Babies cry—it's one way they communicate. Since your baby can't talk, you may worry, "How will I know what she wants?" At first, it can be difficult, but a large part of parenting is trial and error, and you'll soon learn to anticipate her needs and wipe away her tears. If your little one is wailing, work your way down the list and chances are you'll find the cure.
Once you learn to recognize the signs that your baby wants to eat—she'll fuss, make noises and root around for your breast if you pick them up—you'll get pretty good at feeding them before they start to really cry. Sometimes a baby will continue to cry even after you start feeding them; keep going, they'll stop once their stomach is full.
"Change my diaper"
Some babies will let you know right away when they need to be changed; others don't mind when their diapers are soiled—it's warm and comfortable to them. Parents are often surprised when they pick up their infant and find they've been sitting around in a dirty diaper and never made a sound.
"I'm too cold or hot"
Newborns like to be bundled up and kept warm. (As a rule, they need to be wearing one more layer than you need to be comfortable.) Watch out that you don't overdress them, since they are less likely to complain about being too warm than about being too cold and won't cry about it as vigorously.
"I want to be held"
Babies need a lot of cuddling. They like to see their parents' faces, hear their voices, listen to their hearts, and can even detect their unique smell (especially Mom's milk). After being fed, burped and changed, many babies simply want to be held. You may wonder if you'll "spoil" your child by holding them so much, but during the first few months of life there's no such thing.
"I can't take it anymore"
While newborns seem to thrive on a lot of attention, they can easily become overstimulated and have a "meltdown." Newborns have difficulty filtering out the lights, the noise, being passed from hand to hand, and can become overwhelmed and tired by too much activity. Take them somewhere calm and quiet and let them vent for a while, and then see if you can get the baby to sleep.
"I don't feel good"
Consider checking their temperature to make sure they're not ill. The cry of a sick baby tends to be distinct from the hunger or frustration cry, and you'll soon learn when your baby "just doesn't sound right" and needs to be taken to the doctor.
None of the above
Many newborns develop periods of fussiness when they're not easily soothed. These periods of fussiness can range from a few minutes of hard-to-console crying to full-blown colic. Colic is defined as inconsolable crying for at least three hours per day, at least three days per week. When all else fails, try the tips below.
Wrap your baby up and hold them close. Newborns like to feel as warm and secure as they did in the womb. But be aware that some babies find swaddling or cuddling too constrictive.
Let them hear the rhythm. Try playing soft music, singing a lullaby, or even just putting her close to hear the steady rhythm of an electric fan or the white noise of a vacuum cleaner.
Put her in motion. Rock her gently in a rocking chair or swing at the same rate as your heart (around 60 to 100 beats per minute), set her on top of the dryer while it's on, or take her for a car ride.
Rub her tummy, back or belly. It's one of the most soothing things you can do for her, especially if she's having gas pains, which may be the problem with some colicky babies.
Let her suck on something. Sucking can steady an infant's heart rate, relax her stomach, and calm her flailing limbs. Give her a pacifier or a finger to clamp onto and let her go to town.
If all else fails...
Take care of yourself. You're chronically sleep-deprived and may already be unsure about how to care for this baby. Mom's emotions are all over the place due to the hormonal changes she's going through. Dad may not be sure what role he should play in caring for the newborn or whether he'll ever get mom's attention again. Add a crying baby to this scenario and many parents can become overwhelmed with feelings of incompetence.
Put your baby down and let her cry for a while, or let someone else take over. Put on some quiet music to distract yourself and take deep breaths. Remind yourself that nothing is wrong with your baby and crying won't hurt her. Fortunately, babies (and their parents) are resilient and somehow manage to get through even the most difficult crying episodes. Take heart that by the time your baby is 8 to 12 weeks old, she'll be better able to soothe herself and much of the crying will stop.
Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, May 19, 2013
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