Babies: Mother Nature’s Alert System

As a writer and an artist, I must admit I am naturally voyeuristic — it’s as instinctive to eavesdrop on someone else’s conversation in public as it is to cover my own sneeze. Now that I’m a mother, I’m very aware of when there are other children in the same proximity of me, and I tend to keep an eye on what the parents do, how the children act and such things.

I had gone to a café to write the other day and before long, it began to fill with people. I didn’t have my headphones on, so I tried to bury myself deeper into my notebook when a baby on the other side of the room began to cry. And it kept crying. I looked across the room at the mother to see what the mother’s reaction was. I could tell it was a cry of hunger.

Crying baby

Minutes passed and the mother did nothing to alleviate  it. She walked him and cradled him and bounced him, but she seemed to not be aware that he was crying because of hunger. Eventually the baby in was full-tilt screaming. By this time, one of her friends hustled to the bathroom to fill a bottle with formula.

It was heart wrenching for me. I kept standing up and sitting down, watching her. She was not a young mother, not like a teenage mother, so I was not sure why she didn’t know that her baby was hungry. But what was even harder for me was knowing that now the baby was screaming, it would be too upset to settle down and eat. Oh, it was stressing me out — I was stressing out over the distress of another woman’s baby!

I sat back down and tried to concentrate on my writing and I immediately knew what my next post would be about. Crying babies.

baby prints

I consider myself a pretty informed, educated parent, but pre-motherhood even I didn’t know that babies had different cries. When Turtle was born, I learned quickly.

When we left the hospital where Turtle was born, they gave us all the literature on babies and baby things (Who says there isn’t a manual?) and one of them was about something called “purple baby”. It’s all about babies who cry and cry and cry for hours for “no apparent reason.” As I read it, I was grateful that we, thus far, didn’t have a purple baby. However, weeks later when she developed all those tummy issues – er, I guess I mean, when I was forcing my breast milk down her throat at MACH speeds — she had crying jags then. Not for hours, THANKGOD…but long enough to make me want to question if I had broken her already. So, I needed help, and it never did come in the form of a live person, because if you take a crying baby to a medical professional, they will look at you, try not to smirk, shrug and say, “Some babies just cry.”

Just cry, my ass. I knew something was wrong, so I had do all the research on my own, and it was through all the reading that I learned why babies cry in the first place. It’s a built-in mechanism to send everyone’s stomach to their toes and to get everyone’s heart pumping. Literally, I kid you not, do the research!

The research said a baby’s crying was to help a mother and baby bond — and also the father and baby — to bond, because come on, those of us who are parents know full well that when that baby is crying, there is nothing you wouldn’t do, or promise, to make it stop as soon as possible!!!

The cries of babies and adults’ reactions to these cries is universal; it’s always

disturbing. But it isn’t just for people who are parents. It disturbs everyone — this is why, when you are in a public place and a baby starts crying, you will see people start getting all fidgety. But the thing is that the people in the room who aren’t parents could probably not tell you why they are so disturbed over the cries. They would probably say, “I just want it to stop.”

And that is exactly why we all are made to react to children’s cries. Now, we are all aware of the tragedy when the system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, and the tragic result of it, but that is not what I want to talk about.

So, research had not netted me anything as to why MY baby was crying and it just so happened that a woman from the other side of the world would solve my problem in less than an hour. One day, I randomly decided to watch the Oprah show (I NEVER watch Oprah) and her guest was a mother who had done extensive research on the cries of babies.

She had developed a system called the Dunstan baby language that can actually teach you to define the different cries of your baby. Always the skeptic, I tested it, and you know what? She was right on… it did and does work. That was the best bit of knowledge I had discovered at that point in my life. It helped both Mihigna and me to be able to communicate with our daughter, and it saved our nerves, our sanity and restored our belief in ourselves that we could indeed be great parents.

