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Is baby crying all the time?

Parents should be able to differentiate between pain and non-pain cries in infants



WARNING SIGNAL Don't ignore a baby's cry

The next time your baby cries incessantly don't ignore it, because babies' cries are linked to their health. According to a new research, published in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, a simple analysis of their cries can provide a window to their neurological and medical status.

Linda LaGasse and Barry Lester with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Centre (BHCRC) and Brown Medical School cite the characteristics of a cry that can indicate problems in a baby's nervous system, as well as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

"The cry signal has enormous potential diagnostic value; for example, very high pitched cries can tell us that something may be wrong with the infant, so the cry signal can be an early warning that leads to further neurological testing," said Dr. LaGasse.

Some previous studies have shown that infants at medical risk and infants, who have been exposed to lead or drugs, cry at a higher and more variable frequency than normal, but at lower amplitude, and with short utterances. These cry signals point toward a capacity problem in the respiratory system as well as an increased tension and instability of neural control of the vocal tract.

Given the results of earlier studies relating cry characteristics to known neurological compromise, these findings suggest that at-risk infants have undetected neurological damage and that cry analysis may be able to identify these.

The researchers found that high resonance and changes in the cry mode were consistent markers associated with SIDS.

"Resonance is identified by a computerised analysis of the cry signal in the studies cited in the paper — this is why a detailed analysis of the cry signal is an important part of understanding the `full message' of the cry," said Dr. LaGasse.

The authors also note that parents tend to understand the nature of their babies' cries well, and stress the importance of parental reaction to cries. "Parents can usually tell the difference between pain and non-pain cries which guides the urgency of their care taking, and helps parents deal with infants with colic," said Dr. LaGasse.

A.N.

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