Check These 4 Things First When You’ve Got a Crying Baby

If you're a new parent, you may be wondering how the heck to keep your little one calm.

Babies cry.  Yes, it's true.

And their cries make our nerves do backflips for good reason.  You have a strong response to your child's cries because you are supposed to!

It's built into our DNA.  The panicked feeling you feel when your little one cries, the one where you need to figure out how to stop the crying NOW... that is not only normal, it is a very very healthy response (It's important to mention I am not talking about Postpartum Depression & PTSD responses, colic or extended, unexplained crying right now).

It ensures you will do all in your power to help them when they need it.  And this is by divine design because crying is your little bugs only form of communication.  It's their only way to tell you when something is wrong.  Your job is to pay close attention, learn their cries, and figure out what they need.

Learning your babies cries is an important skill to master in the first few months of parenthood.Stephanie Aberlich

Learning your babies cries is an important skill to master in the first few months of parenthood.  It can help you respond quickly and therefore prevent any extended cortisol release for your young infant.  Responding quickly to your babies cries is extremely important for connection, bonding, and your child's overall well-being.

The first step is to figure out why they are crying.  To do so, you must ask yourself:

What are they trying to tell me?  What do they need?

As we were discussing this when our son was young, my husband came up with an acronym so he could easily remember what to check first.  It worked so well for him, I wanted to share my slightly different version with you.

There are four things to check first when you have a cranky infant (This also works for toddlers, children & adults).  Remember the word CHAT - Comfort, Hunger, Attention, Tired - to help keep some peace with your little one, especially in those early months.

Comfort

Are they wet?  Or poopy?  Even if you're thinking "But I just changed him!" check again.  Urine gets cold after a while, so think about how uncomfortable it must be to sit in it.  Not to mention, a child who is consistently uncomfortable sitting in their own urine is a GOOD THING!  Many times, a child uncomfortable in a wet diaper is also a child who may potty train quicker, and also one who most likely won't have diaper rashes often, if ever.

Are they too hot or too cold?  Is their diaper on too tight, or is a tag from their clothing bothering them?  Is their arm stuck in a swaddle, or are they desperately trying to get to their fingers to suck on, but you have their hands covered?  Pay attention to these signals of discomfort and make a mental note on the things that really bother your child.

Hunger

Again, even if they have just been fed, offer food or the breast again just to make sure.  Some children like to focus on something other than eating when they need to poop or may have gotten distracted or are uncomfortable from a wet diaper, gas, or need to burp.  So make sure to double check they have had enough even if they voluntarily stopped feeding.

Concerned about how much your infant is eating or when to fed them?  There is a lot of anxiety around feeding for most new parents, but don't worry, I have lots to say on this.  I've got ya mama.

Attention

One of our very basic human needs is connection.  Infants need connection so much more than most people realize and it's an integral part of secure attachment.  If your infant or child is cranky, they may need more of your attention.  Ask yourself if you've been looking at a screen instead of interacting with your child.  Or if your infant just needs to be held.

They need our attention in a very physical way as young children.  As small infants, they need to be held and cuddled almost constantly.  Babywearing is a wonderful option for those times when your baby or toddler needs your attention but you need your hands for other things.

Tired

This may seem obvious, but many times parents miss the signs their child is tired, or underestimate the importance of their children getting enough sleep.  The length of sleep needed for young children is very important, especially when children wake early in the morning (say 4 or 5 am) or wake up earlier than usual from a nap. I see many parents struggling with this and keeping their children up instead of trying to gently get them back to sleep.

If your child usually takes a 2 hour nap and one day wakes after 30 minutes, it's important to check if they are Comfortable, Hungry, or need Attention, and then attempt to get them back to sleep.  This could mean the difference between a very overly tired and cranky child and one who is happy to play on their own for a bit or engage with the rest of the family.

Awareness Over Perfection

It's important to mention, learning your child's cries is a practice, and a very non linear one at that.  Just when you think you've got it under control, their needs and cues will change.  This is inevitable.  Try to be extremely patient and gentle with yourself during these transitions.

Support from your partner, family and community is paramount right now.  Let them help you when you need it.  And always, always seek help if you ever feel like harming yourself or your child.

Tell Your Story

Has C.H.A.T. helped you?  What little cues have you learned about your baby?  What are they particular about?  What else has worked?  Tell me in the comments.

With Harmony,

Stevie