Most parents can agree that the one thing babies have in common, especially newborns, is that they cry fairly regularly. If you're one of the lucky few who had a baby who seldom cried, consider yourself lucky because, for those who were blessed with criers (hats off to you colic moms!), a baby's cry can get to be pretty stressful; after all, it's designed to be.
Babies are born with the innate ability to scream when they need something just like we are born to develop a dislike for the noise. When you meet the need, your need for peace is met also- thank you, Mother Nature! With that being said, sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can't get your baby to stop crying. So, what is it about our babies' cries that make them distinguishable enough to understand which need needs to be met? And how do we know when something is critically wrong?
For starters, every baby is different: a phrase we're sure you have heard once or twice. The beauty that is nature is that every baby, theoretically, is able to communicate with their mom (or primary caregiver) exactly what they need as the pair bonds and the adult gets to know the baby.
When your baby is tired, he/she is more likely to sound tired while crying, meaning the cry will be slow and gradually increase in volume until someone responds. When your baby is hungry, the cry will be much more intense and get worse until he/she is fed. If you hear an immediate shriek followed by ear-piercing screams, your baby is most likely in pain. If the cry is lower, and almost like a whine, your baby probably wants your attention (which is still a need that needs to be met).
Colic, sometimes known as P.U.R.P.L.E Crying, is when your baby regularly screams inconsolably for hours on end. Speaking from experience, you'll know your baby has colic if you cannot get them to stop crying even though all of their supposed needs have been taken care of, you notice they're pulling their knees to their chest (to try and relieve pain), and it happens daily or almost daily.
One piece of advice if your dealing with colic, when your baby has been screaming for hours and you are at your wit's end, take a step back and look at the situation from their perspective. They are in extreme pain and they're trying so hard to tell you but the pain still isn't going away. They need you to be that rock for them; that sense of comfort that we all need when we're hurting. As stressful as it is, remember that they aren't doing it to bother you and keeping that mindset will help you through those seemingly never-ending hours.
One of the most important things to remember when getting to know your baby is to tend to their cries right away, especially during the first few months of life. Contrary to popular belief, crying is not a good way to develop their lungs and leaving them to cry does not guide them towards independence (it forces them). Crying is communication and your baby's only way of saying "I really need some help over here. Could you please come pick me up?" Tending to your baby's needs is never spoiling them. It solidifies your bond because your baby can rest easy knowing if they're hungry, scared, tired, or even lonely, you will be there as soon as you can.
Scientists have gone so far as to develop a controversial tool that deciphers your baby's cry for you based on "an algorithm that is typically used for speech recognition," we report in another article. In recording your baby's cry, it is able to tell you whether something is seriously wrong with your baby or if they are simply hungry, tired, etc. This sort of artificial intelligence doesn't sit well with some people, while others think it's a wonderful tool to have in times of trouble!
Whatever your take is on the technology, never underestimate the power of natural bonding and instincts. Given the survival of our species, we can deduce that we're pretty good at baby decoding without our fancy computers, though it is always a useful tool to have.
Another important aspect that we can't stress enough about the stress that is crying, is that you should never feel ashamed if you need to put your baby down for a second to take a breather and try again with a cool mind. No level of crying or stress is ever worth subjecting your baby to the risks of Shaken Baby Syndrome. We all get stressed out when we can't shut off the noise and our need for peace isn't being met (it happens to the best of us!), but if you reach that dangerous level of stress and changing your mindset isn't working, call for reinforcements or just gently set your baby down, take a few breaths and try again. If you're finding your stress levels are getting too much when dealing with your baby, seek help from your partner, a friend, your doctor, or even a psychologist to teach you some coping techniques.
Babies cry. It's a fact of life. What a lot of us tend to forget is that crying is really your baby's only way of communicating their needs to you. Learning to decode your baby's cries is a very important part of being a parent because your baby learns to trust you and you get to know your baby. Yes, there are tools that can do it for you but think of your baby like a puzzle.
Would you rather create and solve that puzzle yourself or have AI do it for you? AI crying decoding, although very useful in times when you just can't figure out why your baby is screaming for hours on end, should only be used in times such as those. Getting to know your baby, as nature intended it, and being able to respond to their different cries helps form the human bond, something a machine will never be able to do.