When to worry about crying

Crying is your baby’s way of communicating with you. Knowing when to worry about your baby’s cry will save you hours of anxiety. The same cry can mean a hundred different things from “Yay! I’m excited” to “entertain me please!!” to “help I’m sick”.

In the first three months of life, babies will cry for an average of 3.5 hours a day!! After that, they begin to cry less as they begin to babble and express themselves in other ways. Over time your ears will become attuned to the different cries, and you will develop a parental instinct to detect an abnormal cry. Trust this instinct as a parent, and if prompted by it, seek medical advice about your baby.

Definitely, seek advice if your baby is crying excessively, not soothed by techniques that have worked before OR has any of these symptoms…

An unusual cry: A concerning cry may be weaker than normal, more forceful or high pitched than normal, more prolonged cry that is not soothed by the usual distractions that have previously worked for your baby.

Crying related to feeds: Crying midway or shortly after feeds with back arching and stiffening may be because your baby has a problem with reflux. As the stomach prepares to digest a feed it starts to produce digestive juices which are acidic. As the milk and the digestive juices are spun around in the stomach, some of these digestive juices my splash up into your baby’s feeding tube.  This can cause quite a painful burning sensation, causing your baby to pull away from the feed and SCREAM!

Fresh blood in stools: Constipated babies may cry as they strain to pass large rock-hard pellets. These motions may cause small tears and fissures around the anus which can bleed and are usually noticed as you are wiping the baby’s area during a nappy change. Soft stools that are mixed with blood are more worrying and may suggest an intolerance to the feed. These babies are often very distressed and uncomfortable after a feed until they have a poo. After which they are happy and rested.

Rash or bruising: Some rashes are purely innocent and reflect your newborn’s skin adjusting to the world outside the womb. Irritability and a rash may be caused by a serious bacterial infection. New-born babies (0-3 months) may not have the typical symptoms we associate with an infection, such as a raised temperature. It is important to regularly examine your child for rashes and request a review if your child is irritable with a rash

Fever (temperature 37.5C): Fever and irritability, abnormal cry or weak cry suggest a bacterial infection.

Swelling in groin or scrotum: It is important to examine the genitals of any screaming male baby. If you notice any unusual swellings, or the screaming gets worse as you touch any area, please arrange an urgent medical review.

Widening or tense spot on the head: The top of your baby’s scalp will have a soft spot that you probable stroke and pat regularly. This area may dip in and out or pulsate, but if this area is tense, raised above the skull bones or feels as hard as bone, then please arrange a review for your child as this may signify meningitis or other intra-cranial abnormalities.

Red fingers or toes: If your baby is crying excessively, or difficult to settle, undress your baby and have a good look at their fingers and toes. Strands of thread from fabrics and loose hairs can coil around their delicate fingers and toes causing painful constrictions. Look for discoloured areas, or areas that cause an escalation of shrieks when touched.


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