One of the joys of being a parent is marvelling how quickly our babies move through the different stages.
Watching your little lump slowly discover the world around him by starting to reach for toys is one thing, but few developmental milestones are as exciting for parents as when their baby starts to ‘talk’. The first few babbled syllables are your child’s first attempts at communication with you beyond crying.
But then it happens. The sweet babbling turns into a high pitched scream that seems to go on and on. You love your child, but listening to the same high pitched screams day in and day out can be incredibly draining on the most loving parents.
You know your child is trying to tell you something, but what’s going on?
Your first stop should be to check that baby isn’t sick or feeling unwell, especially if the screaming has started out of the blue. Check baby’s temperature and inspect his clothing to make sure there are no loose threads wrapped around fingers or toes.
Try and remember the last time he pooped as well, since constipation can cause a lot of pain when baby is trying to poop.
Another frequent cause of pain in babies can be ear infections, which can manifest in strange ways. It’s been estimated that 80 percent of children under 3 will experience an ear infection.
Popular thought is that babies will pull on their ears if they hurt, but that isn’t always the case. Fever, trouble sleeping, and vomiting or diarrhea can all be indicators that an ear infection is the culprit, but I’ve known babies whose only symptom was general fussiness, so a trip to the doctor to make sure it isn’t an ear infection can’t hurt.
Attention or Anxiety
Young babies who haven’t yet developed object permanence (the knowledge that something continues to exist when they cannot see it) can freak out when you leave the room because they think you have disappeared forever.
This is the source of a great deal of screaming from baby - at least it is at our house!
High pitched screaming noises could also be baby’s way of saying “hey, pay attention to me!”, especially if the screaming seems to happen when you’re trying to focus on another task. Who needs to do laundry or cook dinner when there is a baby to hold?
If she stops the screaming when you come back in to the room or pick her up, the good news is that the problem is solved: attention or anxiety about being separated from you is the source of the screaming.
The bad news is there’s not much you can do about it other than wait for her to develop object permanence, or invest in a baby carrier so she can be with you at all times. I love my Ergobaby 360 carrier and often put my son in there on my back so I can get chores done with minimal screaming from him.
Experimenting With Voice
As they get older, babies discover their voices and LOVE experimenting with them. It’s not all sweet babbles and giggles, though. If he’s not sick and he’s not anxious because you’ve left the room, there’s a strong chance your baby is just exploring his vocal chords.
He might be delighted with the reaction he gets from his high pitched screaming, or he may just enjoy the sound, so he will continue to make the same shrieks over and over until he gets bored of it and moves on to something new, which could be either better or worse than the high pitched screams you’re currently experiencing.
My son is currently experimenting with volume, and likes to alternate loud screams with quiet ones. There’s not a whole lot that you can do if your baby is simply experimenting with his voice except try to ignore it and hope he loses interest soon.
You could also try listening to music or singing songs with him and see if he tries to ‘sing’ along. At the very least the music might drown out the screaming!
Unfortunately, most of the reasons for your baby’s high pitched screaming boil down to one thing - it’s just a stage, and he will grow out of it eventually. If baby is not hungry, or gassy, there is no fever, and no earache, it is most likely just a developmental stage baby is going through.
If she stops when you are near, you can try putting her in a carrier to stay close to you during the day, but if nothing stops the screaming, baby is likely just testing out her vocal chords. Remind yourself that this, too, shall pass, and maybe take a video so that years from now you can look back on this stage and laugh.