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When Baby Cries

by Linda Jenkinson

Babies cry for many reasons. Hunger. Thirst. Discomfort. Sometimes they cry just to exercise their lungs.

When we brought my first-born home, he cried hour after hour, day and night. Since I was an only child, I didn’t know what to do. Some friends advised me to pick him up when he cried. Others assured me he needed to cry to exercise his lungs, and I should let him cry himself to sleep.

Mother with crying baby
The conflicting advice only added to my stress and uncertain parenting. I began picking him up every two hours until doing so filled me with guilt and dread. I fed him, changed him before and after feeding, and held him until my arms ached. It didn’t matter. He cried every time I put him back to bed.

At wit’s end, I called the county nurse. Before I answered the door, I put my son back in his bassinet. By the time I opened the door, he had started crying. I invited the nurse to sit down and bolted for the nursery, but she put a gentle hand on my arm to stop me.

“But he’s crying.” My tears were streaming, too.

“I can hear him,” she said. “Before you get him, will you answer a few questions? It will only take a moment.”

I nodded, and she began asking questions. I regained control of my tears. Shortly after she began, she stopped me in mid-answer and put her finger to her lips. “Listen.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Exactly.” The nurse smiled. I smiled, too. My infant son was fast asleep. She told me that picking him up and putting him down so often had confused and exhausted him. She mentioned that babies sense when Mom feels stressed. She supposed that also could be part of the problem.

He slept for six hours that day. From then on, he might cry a little when I put him to bed, but never for long.

If you have a “fussy baby”, try it. Many times throughout your lives together, what is right for him will seem to be the exact opposite of what he wants from you. Of course, first check with your pediatrician to be sure there is no physical reason for the fuss.