Baby/Toddler gets hurt. What/why is the pause before the scream?

So I have had two kids. One in particular fell down a lot and seemed to like to use his face to break his fall. It usually goes like this:

Small child gets hurt (somehow). Then there is that dreadful eerie silence. I am pretty sure that the worse the pain is, the longer the pause. It can definitely last up to 4 seconds or more. Usually their mouth is open for a lot of it. Then come the SCREEEAAAMM!

Does anyone know why they pause? I had always assumed it was to inhale, but after watching them up close, I think they spend most of that time holding their breath.

Maybe everyone does this, but it is so much more pronounced with babies and toddlers because they are so willing to let out a complete no-holds-bar scream/cry.

Good question. I remember calling my brother with a little more urgency after one of my nephew’s post-face plants with a particularly long silent-scream build up.

For the less serious injuries it has often appeared to me that they are trying to decide if anyone saw them get hurt or is paying close attention to them.

No audience? The might get a little pouty but they brush themselves off and move on.

I was going to suggest this, based on what I’ve heard many parents say but wasn’t sure if it had any basis in fact.

Yes, I believe in my anecdote above I left out the part where I initially made light of it–being aware of the possibility of the baby making a judgement call–but in that incident being told it was a definite bad fall.

I would say this is true, especially as they get older, for little falls and scrapes.

I was more thinking about the ones that definitely hurt. During that silent period, it appears to me that they are pretty oblivious to what is going on around them. They are totally enveloped in pain-land.

Maybe their baby brains are registering the pain. When I smash my thumb or something, there’s often a second or two before the feeling of pain hits me.

I remember I was carrying an extremely heavy box off a moving truck once, and I stepped off the side of the ramp and landed on the hard metal edge of the ramp with the box on top of me. I distinctly remember thinking “Whoa, what happened there? Oh shit, I fell of the ramp. Everything seems to be okay…nothing seems hurt…oh wait, nope, there’s the fucking pain.”

And you know it’s coming. I think even little ones can anticipate the pain coming, since they’ve fallen before. There definitely is an aspect of “is someone watching me” but sometimes it’s just waiting for the pain. :frowning:

Pain takes time. With our adult experience we can predict it’s gonna hurt before it really does. They can’t, or at least not as much. So they’re sitting there in stunned silence for a moment absorbing “How the hell did I get down here?” when Whamo the actual pain arrives.

The other day I was pitting an avocado. I no longer hold them in my hand after realizing how dangerous that was.

I set this one on the countertop as always, held the avocado by the tip with one hand & strike a large knife down onto the pit with the other. The knife skipped off the side of the pit towards my hand and buried itself in the flesh of the avocado. Touching my fingertip as it went by.

I shouted “OUCH SHIITT!!” and yanked my hand away as it was feeling cut a bunch. Then I stopped and looked at my hand. Nary a scratch. No blood, not even some scraped skin.

100% of my very real, instant, and unconscious reaction was based on an assumption my brain had made about what was about to happen.

My recognition of the lack of actual pain took a couple seconds.

I submit the baby’s delay is the same scenario, but in reverse. Modulo their overall less capable brain/mind. They don’t anticipate the pain, so they’re honestly reporting by their wailing when they do finally get & process the signal: a couple seconds later.

I remember my nephew, 15 months old, falling over and looking at us, clearly thinking about whether to scream, cry, or whatever. We pre-empted him by bursting out laughing.

You use a spoon, not a knife.

A fascinating anecdote.

Notable in any number of phenomenological situations I would think.

I have two daughters, one still a toddler. The “pause before crying” is so consistent I take it for granted, I sometimes even try to get to my daughter before the cry because I know how long it will take.

A year ago I fell while rollerblading in the garage (don’t ask) and I thought I was fine for a good minute or so. My only concern was that my arm “clicked” when I rotated it. Eventually it started hurting so bad I could puke, turns out that I broke my elbow. But it took a while for the pain to kick in.

Most injuries to adults and children alike won’t hurt immediately. Some seem to hurt right away (stubbing a toe?) but I don’t think the slow reaction to an injury has anything to do with a child’s brain development; pain just works that way. I think we notice the delay in a child more because (1) you’re keeping an eye on the kid and watched them get hurt and immediately act to help and (2) a child’s reaction to an injury will be less restrained than an adult’s and easier to gauge.


@#%^ avocados! What the !#@#@ are they good for anyway? Plus they sound like a lawyer amirite?

I got very good at ignoring my kids when they fell so they had time to figure out if they were really hurt and not just reacting to my reaction. Most of the time they would just keep going.

We all live in a simulation of the world that’s a large fraction of a second behind reality. That’s the “movie” your consciousness is “watching” inside your head. Meantime your brain is constantly simulating a couple seconds ahead of reality to enable you to do things like catch a thrown ball. Or even walk.

Occasionally something unexpected happens in the gap between those two points in time. And your simulation crash-reengages with the real world. The other car “that appears out of nowhere” in your blind spot is a common example.
The folks who create & play online games have a word for that, but I’ll be damned if I can recall what it is. You’re playing along and suddenly the virtual world jumps a bunch or something significant changes abruptly. e.g. that guy you just blasted to bits gets back up. The cause is your local version of the game’s state got far enough out of sync to the main state that a resync became necessary.

In video gaming, that’s called either a “lag warp” or “rubber-banding”.

“Lag warp” it was. Thank you.

They’re the food of the gods. I eat one almost every day. Also my wife’s a lawyer who speaks Spanish and I … :smiley:

Sure you can use a spoon if you’re just scraping the flesh out of the skin. But my goal is to remove the pit leaving the half avocado 100% intact in the skin with a neat dent where the pit was.

I’ll give it a go with a spoon. Might learn something. Might make a mess. Either way it’ll taste good. Thanks. Other than that recent event it’d been years since the last time I’d scared (or cut) myself pitting with a large knife.

“Rubber banding” is specifically when everything resets; in particular being “pulled” back to where you were a moment ago. Like you had walked with a rubber band attached to you which reached its limit then snapped you back. Though that would be a kind of lag warp.

I also freaking hate rubber banding. :frowning: