2023 Author: Anita Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-22 03:30
For parents, increased infant crying during the first few months can be a frustrating and stressful experience. Better understanding the origin of these cries could be the key element!
For parents, the increase in their infant's often inconsolable crying during the first few months can be a frustrating and stressful experience. Better understanding the origin of this crying could be the key element that will help them to control this situation and adopt appropriate behaviors to promote the socio-emotional development of the child.
At a developmental stage when infants are almost entirely dependent on others to meet their needs, crying is their primary means of communication. Since crying elicits healing, crying plays a role in the development of the attachment relationship. Indeed, the newborn becomes attached to the person who responds to his crying most consistently.
Although the quantity and quality of first cries vary greatly, several studies have shown that their frequency generally increases during the first 3 months and reaches its peak around 6 to 8 weeks. Then the crying becomesconsiderably less frequent around 3 or 4 months. This decrease coincides with significant developmental changes at the affective, vocal and motor levels.
Two types of crying
Dr. Cynthia A. Stifter of the University of Pennsylvania distinguishes between two types of excessive crying. Excessive, persistent crying for no apparent reason that occurs during the first 3 months in a he althy newborn baby. This crying, called "infant colic", affects about 10% of the population. The other type is the crying of infants with difficult temperaments. These babies fuss or cry for shorter periods of time, but are difficult to soothe and irritable during the first few years.
Even if in the short term colic has a detrimental effect on the stress that parents can experience, it seems that the parent-child relationship readjusts when it disappears. On the other hand, many infants with difficult temperaments show certain problems during childhood and adolescence, including problems with attention, behavior and learning.
The parent-child relationship
In fact, data indicates that caring for an irritable and difficult-to-calm baby puts a strain on the parent-child relationship. For example, mothers of babies with difficult temperaments are less sensitive and show less positive maternal behaviors than others. Dr. Debra M. Zeifman of Vassar College notes that in such cases, early interventions focusedon parental sensitivity are effective in improving child development.
For his part, Dr. Philip Sanford Zeskind, of Carolinas Medical Center argues that the combination of infant crying and adult characteristics determines the caregiver's response which will affect the psychosocial development of the infant. the child. "Crying is like a biological siren, a signal that alerts and motivates the parent to meet the baby's needs," he adds.
Newborns at risk of psychosocial difficulties due to prenatal problems (brain damage, malnutrition, asphyxia, and substance abuse during pregnancy) often have excessively high-pitched (hyperphonic) cries. This type of crying has good and bad sides. Some parents do everything in their power to calm their infant's crying and at the same time offer them auditory, visual and tactile stimulation that promotes their development. However, others react defensively and engage in behavior that is harmful to the baby's well-being. This can, in some extreme cases, result in acts of physical abuse or neglect.
A study has found that teenage mothers, depressed women, or those who used cocaine during pregnancy perceive increasingly high-pitched crying as unalarming and not requiring an immediate response. “In order to help parents better manage excessive crying, we should be aware of the differenttones of crying and the reaction it can elicit in some mothers, especially those with depression or other conditions that could alter their perception,” concludes Dr. Zeskind.
The cause of colic
Even he althy babies cry for long periods of time for no apparent reason. Parents then often feel like they are losing control and many believe that crying is a sign that something is wrong. To complicate the issue, some popular publications give conflicting advice.
In contrast, Dr Ian St James-Roberts of the University of London in the UK argues that although in the past excessive crying, or colic, was attributed to a gastrointestinal problem, more recent research has qualified this theory. In fact, organic problems rarely occur, which is why an accurate diagnosis is important. Dietary treatments, such as eliminating cow's milk from the mother's diet, are not yet sufficiently proven and can cause women to stop breastfeeding, which goes against he alth policies. public.
Current research into the cause of crying is focusing on neurodevelopmental changes in early childhood. A study led by Dr. Ronald G. Barr in Montreal on the duration, frequency and intensity of crying in 6-week-old and 5-month-old babies concluded that even if cryingintense, prolonged and uncontrollable are specific to the first months and more common in infants with colic, they are not only observable in them. "To better understand colic, we should focus on what causes the crying to last longer rather than what triggers it," the researchers say.
Colic or uncontrollable crying that occurs during the first few months is part of normal baby development. This new finding means that the social and emotional consequences of crying largely depend on how caregivers interpret and respond to it.
Depression in the mother
Excessive crying is a particular problem for women with postpartum depression. This form of depression, which affects 10 to 20% of mothers, can compromise the social, emotional and cognitive development of infants. It usually occurs during the 3 months following childbirth, which corresponds to the period when the crying of the baby is at its maximum intensity.
Faced with such circumstances, Dr. Tim Oberlander of the University of British Columbia wonders: "If the crying of the newborn is a sensible signal to make the mother react, what are the consequences when ignored or misinterpreted by the depressed mother?”.
Preliminary studies indicate that newborns of depressed mothers cry more often than others andthat postpartum depression can prevent the mother from understanding the baby's cue and responding to it appropriately. Crying could also have a negative effect on the mother's mood. According to Dr. Oberlander, infant crying can be an element to consider in the intervention with depressed mothers. These interventions could help these women conceive why their infant is crying. “Understanding why some mothers with postpartum depression are unable to respond appropriately to their babies could be a key component of intervention plans aimed at promoting infant he alth and development. »
Information and support
Ultimately, what determines a child's long-term social-emotional development is how parents interpret and respond to their infant's crying, rather than the crying itself. “Most babies who cry a lot are he althy and stop crying on their own,” says Dr. St James-Roberts. Most of the recommendations therefore focus on giving parents the information and support they need to help them contain the crying.
Dr. Liisa Lehtonen, from Turku University Hospital in Finland, concludes that there may even be a positive side to crying: "If we explained to parents that crying is a sign of vigor, he alth and robustness, they could see the good side of things: by crying a lot, their baby can perhaps obtain, by expressing his hunger, a larger portion offood and get more parental attention than a quiet infant. »
by Eve Krakow
Tremblay RE, Barr RG, Peters RDeV, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development – Crying. Montreal, Quebec: Center of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. Available on the website or in PDF version.