Month 1 Worry: Is It OK to Let My Infant Cry?Dr. Greg Germain, MD
I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy my three children’s early infancies as much as I should have. Colic, gas, neurologic immaturity … there are lots of explanations, but the problem was simple—infant crying. As a new parent, it is easy to feel frustrated, angry, and inadequate when you can’t meet all the needs of your baby.
What’s the Issue?
So why do babies cry? Possibly because one of their many needs are not being met. Too hungry? Too full? Too cool? Too warm? Overtired? Overstimulated? Wet diaper? Quite a high maintenance little fella, isn’t he? The truth is, we may not really know why babies cry. Infant crying is at times a medical and parental mystery. (Ok, some experts believe there is a way to decode cries.)
Consider the Numbers
The textbooks say that infants cry between one and four hours a day. But four hours can seem like forever. And if you’re at your wit’s end, you are not alone. Sleep deprivation for infants and parents alike can be toxic. One-month-old babies should get an average of 15 ½ hours of sleep per 24 hours. Parents, on the other hand, get far less and should catch a nap whenever they can!
What Parents Can Do
When your baby is crying, it is so important to remain calm. No baby has ever died from crying. (But as previous stats show, babies can be hurt by overwhelmed caretakers.) On the other hand, letting a young infant cry for extended periods is not particularly beneficial to that infant, as far as we know. Remember that infants younger than four months of age do not cry to manipulate their parents. They are just trying to communicate a need: “Hold me!” And infants cannot harm themselves in any way by crying.
Try swaddling, white noise, gentle motion, feeding, skin to skin contact, pacifier use, or the classic ride in the car. Cuddling my kids and lots of late-night ESPN got me through this period. Call your pediatrician if you think your infant’s fussiness is extreme. This is subjective, but if you’ve tried all the typical comforting measures and things are still hairy, it may be time to check with your provider.
What the Docs May Do
Your pediatrician will consider possible diagnoses, such as reflux, protein allergy, feeding intolerance, constipation, corneal abrasion (a scratched eyeball), hernia (a bulging of the scrotum in boys or where the upper thigh meets the lower abdomen in girls), and hair tourniquet (an unusual condition when a hair can get wrapped around a toe causing swelling and pain) to name a few.
Colic, also known as the infant fussy period, is described many ways by the “experts.” Whatever its cause or explanation, it is parent code for “Wow! This baby is REALLY fussy.” As far as we know, extremely fussy babies grow up to be normal adults. Keep this in mind as you continue through this trying time.
Having a baby who is unusually fussy or suffering from colic can be very stressful for parents. Discuss this with the pediatrician, get support from family and friends, and take needed breaks. Never ever rock a crying infant too vigorously or shake the baby. This can result in shaken baby syndrome, a serious and life-threatening injury to the infant.
More 1st Month Health Help
Even the most confident parent has concerns about her child’s health and wellness from time to time. Learn more about which medical issues are most common at each baby age (If you have any pressing concerns or questions about your baby’s health, please check with her healthcare provider.)