Crying in infants (Emotional development 0-2 months of age)

Life is always in a developing stage. The development starts even before birth. Here we will discuss emotional development in infants of 0-2 months of age.

Right from a birth infant is dependent on adults for his/her needs. The newborn infant needs constant attention for feeding, cleanliness, and care. To meet the urgent needs of the infant a trusted caring adult is always needed to be present with the infant.

The environment in which an infant grows affects the emotional development of the infants. Caring develops a healthy bonding between baby and mother/caregiver.

Achieving this bonding is the major milestone in the first few weeks of life. Bonding is needed for proper emotional development and establishing exclusive breastfeeding.

Crying in infants

Infants of 0-2 months of age cry after some stimuli. The soiled diaper is one of them. Hunger is another such stimuli they will cry for.

Some times cause for cry is not obvious. This type of cry is maximum at 6 weeks of age and it may last up to 3 hours a day. The crying usually reduces to 1 hr a day till the baby becomes 3 months of age.

Crying is a normal activity and a transient behavior that may last till 2 months of age. It usually becomes a thing of concern to parents. Generally, this behavior is shown by nearly 20 percent of babies.

Crying can be considered abnormal if it lasts for more than 3 hrs a day and more than 3 days a week. It may indicate child abuse or an early indication of a mental problem developing at a later age.

Postnatal depression in mothers may be associated with increased episodes of crying in infants. 

Other behaviors before crying

Though infants respond by crying too many stimuli, they may show other behaviors too. These behaviors can be observed before the baby actually starts crying.

These behaviors are seen after stimuli like hunger and the soiling of diapers. Following is the list of those behaviors:

  • Change in breathing pattern: You may identify these by observing your baby for some days. Usually, the mother knows these patterns as she observes the baby.
  • Change in color of the baby: Some babies before crying become increasingly red or some altered color.
  • The specific posture of the limbs: Some babies adopt the specific postures and movements of limbs like keeping hands near their mouth when they are hungry or folding the hip joints and flexing the thighs when the diaper is soiled.
  • Voices: Some infants may become calm or increasingly irritable when they are hungry or feel sleepy.

All these behaviors usually are observed before the actual cry. A good observer can identify them quickly after some days.

Pre-cry behavior depends on the temperament of the baby. Some babies cry in a short time after such stimuli while some babies don’t.

How to reduce crying in young infants?

Following are the ways to reduce the crying and fussiness in your normal neonates and young infants.

  • Identifying pre-cry behavior patterns and then responding to them is the best to deal with crying in young infants. 
  • Neonates and young infants should be provided in a comfortable environment.
  • Sensory overstimulation like noisy environments and uncomfortable stimuli should be reduced to a minimum.
  • Mother’s skin to skin contact and carrying environment may help in reducing the crying.
  • Parents should be counseled regarding what is normal crying and when should they worry and visit a doctor.
  • On-demand feeding is the best method for normal-weight healthy neonates and infants.
  • Feeding after a fixed duration is also OK most of the young infants rapidly adapt to this new feeding cycle frequency.
  • Parents who feed their infants at their own convenience find it difficult to handle the crying of the infants.

What are the implications of excessive crying?

Excessive crying is considered when an infant especially the young infant is crying more than 3 hours a day and more for more than 3 hours a week. Or if the crying is persistent beyond 3-4 months of age.

Other significant findings with abnormal excessive crying are the inability to gain weight, refusal to feed and inability to feed, delayed milestones, excessive irritability or lethargy, seizures which can be difficult to identify for an untrained eye.

Condition in mother such as postnatal depression is more common in mothers who have an infant that cries excessively and baby of a mother with postnatal depression cry excessively. This condition many times goes undetected and causes bigger problems at later date. Proper family support and psychiatric help should be offered to such mothers.

What should you do as a parent?

Whenever needed or feel something is abnormal you should get the professional help of a pediatrician.

The pediatrician will examine your baby and note down the growth parameters like weight, length, and head circumference.

On physical examination, the pediatrician will come to know about the problem your baby is facing. 

Ideally, both parents or guardians of the baby should accompany you when you plan to visit a pediatrician with the baby.

You should carry all the medical records of the mother in pregnancy and later at the time of the delivery with babies medical record.

Keep vaccination visits as suggested by pediatrician.

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