Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Babies Cry

There is no sound in the world I hate more than my baby's cry. It makes me literally sick to my stomach. Every ounce of my mom instincts scream at me to pick up that baby, immediately, and to make whatever problem she has disappear as quickly as physically possible.

There is an automatic checklist that parents go through in their heads when their baby cries. Is my baby hungry? Does she have a dirty diaper? Is she tired? Too hot? Too cold? Does she simply want to be held? Usually one of those things is the culprit. But what about when it's not? What about when we've tried everything we can think of, and my baby won't stop crying??? Nothing is more nerve wracking to me than when my baby is crying and I can't help her.

When Mercedes was a baby, she went through a phase when she screamed constantly all night long. She'd fall asleep crying, and wake herself up 10-15 minutes later and cry some more. All night long. For 3 months. During the day she wouldn't sleep either. She'd just fuss and fuss and fuss. I took her to the doctor. Her advice was "let her cry it out". I took her to two more doctors. They had the same advice. My mom instincts told me she was hurting. So I kept researching and finally found out that she had a dairy allergy. My poor baby had a terrible stomach ache all day and all night for 3 months and the doctors told me to let her cry in the dark all alone until she was so exhausted that she passed out. It makes me sick to think about it.

Crying is the only way a baby can communicate to us. What kind of parents are we if we choose to ignore our child who is telling us that they need something from us? There are a ton of hidden causes for babies crying that doctors don't talk about and you won't read on a "how to get your baby to stop crying" checklist. Maybe my baby is scared or overwhelmed. There are a million different noises, lights, objects, etc. that babies have to get used to after they are born. Some of them must be terrifying for a tiny baby. Maybe my baby is having growing pains. Remember those? They were TERRIBLY painful for me when I was a kid. But I've never read or heard anyone talk about babies having them. And yet I'm sure they must hurt from growing so fast the first year of their lives. Along those same lines, maybe my baby's muscles are sore. Babies are constantly learning new skills and exercising muscles that they've never used before. They must have terribly sore muscles a lot of the time. Is my baby thirsty? Sure she just nursed 30 minutes ago and shouldn't be hungry for another hour and a half, but maybe her throat is dry and she needs a drink. Or maybe she's on a growth spurt and needs to eat more often. And then there's the hidden food allergies that doctors rarely suggest. Even if you are only breastfeeding, babies can have allergies because of something you are eating that is getting in the breast milk (that was the case with Mercedes...I eliminated all dairy products from my diet for the last 5 months that I breastfed. Even a few bites of something with cheese in it would cause her to scream all night long). The other day I was researching about baby acne since Emerald is breaking out. I read an article which said something to the effect that acne didn't bother babies so parents shouldn't worry about it either. Excuse me? Acne doesn't bother babies? What medical genius came up with that one? When my face was broken out as a teenager it hurt like crazy. And yet when my baby has red, swollen, pussy pimples all over her face she supposidly can't even feel it? Maybe my baby is crying because the acne is hurting her face. Or maybe she's just frustrated because she wants to do something or go somewhere and can't tell me what she wants. My mom told me of a time she couldn't get one of her babies to stop crying. So she took off all his clothes and searched from head to toe...and found out that there was a piece of hair wrapped around one of his toes. Maybe my baby has something like that somewhere hidden on her body. Maybe she has an itch  that is driving her crazy!

Of course since babies can't come right out and say what's bothering them and there is no physical way of telling if most of the problems I just mentioned are really the cause of a baby's crying, what in the world are we suppose to do when our babies cry and we don't know what's wrong? My answer: Love them through it. The rule I've given myself: Never make my baby cry alone. No matter how frustrating and heartbreaking it is that she's crying. No matter how long she cries for or what time of day or night it is. No matter if it seems on the outside like everything is fine. When my baby is crying something is wrong. When my baby is crying, she needs me. When my baby is crying I am holding her. Cuddling her. Swaddling her. Dancing to music with her. Singing to her. Praying for her out loud. Giving her a soothing massage. Doing what I can to let her know that I love her, that I'm sorry she's sad or hurting, that she's not alone and that I'm trying to help her. My babies get through their first year or so (before they can tell me what's wrong with actual words) knowing that their voices are heard and respected and that mommy cares about their needs and their feelings. When they cry, they cry knowing that I love them.

My advice when your baby cries:  Never let your baby cry alone. Don't listen to doctors who tell you nothing is wrong (the whole point of a baby's cries are to tell you that something is wrong!). Don't listen to friends or books who tell you to let your baby cry it out (don't get me started on the dangers and stupidity of the "teaching babies to self-soothe" cry-it-out method). When you've tried everything and your baby is still crying, simply love them through it.

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