Friday, November 12, 2010

Back to Basics Part 4: Crying: Your Baby’s Super Power

Welcome to the final post in the Back to Basics series. In this series, we’ve been re-posting the original Basics of Baby Behavior series, our first set of entries when this blog was started back in July 2009. Along with the original posts, we’re adding links to what we’ve learned about infant behavior over the last year and a half. Parts 1, 2 and 3 in this series looked at Reasons Why Babies Don’t Sleep Through the Night, The Many Moods of Babies, and Understanding Baby "Language."

Babies can communicate with you from the moment they are born. Instinctively, they use their ultimate “super power;” CRYING, to make sure their needs are met. Today’s post links back to: Crying: Your Baby’s Super Power. In this post, we explain that even though crying can be very hard for new parents (or anyone for that matter) to deal with, babies' ability to cry is actually a wonderful talent. We also provide a list of reasons that babies cry (not just because of hunger), some information that can be used to prevent some crying (reading infant cues), and ways to calm a crying baby (repetition, repetition, repetition).

Tools for Coping with Crying
Because babies love repetition (see our last post), routines can help babies feel calm and secure. In a post titled Repetition in Baby's Daily Life: The Power of Routines  we explain the difference between routines and schedules, why babies react so well to routines, and the benefits of routines for both caregivers and babies. In another, more recent post, titled Music to Moms' Ears, we present research about how music can be used to calm both moms and babies. Slings are another tool that caregivers may find useful when dealing with a crying baby and earlier this year, we discussed both the Good and the Bad about slings in a 2-part series.

Persistent Crying vs. Colic
Although we explain in the Crying: Your Baby's Super Power post that babies cry whenever they feel uncomfortable or distressed, we know, from personal experience and from reviewing the literature, that some babies cry more than others. In What's the Difference between Crying and Colic, we describe the definition of colic and why many experts now prefer the term Persistent Crying, how long persistent crying typically lasts, and a list of causes. In the following post, we provided Tips for Coping with Persisitent Infant Crying.

Late Afternoon Crying
Like we've mentioned many many times, all babies are different. When it comes to crying, however, it seems that the late afternoon is often the fussiest time of day. In a 2-part series, we explored The Phenomenon of Late Afternoon/Early Evening Infant Crying and provided Tips to deal with late afternoon and early evening crying

We hope this series has been useful to our new readers and look forward to hearing your comments and ideas for future posts!

Next Time: We'll take a look at some recent research you may have seen in the news.


  1. Now that my son is older (10 mos) I realize that a contributor to his earlier (newborn to 3 mos) late afternoon "witching hour(s)" was lack of a good nap! :)

  2. I am wondering if you could share your tips for a good bedtime "routine", for my 7 week old I need something that I can do when my hubby is working late ( he doesn't get home until after nine on some nights)
    I don't give my baby a bath every night since he is an infant and I don't want to try out his skin. Also I have no idea about timing since some nights he is super fussy.

  3. Hi Becca - Those first 8 weeks are really tough on everyone, even your baby. The fussiness will get better but you may be able to speed up the process by watching for his cues (see the appropriate posts) all day long. He is learning his new language just as you are. The better he is able to communicate using cues, the less he will need to escalate to crying. Watch for cues in the evening telling you that he is overwhelmed and start to reduce stimulation right away. For a baby, repetition is calming, so doing the same thing over and over will keep your baby calmer. Routines are tough for 7 week olds since their bodies haven't really developed consistent biological rhythms (so don't blame yourself for the fussy nights). His "routine" can be any repeated sequence of events - changing him, rocking, carrying him as you walk using the same route through the house, feeding him if he is hungry, telling him a story, etc. Just keep things low key and repetitive (no games, bouncing or other fun). Experiment until you find the sequence that seems most calming to you both. Don't watch the clock as you do things, instead, watch his cues telling you that he's getting drowsy. Over the next few weeks, you'll find your son's fussy times will get shorter and shorter and he will be more responsive to routines. Best wishes!