From Routine Tasks
Disrupted schedules, even small things such as changing the baby’s bath time for a day, can be stressful to the baby. In addition, stressful schedules like when a parent over-schedules certain activities and they are running from place to place can make even the calmest child appear stressed.
Even positive changes like the birth of a new sibling can cause stress to the young one because they have to adjust to a new way of life in their household. Parents and caregivers should ensure that they do not break away from their baby’s normal routine abruptly since change is inevitable.
2 He Or She Could Be Teething
Babies normally start growing their first set of teeth when they hit their fourth month after birth, a process known as teething. Teething can cause a baby to be more upset than usual because of the discomfort of a tooth trying to break through the gum. Babies are often irritable in the week before their new tooth comes through. When the pain of teething sets in, an increase in the babies stress levels is pretty much guaranteed.
Remedies such as buying your baby a gum massager or letting them massage their gums on a clean and safe surface are a good idea. Some parents even let their babies chew washcloths or even cotton bibs in a bid to help their babies find relief.
1 The Baby Could Be Feeling Too Cold Or Too Hot
Aside from ill-fitting clothes making them uncomfortable, their caregivers can make them uncomfortable by dressing them up with too many clothes. Overdressing usually leads a baby to overheat and look distressed. On the other hand, dressing the baby loosely can not only result in discomfort but can also contribute to making the baby sick.
Newborns do not know how to deal with extreme temperatures as is the case with adults, and when their body temperature is either too high or too low it can be a source of great distress. Regardless, it is essential to dress the baby warmly. As a rule, they need to wear one more layer of clothing than an adult does to be comfortable.