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
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
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.