Something must be wrong when kewpie is crying — obviously! Wrong, says Dr Janelle Dong, you’re most probably mistaken. A doula at Four Trimesters, she says parents should revise their way of thinking before they take steps to try to soothe a crying mini-me: Crying is baby’s only way of communicating with you.
“Once you accept that the main purpose of crying is communication, [parent’s] ability to hear beyond the noise of the cry will help them relax.”
Dr Dong adds, “They could be telling you that something is or was right, and you changed it abruptly without warning them.”
Most of the time, a wailing bubba just wants to give you a heads up about feeling sleepy, hungry or that baby needs a change of diaper. Only in rare occasions can a crying mini-me point to deeper physiological concerns or health issues — like a fever — that should be promptly remedied by a health professional.
“Discuss with your hubby what you have heard in bubba’s cries; specifically what noises have been made and what sort of cries are associated with which one of bubba’s needs.”
Different cries for different moods
The same way adults deliberately alter their verbal intonations and exclamations to suggest changes in mood, your little one’s doing the same with their cries.
Some form of behavioural conditioning could also be at play, according to Dr Dong, “Variations in a cry will elicit certain responses in parents and babies will learn to adapt and use these variations to get what they need.”
Thus it will help for parents to discuss what they have heard in bubba’s cries; specifically what noises have been made and what sort of cries are associated with which one of bubba’s needs.
Watch and learn baby language
For the uninitiated, Priscilla Dunstan’s Dunstan Baby Language (DBL) serves as a good reference for parents to differentiate kewpie’s cries.
Dunstan is an Australian mum who possesses a rare photographic memory for sound — think of it as the ability to recite everything your boss said in the meeting word-for-word, without actually jotting down anything.
Dunstan claims that there are five distinct sounds in your baby’s cries (the “pre-cry” portion in particular – the starting sound of the cry) that corresponds to a certain need they have: ‘Neh’ means “I’m hungry”, “Oww” means “I’m tired”, “Keh” means “I’m not comfy”, “Eairh” means “I have gas” and “Eh” – a shorter variation of the previous sound – means “I need to burp”. Check out the iPhone app to familiarise yourself with the sounds — Baby Ears by DBL ($5.98; iPhone only). When played at a SmartParents meeting, however, the reception was mixed, with some complaining that what they heard was “Owaaanh”.
Dr Dong shares that she finds DBL very effective for families for two reasons, “It helps parents fine tune their ears to listen carefully to their child’s needs and it also clearly helps the baby become calmer since their parents are better conditioned to respond to their demands.”
So how should you actually react if your mini-me is crying? Click next.
Trust your parental instincts
Dr Dong cautions against taking DBL as hard-and-fast truth. While exposure to a wider array of materials from various baby experts can help you gain a better understanding of what your baby wants, you should prioritise your parental instincts over all else.
“Listen to what feels natural to you as a parent regardless of what the book tells you. If it does not feel suitable for your family or lifestyle than don’t bother continuing. Spending quality time listening and feeling out what your baby needs can help you build those instincts.”
Keep calm before you carry on
Dr Dong says that under stressful circumstances it will also help for parents to take a step back and steady themselves before dealing with a restless kewpie.
“Babies can sense when mum or dad is stressed, anxious, scared or nervous. When picking up your baby and holding them to your chest, check and see how you can shift your posture to be softer, calmer and less tense, make sure that you are holding your baby with confidence and ease with a firm and secure hold.”
Mimic the womb
Otherwise, mothers try to mimic the conditions that the womb offered baby, and try to mimic them to soothe baby. Simply swaddling and holding them (not too) tightly can do wonders. Dr Dong advises parents to adopt movement such as “rocking, swaying, walking and carrying, which will lull a baby to sleep or help calm them down”.
Sucking is another action that can calm a crying munchkin. Allow him to suck on his fingers, your breasts, hands, age-appropriate toys or pacifiers. These have been shown to calm them down naturally. Clasping his hands close to his face or mouth also produces the same calming effects, notes Dr Dong.
“Dancing is one of the best ways dads can not only deal with a crying baby but it is also extremely good for baby’s nervous system…”
Get daddy to boogy
It might come as a surprise but dads could actually be better at attending to the needs of a crying munchkin, especially if baby’s already been fed, diapered, changed, bathed and even clocked enough sleep. Dr Dong suggests that fathers attempt getting their groove on with baby in their arms.
“Yes, Dancing! Dancing is one of the best ways dads can not only deal with a crying baby but it is also extremely good for baby’s nervous system. Movement and music with dad greatly enhances the baby’s ability to sense their own movement while encouraging bonding with dad, with exposure to different sounds and vibrations.”
Whatever it is, NEVER leave your munchkin to cry it out. Dr Dong shares, “Babies are naturally needy and clingy for a reason — they operate under biological and instinctual will to survive. If parents don’t foster a strong foundation by taking care of their needs, research has shown they will become individuals with lower self-esteem and confidence.”
So follow your instincts: Love your little one and cuddle away their tears!