The importance of baby’s first cry

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During their stay in the womb, a baby does not breathe; instead required oxygen is carried by umbilical cord. When the baby comes out of womb, the lungs are cleared of the amniotic fluid and other secretion and excessive air is inhaled by crying. Normal breathing will not be able to produce the sufficient energy required to force out the fluid and fill the lungs with air. Also, during the process the baby gets tired and hungry and there is a certain change in environment, which all together contributes to the process of crying.

The neonate’s initial cry is a critical step in the transition away from fetal circulation.  The difference between fetal circulation and adult circulation could be thought of in terms of parallel circuitry versus series circuitry. The fetal circulation which would be considered the parallel circuit, shunts blood away from the lungs due to the fetus’ intrauterine fluid environment which prohibits gas exchange (intrauterine gas exchange occurs in the placenta). 

With the newborn’s first cry, the forceful inhalation is required in order to expand the rigid lungs for the very first time.  Imagine you are inflating a balloon with your mouth…at first, it is quite difficult to blow the balloon up but suddenly it becomes much easier.  This phenomenon is similar to what is required to expand the immediately post-partum neonatal lung.  

Forced expansion is required for several reasons:

to push the fluid out of the pulmonary parenchyma

to stretch lung which arguments the bronchial architecture so that airflow is enhanced

exposure to oxygen, which is a potent pulmonary vasodilator

They just got propelled out of a person’s body into a cold, brightly lit room.  It is not a pleasant experience.  But if this isn’t enough to get the kid bawling, the doctor will do something help the process along.  In the past, a doctor would slap the kid on the behind.  Now it’s understood that this isn’t really necessary and could be harmful.  Rubbing the feet or back is enough.  And when the baby starts bawling, you have proof that they are alive and breathing properly.

Shortly after the baby’s birth, whether it’s a vaginal birth or a c-section, the baby will be evaluated for its ability to adapt and transition normally to life outside the uterus. To aid in this process, the baby is transported to a warming unit with a radiant heat source. The baby (now officially called a neonate) is dried of all moisture, which helps to minimize the loss of its core temperature.

The nose and mouth of the baby are suctioned to clear the baby of all secretions and to aid in its first breathing efforts. The baby should begin crying within the first 30 seconds to one minute of life. To accomplish this, gentle stimulation is usually required and accomplished by rubbing the baby’s back or gently stimulating its feet.

When your little one first makes an appearance to the world, all the attention is focused on the entrance. All you want to do is meet and embrace your baby, but both you and your doctor are looking for signs of healthy working lungs too, waiting in anticipation for your baby’s first cry.

Under normal circumstances, newborn babies cry merely a few seconds after being born. Hearing this throaty scream for the first time will be like music to ears, bringing home the fact that you have given birth to a healthy little bundle.

The significance of baby’s first cry

It is really simple – a good cry lets baby test out their lungs for the very first time. In actual fact, babies “practice” the motion of crying before birth, as if they instinctively know that this will cause their lungs to expand.

Natural instinct kicks in; we must breathe or we will die. So your baby does the only thing it can; it gives a good scream. The lungs will fill up with air and for the very first time expand to their full capacity.

In fact, your baby’s first cry acts as a kick-starter for their little lungs, as it helps them to get rid of any amniotic residue in the lungs and nasal passages. The act of crying will aid in getting rid of any excess fluid that may still be in the lungs, nose or mouth. This is why, shortly after your birth, doctors will evaluate your little one’s ability to adapt to life outside the uterus. And just sometimes, your little one might need some encouragement to cry. Remember, your baby’s first cry is synonymous with breathing.


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