Why do infants cry soon after birth?

Inside the womb the child is in a warm protected environment. When it is brought out it experiences a total change in the environment. The outside temperature and air stimulates the skin (proprioceptive impulse). This stimulation makes the child take a deep breath (a good gasp). When the air gets into the lungs in the first gasp it results in a cry. It repeatedly takes up this deep breathing and establishes the regular respiratory cycle.

This cry is one of the five parameters (Apgar count) to assess the child’s condition soon after birth. This is done at one minute and five minute after birth. In a normal child the first cry is expected to be a vigorous or lustrous one. A varied cry is also a way of interpreting the condition of the child (normal or otherwise), according to Dr. Ananthakrishna, an eminent paediatrician.

If the cry is irritable in nature it may be a child with brain injury. If it is a feeble cry it could be due to a respiratory problem or a brain problem such as intracranial bleeding or asphyxia. The feeble cry may also indicate a problem in the lung such as immaturity of the lungs in a low birth weight baby (pre-maturity). It could also be due to aspiration of fluid from the bag of membranes (bag in which the child floats in the intrauterine period) which encircles the child.

The aspiration contents could also be the meconium (the first dark motion passed by the child). The cry thus becomes a very valuable index for assessment as a routine in the newborn nurseries.

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