Nothing beats hearing your baby’s first cry after birth to reassure you that everything is fine. But have you ever wondered why babies cry when they are born? Is it because they are dissatisfied that they had to leave the warm womb to face the cold cruel world? The answer, it turns out, is truly miraculous.
A new mother’s first cry can be like music to her ears. It indicates that the baby’s lungs have begun to function outside of the womb, which is critical for survival.
Remember that a baby “breathes” in utero through the placenta of its mother. “When a baby is in utero, amniotic fluid fills the air sacs within the lungs,” explains Romper’s Dr. Ana Machado. “As the baby is born and squeezes its way through the vaginal canal, pressure on the chest wall compresses it, causing the fluid to squeeze out of the lungs.” Consider a baby’s lungs to be a sponge full of water; once the baby is born, all of that water must be replaced with air.
Which is why that first cry is so important. Dr. Machado observes, “This is the very first time the lungs have been used to take in air.” Dr. Machado explains that while the inhalation of the first breath may be brief, the exhalation (the baby’s first cry) is typically longer “because it’s the pressure forcing the air sacs open and getting that fluid out.”
Depending on the volume of fluid in his lungs, your baby may need to let out more than one cry. Dr. Machado assures parents that their child will cry for as long as he needs to resume regular breathing. But if you think your newborn cried because he was sad to leave the safety and comfort of your womb, you might want to reevaluate your assumptions. Dr. Machado says that babies typically don’t start crying because they’re unhappy.
“Persistent crying within the first five to ten minutes after birth could be a breathing issue, or sometimes they are just cold.” According to research published in the journal Early Human Development, this is why all delivery rooms have some sort of infant incubator or radiant warming machine.
Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swaddling newborns after they have been cleaned up to help retain their body heat and promote calmness.
How often, on average, should a mother expect her newborn to cry? Dr. Machado advises, “Ideally, you want to hear a couple of good cries.” They’ll stop crying once their lungs have expanded and they’ve been comforted and warmed, you say. A healthy newborn will typically cry for one minute or less after taking his first breath.
According to Kids Health, your baby’s cries will count toward his Apgar score (the R in Apgar stands for “respiration”). The newborn is given the Apgar test at one minute and again at five minutes.
Even though everyone in the delivery room is eager to hear the baby’s first cry, an OB may choose to delay it for a short while. The labor and delivery staff will work to clean the baby thoroughly before she takes her first breath if she passes meconium (i.e., baby poop) during labor or delivery.
Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) occurs when an infant breathes in stool or feces, and it can lead to complications in the lungs like asthma or pneumonia, as reported by Parents. When a baby isn’t moving around much and there’s concern that she may have breathed in meconium, the doctor may insert an endotracheal tube into the windpipe through the mouth or nose and suction out the poop, as stated by Kids Health. After that, they’ll use some form of provocation to make the baby cry.
After your baby is born, she may or may not cry for the first time for several hours or days. “When they’re born, they’re lifeless and purple,” Dr. Machado says. “There’s something magical about that first cry,” the mother said. A baby is born out of them. In an instant, the infant’s skin tone changes from purple to pink, and they begin to move and even open their eyes for the first time.
Dr. Machado says that crying is essential to survival. “It is a miracle, truly.” Say it to yourself at three in the morning when your miracle baby is up and about.