I was so thrilled to find this out, and even more thrilled to know that it worked, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I wanted to tell Every Single Parent I knew. Unfortunately, there are a lot of skeptics out there who don’t believe it, won’t try it and don’t want to hear about it from a mother with one child. (Because, evidently, we single-child mothers are in a whole different class than those with multiple children. Yah, I guess we’d be called the low-stress class.)

I was really thrilled to find out that I could even become certified in teaching this baby language. I was going to sign right up, until I saw it was more money that I had. I put it on my to-do list. (If you are reading this, thank you  — know that you are contributing to the fund that will allow me to get this certification!)

However, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing because, while it is helpful for you to be able to differentiate your babies cry, it almost becomes a double-edged sword in the form of a super power. I say that because once you know the l

anguage, you become aware of ALL the babies crying around you, not just yours; and when their needs are not getting met, it is like nails on a chalk board.

baby footprints

So, this brings me back to this particular day. I kept standing up and sitting down and trying to decide if I should go over there. No matter how nice you are, there are many mothers who don’t want the help of a stranger when their baby is screaming its head off and everyone is looking. On this day, this woman did not want my help. She eventually packed up and left. It was so hard for me, because that situation spoke on so many levels of the issues in our society.

One, it’s hard being a parent, especially these days. It’s NOT a village where other mothers come up and offer to help you; and when you are in public, people for the most part just want your kid to be quiet. They get really upset over any kind of disturbance. It is as if we parents are toting around lions rather than children, and as long as our “pets” are sitting there behaving, people are all smiles, but the minute there is a disturbance, scowls and the dirty looks get launched.

(If you don’t believe me, go into any restaurant where there is mixed company of families and couples or people who don’t have children. Sit  and watch. You’ll see what I mean.) Now this, in my opinion, is just wrong. I want to say to them, “Children are going to be around — deal with it you child-phobic freaks. Hello, you used to BE a child!”

Damn, what do they think — that perhaps humans are evolving at a super fast rate these days, that they are born and then grow instantly to adults. “Just add water.” Geez! They aren’t Cup-a-Soups!

My point in all of this is  — babies and children cry for a reason, to get our attention in the best way they know how, and they don’t care what the people around them think!

Photo Credit

“Baby Cartoon”

Recent Mary Black Bonnet Articles:


  1. avatar says

    You have NO idea how much this means to me!!! (or, perhaps you do!)
    You have made my day!!!

    I appreciate this so much!
    I will be in touch!

  2. avatarNathan says

    I can understand your frustration with people in public, and their reactions to babies and little children. It’s very true that some reactions are just plain wrong. However, I also think the research you did, coupled with the way society is, points to some of the reason for why strangers get upset and irritated.

    As a male in my mid-30s, offering to help or do anything with a stranger’s child is for the most part out. I’m rendered dangerous in most parent’s eyes because we’re so quick to leap to stories about kidnappers, sexual predators, and the like. Just a few days ago, I was sitting in the public library and a young child wandered up to me, smiling, and waving his hands at me. His mother was sitting maybe twenty feet away, and as soon as she saw me, she told the kid to get back over to her. He stayed a moment, I smiled at her, said its ok, but she kept at the kid until he went back to her. I see this kind of stuff all the time.

    So, when a kid is crying in a restaurant or other public place I’m in, I honestly feel like there’s little I can do. The options are try to ignore it. Offer to help and probably cause more trouble. Or look around the room, hoping to make eye contact with someone else who might appear less threatening – like a grandmother perhaps. But you know, even elders can be shut out when they try to offer support. Most of us have so bought into the idea that family means the “nuclear family” and children are basically property that must be protected at all costs.

    You’re post alludes to all of this, and yet you seem surprised that strangers so readily leap to frustration. If we weren’t living in such a fear-saturated society where the media makes billions off playing up worst case scenerios as commonplace events, perhaps people might be more embracing of each others’ children, as less likely to get peeved when a baby cries in public.


Please Share Your Thoughts - Leave A Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.