Why Babies Cry–it’s all in their eyes

If you’ve ever debated with your partner (or yourself) over just why your baby is crying–wet diaper? gas? just bored to tears? Spanish researchers have an answer for you: If your baby’s eyes are open, then fear or anger is the probable reason for the tears. But if his or her eyes are mostly closed, physical pain is the culprit. Another clue: when baby is in pain the crying ratchets up to a high volume very quickly and stays there, while fear and anger tend to produce initially quieter wails that grow over time. Or at least those were the patterns in the 20 infants between 3 months and 18 months old studied by a team headed by Mariano Chóliz at the University of Valencia. (I’m certainly hoping the researchers themselves didn’t cause the “stimuli” that provoked the babies!) Of course, since babies are creatures of mystery who prefer to follow their own rules than those of their parents’ or psychologists from the Departamento de Psicologia Basica, don’t be surprised if the crib in your home holds a baby who screams at full volume with eyes wide open, or whimpers with eyes clamped shut. But take comfort. If you and your partner have a tough time figuring out why your infant is crying, you have plenty of company. The researchers found that adult observers of the babies they studied tended to be clueless about what was triggering the tears.

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