Why Do Babies Cry When They’re Born?

Why Do Babies Cry When They’re Born?

We’ve all seen enough hospital dramas to know that, when a baby is born, boy oh boy, do they cry. 👶

And, it’s almost like they’re encouraged to cry, too.

But, why is this?

Why is it a good thing that babies cry when they’re born?

And is it a concern if a baby doesn’t cry?

All your questions answered, right here. 👇

In this article: 📝

  • What is the first cry of a newborn baby called?
  • Do babies cry immediately after birth?
  • What’s the science behind why babies cry when they’re born? 👩‍🔬
  • Do babies feel pain during birth?
  • What happens if a baby doesn’t cry at birth?

What is the first cry of a newborn baby called?

First off, did you know that a newborn’s first cry is also called ‘vagitus’? 🤯

(No, it’s not some bacterial infection of the vagina, although it definitely sounds like one. 😅)

Vagitus is the cry that happens right after the baby is exposed to the room’s air, triggering a reflux to take a breath and cry.

And, it’s named after the Roman god, Vagitanus, who teaches newborns to cry… (who knew?!)

Some have studied what exactly the baby’s first cry can tell us, and whether it differs for babies born vaginally or by c-section, but there’s no conclusive research to tell us exactly what it means.

But, what we do know is that a baby’s first cry means baby is breathing, and making its debut into the world. 👶

Do babies cry immediately after birth?

So, in nearly all cases, yep — they do.

And it’s deemed as a “good delivery” to have a baby with a loud cry, as it’s thought that the baby’s first cry is a good indication of its overall wellbeing.

So, that loud cry is a way to let everyone around them know that they’re all good. 👌

Birth is a pretty intense experience.

Not only have they had to be squeezed through the vagina (or, in some cases, cut out of the womb by a C-section), but they’ve gone from being cozy, warm, and safe in their dark little cocoon, to cold, confused and under the bright sterile lights of a hospital room. 🏥

It’s enough to make anyone gasp!

And that gasp is actually their first breath, and their first cry is actually their first exhale.

So, that’s why ‘baby crying’ = good.

Because, ‘baby crying’ = baby breathing. 👶

What’s the science behind why babies cry when they’re born? 👩‍🔬

As well as baby going from cozy to cold, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes when you hear that very first cry.

In the womb, babies have depended solely on their Mama for oxygen, using the placenta and umbilical cord to get that high-quality O2.

But, once baby is delivered into the real world, their first breath triggers a bunch of changes to the way their heart moves blood around their body.

So, instead of easily breathing in fluid from the womb, they’re now exposed to the oxygen in their lungs like we are, and it’s a totally new sensation.

Baby’s central nervous system then reacts to the sudden change (i.e. the crying), while the lungs begin to work on their own for the first time. 🫁

This means that the baby’s first cry is an important moment as the baby’s lungs expand for the first time, while simultaneously expelling remnants of amniotic fluid and mucus within the lungs.

🔍 Read More: Can Babies Cry In The Womb? 🤔

Do babies feel pain during birth?

Well, it’s all a bit unknown, really. 🤷‍♀️

Scientists have recently learned that babies are able to feel pain before they are born.

(During the 1980s, doctors were taught that newborn brains weren’t developed enough yet to process pain).

But, does labor in general cause them pain? 🤔

It’s thought that contractions are likely to not be painful, but would maybe create a gentle pressure.

Think of it like a nudge to say, “Hey, your debut scene is coming up — get ready, baby!”

But then, there’s the birth itself…

Surely, it must be at least some level of discomfort to have your head squished through a tight hole? 😬

But, of course, pain itself can’t be measured objectively, and the little babes can’t tell us themselves how it felt up in there.

But, the saving grace here is good old endorphins — also known as nature’s aspirin.

Naturally occurring hormones can provide pain relief and an altered state of consciousness for baby, so their what-should-be-painful entrance into the world may be protected by endorphins.

Newborns who’ve experienced distress in labor have proved to have *higher* endorphins, suggesting nature has their back in high-stress situations to try and mask some of the potential pain.

What happens if a baby doesn’t cry at birth?

If a baby doesn’t cry after birth, it may be a sign that something isn’t quite right.

Babies can sometimes not cry immediately, but then burst into glorious screams a few seconds later, with everything being absolutely fine…

(They’re just keeping you on your toes, obviously 🙃).

But, if baby doesn’t cry pretty much right away, the doctors will need to quickly work out what’s going on.

One of the main reasons why a baby wouldn’t be breathing straight after being born is that they’re struggling to breathe.

This could be if their lungs aren’t fully developed (which is more common with premature babies), and they can’t provide enough oxygen.

This is known as newborn respiratory distress syndrome (NRDS).

Another reason could be that the pain medication the mother has had to cope with the labor may have caused the newborn to be sleepy, so may need a little help starting up their lungs.

But, it’s possible to be born without crying, and to be a healthy newborn. 🤷‍♀️

In other words, there’s a whole host of reasons why babies may not cry at birth — some of them non-concerning, and some a bit more serious.

Either way, your medical team would guide you through the possible causes and next steps.

So, there you have it!

The 411 on why your babe screams their heart out as they make their entrance into the world.

Looking to connect with more mamas-to-be, and share tips, advice, and support?

Head on over to your Peanut Community to join the conversation today. 🥜


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