Baby’s first cry: what does it mean?

At birth, most newborns cry or start crying. Why is this important? Why do some babies not cry at birth? Explanations with the pediatrician Charlotte Bailly.

It’s the thing that many parents expect when they give birth: the baby’s first cry. If we know that it is important, we do not always know why, nor if it is worrying that a new born do not cry at birth. Dr. Charlotte Bailly, pediatrician and founder of the pediatric teleconsultation site MedForMomtells us everything there is to know.

How important is baby’s first cry?

The very first cry a baby makes in its life doesn’t have a scientific name, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t of great importance. “The baby’s first cry is above all his first breath.. It is essential, because it signs the establishment of the breathing of the newborn, when it passes from the liquid mediumfine in utero in the aerial environment of life outside the mother’s womb. It is the symbol of this breathing, which shows the vitality of the baby”explains Dr. Bailly.

Why does baby squeal at birth?

Everyone has this scene in mind, seen in a movie or in a series: a baby comes into the world, and it immediately begins to screech. This also happens in reality, but our pediatrician is keen to point out: “A very loud cry is not mandatory for every baby. Some only make a little cry, which perhaps enough to show that he is breathing”. This cry, loud or not, what does it mean? We often say the baby is so surprised when he came into the world outside and the setting up of his breathing that cries and tears accompany this moment”. That’s not all, Charlotte Bailly tells us. These first cries and cries questioned many psychiatrists and psychologists. “They wonder if that first cry is only physiological, or if there is something else. In fact, even if there is no scientific proof, we can understand the surprise effect: the newborn suddenly and brutally passes from a calm, warm, intimate, cozy environment with subdued light, to the new cold outside world, in broad daylight with white light, with the sounds of metallic instruments and the excitement of birth… A real change of scenery! This first cry could therefore be an emotional expression of this unexpected change. Having myself been an intern in maternity wards, I know how certain Delivery rooms may not be warm!”says the pediatrician.

Why do some babies not cry at birth?

By dint of systematically seeing representations of the birth where either the infant lets out a howl or the medical team rushes on him to resuscitate him, the parents can worry by not hearing their child cry when he is born. However, if this can indeed be a sign that the baby is not breathing, it is not necessarily the case. Indeed, in the first few seconds of life, it is still connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord. “As much as possible, as soon as the baby is born, the medical team places it on the mother skin-to-skin. Then the umbilical cord is cut, definitively breaking the cardiorespiratory link with the mother. The newborn must then quickly and independently trigger its own respiratory and cardiac functions. Thus, several seconds can pass between birth and this first breath and therefore this first cry, without there necessarily being any criterion of severity”tells us Dr. Charlotte Bailly.

What are the signs that a baby is not breathing at birth?

In the delivery room, the medical team is not only concerned with the first cry of the newborn to know if he is breathing. Its vitality will be evaluated thanks to the Apgar scorecreated by American resuscitator Virginia Apgar in the 1950s, explains our expert : “We take into account the breathing, with this first cry, but also the tone and the reactivity: if he does not start to gesticulate, to be reactive, we worry. We also check the heart rate, and the color of her skin: if she rest blue, we are going to worry because that may want say there is a lack of oxygen. All these criteria make it possible to evaluate its vitality in addition to the first cry. This score overall is clearly more important than the notion of cry alone”. When a baby is not breathing, several things can be done to get breathing started. “We start by stimulating him by rubbing his back very vigorously to start the respiratory system. If that is not enough, we bring him oxygen with an active flow of air which will open the alveoli. Most often, this allows breathing to begin.

Baby does not cry at birth: what are the consequences?

When the baby does not cry because he does not breathe, a lack of oxygen will be created. This can have serious consequences: “There may be neurological sequelae which can lead to motor or sensory disabilities, such as deafness, epilepsy… If the lack of oxygen is very severe, it can lead to death“. However, Dr. Charlotte Bailly wishes to reassure parents by emphasizing that this kind of phenomenon is “became extremely rare”. Indeed, thanks to advances in medicine, the teams working in the delivery room are trained in these situations, know that it is necessary to react quickly and how to intervene.

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