Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5764 - October 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

He's Crying Again
by Kaila Cohen

They begin from the moment they are born. Regardless of time, climate, location or color of skin. Jewish babies cry no more than other babies all over the world. Babies cry and mothers try to soothe them, not always successfully.

A crying baby evokes tension, not only in the mother. Long- suffering patients in a hospital waiting room with a crying baby are prepared to wait even longer and beg the mother to jump the queue just to terminate that continuous irritating noise. Interestingly, mothers wake up to their own baby's crying, yet sleep peacefully through the crying of others. Moreover, they can usually identify the cause of the cry, particularly if it is a cry of pain.

What are the causes and why do some babies seem to cry persistently without a reason? It makes no difference if it is a first or a tenth child; some babies cry more than others. Hunger, discomfort or pain are the obvious causes.

Hashem made this cry so irritating that the mother should not forget to feed or change the baby. However, researchers now agree that crying also releases tension. The more a baby cries, the more tension he releases. This unlikely phenomenon has been well researched in several countries. Doubting mothers ask why a baby could possibly feel tense when he is warm, dry, well fed and comfortable.

It seems that the trauma of birth, moving house, as they call it, affects all babies. Some find it more difficult to acclimatize to the strangeness, and express their tension or insecurity in the only way they know, by crying. An average baby cries between one and a half to two hours each day without any obvious reason. [They call it wein stunde, crying-time, in German.] Some do it early in the evening but others prefer the hours between two and four a.m. There are extreme cases of babies crying almost round the clock.

The nervous system of a baby is immature and not properly developed. Thus, an unexpected noise like a door slamming or a telephone ringing can startle a baby terribly. Even a normal noisy teenage family with a tape blaring in the backround can be the catalyst for hours of crying "for no reason." Well meant stimulation such as a musical mobile can be a further cause for distress. In the early months, one familiar toy is better than trying too many things.

Mothers blame much of the crying on wind (gas) and colic. Yet frequently, the wind is brought on by the amount of air the child has swallowed while he was crying! Undoubtedly, food is often the cause of crying. The baby might not tolerate milk and will need a soy substitute. The mother may be eating something which disagrees with the baby [in some cases, those selfsame milk products].

It should not be too difficult to identify which food or foods are to blame. If the baby cries significantly less after the mother has stopped eating strawberries, eggs, beans or cheese etc., then she will keep off those foods for a few months. [Even coffee can keep a nursing baby awake and irritated when he wants and needs to sleep!] Nevertheless, there are babies who cry almost day and night, who are not intolerant of any food, and they grow and develop beautifully. They just cry!

Sucking is one of the reflexes with which a baby is born. It obviously comforts a baby. Quite frequently, babies begin to suck one or more fingers in the hospital, straight after birth. These babies tend to cry far less than those who are trained to suck pacifers. Parents try all types of pacifiers till the child accepts one and then they enjoy the peace till the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, unable to find his pacifier. Some parents insist on giving a child a pacifier almost from birth, as they do not want him to start sucking his thumb. It is easier to wean a child off sucking a pacifier than off sucking a thumb or finger. It is a debatable suject.

Even very young babies want company. A sleeping baby who wakes up to the sound of the vacuum cleaner might cry vociferously, not only because the noise frightens or irritates him, but because there is no one around. Recliner chairs (infant seats or sal-kal) are ideal for this situation. They are easy to take into whichever room the mother or even babysitter is working. This reclining position in the company of someone who speaks to him and with whom he is familiar is often the best way to calm the crying.

Is the baby going to get spoiled if he is picked up? Like most things in education, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Babies need warmth and love; they need to be held and cuddled repeatedly during the day. Although they do not yet understand language, mothers should talk to the baby and explain how much she loves him but that she must get on with her work, too, and cannot hold him all day. Does that mean that one can just leave him to cry?

One of the causes of crying is tiredness. Baby wants to sleep but is too tense to relax. Rocking either in the arms or in the cradle might soothe him. In fact, many babies only go to sleep on their mother's arm, only to wake up as soon as they are put back. [One trick that might help is to wrap him up tightly in a blanket or receiving blanket so that when he is put down, the `shock' is gentler and the child still feels the security of his wrap-around, even in his sleep.]

It is a comfort to know that by the age of twelve months, and usually before then, all this inexplicable crying will cease. By this time, the baby can turn himself over if he wants to; he can reach many things if he needs them, and therefore, he will not be frustrated anymore. He knows how to make himself understood to a certain extent and the world is familiar to him.

He is a person in his own right, now, and doesn't need to scream as the only way to express himself. So tired mothers - - take heart. Time passes all too quickly.


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