7 unusual reasons why babies cry
Does it feel like your baby cries for no reason? We reveal the most interesting facts behind the tears and the tantrums
Babies cry a lot, but that doesn't mean it's easy to work out why. Helen Foster has the extraordinary and somewhat peculiar facts behind the tears and the tantrums.
The science of tears
Humans are the only animals who cry because of emotions. This is possibly to release the buildup of stress chemicals, theorised neuroscientist Dr William H Frey.
He discovered that emotional tears, unlike those produced when chopping onions – contain pain-killing chemicals, stress markers, and minerals related to mood control.
Newborns cry without shedding a tear
Tears are produced from the lacrimal gland behind the eye, and then squeezed out of the tiny tear ducts in the corner of the eye.
But in many babies tear ducts may not be fully formed until about eight months, so they may cry with their voices but without tears.
Babies cry with accents
French babies cry in a rising wail, German babies do the opposite and babies from families that speak a tonal language such as Mandarin cry in a fast up and down pattern.
They are probably trying to echo the natural patterns of the adult speech they hear, says Professor Kathleen Wermke from Germany’s University of Würzburg.
It could be part of your baby's cunning plan
Your baby’s night-time cries may be an attempt to stop you making them a sibling, says evolutionary biologist David Haig.
He thinks that babies cry at night to encourage you to regularly breastfeed them – which helps delay ovulation.
Crying often has a pattern
You may notice that your baby seems to be following their own routine. ‘The normal pattern of crying in a young baby is that they will be at their most settled from 7am to midday, a little more fussy from midday to 5pm, and then most fussy from 5pm to midnight and from about 2am to 5am,’ says Rachel Fitz-Desorgher, midwife and author of Your Baby Skin to Skin (£12.99, White Ladder Press).
We have a tear trigger
If your baby cries at the drop of a hat then they may have a low ‘tear threshold’ which means it doesn’t take much stimulus in the emotional part of your brain to send out signals to crank up the tear ducts.
This also applies to adults. So, if you find yourself welling up at Disney classics or the slightest scratch chances are you've got a low 'tear threshold' too.
UK babies cry more
A trial at the University of Warwick measured 8,700 babies around the world and found that some of the highest levels of colic (excessive crying) were found in UK babies. Here 28 per cent of one- and two-week-old babies cried to excess.
Danish babies cried least. The researchers didn’t explain why, but you can use the news to comfort yourself that you’re not alone if you have a wailer.
To find out even more facts about why babies cry, download your copy of the February issue of Gurgle magazine here.