Infant Fussiness or High-Pitched Cry

Babies cry, and it’s normal for some babies to be fussier than other babies. So how do you know if you have a normal, naturally-fussy infant or if the fussiness associated with your child is unhealthy? After all, fussiness and high-pitched crying can be a symptom of a few different kinds of other birth injuries, some very serious.

Generally, health experts don’t underestimate your motherly intuition: if you think something is wrong with your baby, you should make an appointment with your physician so that your child’s fussiness can be ruled out as a symptom of a birth injury.

Infant Fussiness or High-Pitched Cry

Determining Different Types of Cries

According to Medical News Today (MNT), a study performed on infant crying suggests that the frequency and the decibels of the cries can help determine neurological problems. Per , Linda LaGasse, PhD, and Barry Lester, PhD, the characteristics of crying, including the high-pitch frequency, is different in infants with medical issues. 

“The cry signal has enormous potential diagnostic value; for example, very high pitched cries can tell us that something may be wrong with the infant, so the cry signal can be an early warning that leads to further neurological testing,” Dr. LaGasse stated. 

Babies who are at an increased risk of medical complications, such as those born prematurely, tend to have a higher-pitched cry that a normal cry, but yet at a lower amplitude. This often indicates that there may undiagnosed neurological problems.

“Given the results of earlier studies relating cry characteristics to known neurological compromise, these findings suggest that at-risk infants have undetected neurological damage and that cry analysis may be able to identify these infants when no other symptoms are present,” added Dr. Lester. 

Group B Strep Infection

A surprisingly high amount of women carry the group B strep infection without even knowing it (1 in 4 women have been colonized without knowing it). If Group B Strep is passed along to the infant, fussiness can be one of the many symptoms, usually accompanied by fever, breathing problems, grunting, high blood pressure, limpness, stiffness, seizures, and poor feeding.

If caught early enough, your pediatrician can easily treat the group B strep infection with medication.

Kernicterus

A high-pitched cry can be one of the symptoms of kernicterus. Kernicterus is a rare but serious form of brain damage that starts as jaundice and instead of the bilirubin levels returning to normal, the levels continue to climb until the child is in pain and the bilirubin floods the brain, thus causing damage.

Other symptoms of kernicterus include absent startle reflex, poor feeding or sucking, lethargy, soft bulges on the head, seizures, intellectual disability, arched back while crying, or a movement disorder. Kernicterus should not be ignored and you should bring your child to your physician immediately if you suspect kernicterus in the slightest.

Brain Damage

Sometimes infants with brain damage have a high-pitched cry. While it doesn’t seem immediately intuitive as to why, it’s because the high-pitched cry is communicating pain or high-sensitivity, something that children with brain damage usually have for sound or light. Other symptoms of brain damage include changes in vision or hearing, special disorientation, balance issues, and sleeping disorders.

A high-pitched cry is nothing to be concerned with on its own, but a just as an arched back while crying is the child’s desperate response to pain, so too is a high-pitched cry as a desperate response to pain. If your child has a high-pitched cry, he or she is doing the only thing that he or she can do to communicate to you that something is wrong –and you need to do your best to listen.