A baby’s first cry is suitably hyped up, thanks to movies and TV series which have shown us there is something very very wrong if your child does not cry immediately after birth. While this quite often adds melodrama to the said movies or TV series, the importance of baby’s first cry is definitely not over-hyped as it is truly very important. Read on to understand the importance of baby’s first cry.
In an ideal scenario, this is what happens immediately after birth. Your doctor or obstetrician will clear your baby’s mouth and nostrils off mucus or amniotic fluid using a small suction tube. This is to ensure that the baby’s nostrils are clear and ready to take in Oxygen. The moment all the “obstacles” are cleared, and sometimes even before, your baby starts crying loudly. This crying is what kick-starts his or her lungs and helps him or her to take in air for the first time.
For you, this perhaps is the ONLY time when your baby’s crying and screaming sounds are real music to your ears! And for the pediatrician who will be present at the delivery, this is a very strong sign that baby’s lungs are working properly.
Why all this focus on breathing? Are we not predisposed to breathe in air? Well, yes. But you must remember that your baby was in an
amniotic sac for the initial 9+ months of his existence. He wasn’t breathing in air. So here is a short biology class for you.
When your baby was in your womb, he was getting oxygen through the placenta. This is because baby’s organs are still a work in progress. In fact lungs, which are responsible for respiration, is one of the last organs to be developed fully. Until the baby is born, the lungs cannot expand and contract like they do for us when we breathe. It is also filled with amniotic fluid because, well, that is what covers your baby. So baby gets his oxygen (and food) through his umbilical cord and placenta, both attached to you. So, in short, you were breathing for your baby.
Once the baby is born, your obstetrician will clamp the umbilical cord, thus disconnecting your baby from the placenta. This is when your baby’s lungs would ideally take over breathing as the baby’s primary source of oxygen is now shut.
Remember we said that your baby’s lungs will be filled with amniotic fluid during pregnancy? During labor, much of this amniotic fluid gets dried up, in preparation for the actual breathing. Without the amniotic fluid, your baby’s lungs are free to expand and contract. However, there would still be traces of amniotic fluid and sometimes mucus that are still present in the lungs, the airways, the nose and the mouth of the baby, even after delivery. When the baby cries, these traces of fluid and mucus get cleared and the baby’s airways are ready to take in that first, big gulp of air! It is nature’s way of readying the child for the life outside mamma’s womb.
By now, you would know that this is definitely not a good sign. Baby has to cry to kick-start his lungs. His lungs need to be kick started for the baby to start breathing. And baby needs to breathe to survive.
So what options are there when a baby does not cry? Sometimes, when a baby does not cry immediately, it is not a sign of alarm, especially if the baby is pink and alert and otherwise has a normal Apgar score. These babies tend to cry few minutes after the birth. However, it becomes a cause of concern when the baby does not have a healthy color and looks unwell. In most cases, this is resolved when the doctors suck the fluids off the lungs and airways. We have also seen some drastic measures done by few doctors which involve slapping the child lightly, enough to hurt and start the crying. There is also osteopathic treatment suggested. If simple labor room tricks do not work out, then most likely the baby will be taken to neonatal ICU for further medical help.