The first cry of a new born is a triumphant sound. Our daughter came out of the birth canal blue in the face because the umbilical cord had gotten around her neck somehow during active labour. It was a frightening sight, so when she uttered her first yelp, the doctor and nurses all cheered with delight. We too were overjoyed. It was a cry of life and it gave us much relief.
Subsequently, the cries grew longer, louder and more frequent without a hint of what was wrong. These cries, as we soon found out was due to hunger, colicky discomfort or even stinky diapers. These were the easiest to solve: a quick feed, a tummy rub, or a fresh diaper would return her instantly to her normal sleepy self.
Then, there were those that we couldn’t figure out at all. Cries that went on and on for half an hour or more, cries which wouldn’t even taper down with rocking, hugging and soothing. The worst were harsh cries, where her face would turn red and she’d cough and choke from all the sobbing.
Scary as it may sound, the lesson I have learnt was that all cries, regardless of reason, would eventually stop.
Stage 1: The Overeactive
Initially, I’d jump at every whimper or squeak, thinking that if I picked her up quick enough, she’d not cry at all. This strategy completely backfired as it only conditioned her to cry more frequently and want to be carried all the time.
Stage 2: The Passive
After a few weeks of that, tired as I was waking up every 2-3hours a night, I decided on the cold turkey strategy. Leaving to cry up to half an hour per time before I’d pick her up. This drove her and myself half mad, as she learnt to cry louder and louder with each passing night.
Then, there was one particular night when she cried for nearly four and a half hours and could not even be comforted by feeding. The next morning was when we decided these crazy methods had to stop. We had to find some sort of balance before I had a break down or baby went hoarse with her screaming.
Stage 3: The Proactive
What we finally settled on worked like a miracle for us. Certainly, there were still insane bouts we couldn’t make sense of, but the crying got a lot less frequent and she also started waking up less and less times throughout the night. We agreed to stop, peep and act.
When she started crying the next time, we would stop and wait. To our pleasant surprise, there were many times when the whimper tapered down within five minutes and she would just stop crying on her own. This practice of listening also taught us how to discern the different cries. Earlier on, we simply assumed every cry was a cry of distress. But now we could guess which ones were cries out of hunger, boredom or maybe even a soiled diaper.
If the crying didn’t stop even after five minutes, or if it increased in volume and intensity, we’d peep into her room without her seeing us. The baby cot was set up in her own room and that’s where she took naps and slept in the nights when she was six weeks old. If we couldn’t assess her need by the type of cry, then we’d try to have a look. There were moments when one of her limbs got caught in an awkward position and she was crying out in discomfort, or other times when she could not wiggle out of her swaddle and was crying in frustration. Peeping also meant we could back away if nothing was wrong and simply wait for her to soothe herself to sleep. Conversely, it also meant we could quickly intervene if her safety was compromised.
Like all loving parents, If something is wrong: limbs are caught in an awkward position, the swaddle covers the face or legs are wedged in between the bars of the cot; we will act immediately and not wait a moment to prolong the crying.
We’re not sure if this is a good method or whether it would work for your child, but it certainly gave us a lot of relief as well as a lot more sleep at night. We would certainly be using this method again when our next child comes along. Hearing a tiny baby cry can be nerve-wrecking and stressful for even the most experienced mum, but just know that you’re not alone – all babies cry.