What is My Baby Trying To Tell Me...? Part 1

All crying occurs in a context

However we live in a realistic world where reality sometimes does not match our expectations. It is only when a mother finds herself being challenged by the difficulties, that help is needed to negotiate the difficulties…oo

Let me explain this with an analogy.

Imagine that you have gone to live overseas in a foreign country where the language is one you have never heard or seen before and no one speaks English at all. Once you leave the airport no one knows that you have just stepped off a gruelling 14-hour flight and you are very hungry, thirsty, and desperately need to go to the toilet. No street signs are recognisable, and no one can understand you as you attempt to convey your needs. The more you try and communicate your needs the more people just look at you with blank looks and are not able to help you at all. You manage to find your accommodation where you check in and finally find a toilet. At dinner time you follow the crowds and find some food and a drink and start to feel a whole lot better because your immediate needs have been met.

For the first few weeks you fumble your way around as you try to make yourself understood and slowly become acquainted with the places you will need to go. As the weeks and months go by you will come across familiar people who have learnt what your needs are and can anticipate how to assist you. The waiter at your favourite restaurant knows the dish you prefer, the checkout lady at the supermarket learns how to help you with the new currency and your boss knows where you need help with understanding certain traditions and procedures. You begin to relax as you learn that there are people around to help you adapt to this new environment.

Well, this is exactly what it is like for your new baby. This is a VERY foreign and confusing world for a newborn baby. There is no longer constant food on tap, no more comfy womb that remains at a consistent temperature and all the lovely rocking has suddenly gone! We should therefore not be surprised that they make so much noise about coming into this world. We must recognise that a newborn baby has no clue how to meet his/her own needs and has not understood yet that these needs will be met by loving parents. Therefore, they are equipped with the ability to give certain clues about what a particular need may be.

Sometimes though if these clues are not being deciphered quickly enough then the only thing that remains is to cry out loudly that something feels very wrong! As time goes on though you will begin to recognise certain facial expressions, certain tones to the cries and subtle body language that give you clues as to what those needs are before your baby starts to cry. Your baby too begins to relax and “understand” that my needs are being met on a consistent basis so I don’t have to panic too much.

Before you become more accustomed to what it is that your baby is signalling for, it can be very useful to understand that all behaviour, whether it is crying or not, occurs within a context.  

Not knowing what has transpired in the few hours leading up to the moment of hearing a baby cry, makes it very difficult to establish what is upsetting the baby. For example, if it has been 2 or 3 hours since a baby has last fed and he/she starts to cry, then you can be pretty sure that the baby is signalling hunger and needs a feed. Or if a baby has very recently finished a feed and then becomes grumpy, it may be that the baby needs a nappy change or to be burped or may possibly need to go to sleep. Knowing the context in which the crying occurs will help you to determine what is most likely to be the reason for the unsettled behaviour.

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