All babies cry. It's their way of letting us know they're uncomfortable, hungry, cold, hot, in pain, or simply in need of a cuddle.
Babies ask only for what they need. And what they need is lots of attention. Remember, they are dependent on adults for everything. When your baby cries, most often it's because she is hungry, tired, or wet. She'll also cry when she's in pain, when a loose thread is caught around a finger or toe, when her throat hurts because she's sick, or when her stomach hurts from gas or colic. She may cry when she's over-stimulated or scared, as when a sudden movement makes her think she's being dropped. She may cry when she's undressed for a change of clothes, simply because she craves the feeling of clothes against her skin. She may cry when she needs comforting, or when she can't do something she wants to do, like roll over or reach the rattle she wants to grab. Sometimes she may just want company and be asking to rock and talk with you for a while. She might cry or call for you just because she is bored. She's eager to explore the world and wants some action—which you provide. The feel of your touch, your smile and laughter, the different sounds of your voice when you respond to her show her she is an effective person who can make things happen.
Here are some specific ways to calm a crying baby:
• If more than two hours have passed since your baby's last feeding, her crying may be from hunger. Try to nurse her or give her a bottle of formula.
• If she cries when you give her a bottle or after you feed her:
- Make sure the bottle is warmed to body temperature. It should feel neither cold nor hot when you place a drop on your wrist.
- Make sure the hole in the nipple is the right size. If the hole is too big, she may be getting the milk too fast to swallow comfortably. If it's too small, she may be working too hard to get what she needs. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes for her to drink a bottle.
- Talk to your doctor about the formula you're using. You may need to change to a different formula.
• Try feeding her smaller amounts more often. She may be uncomfortable from over-eating.
• Try holding her in a different position when you comfort her. Most babies are comforted by being help upright with their head resting on your shoulder. Try rubbing her back gently while you hold her, or walking to add a soothing motion. If you have a rocking chair, sit and rock gently while you hold her. If none of those steps work, try holding her across your lap and gently massaging her back.
• Swaddle her snugly in a baby blanket. Many babies, especially infants, respond to the comfort of being wrapped.
• Put her in a stroller or a baby carrier and go for a walk.
• Put her in her infant car seat and go for a drive.
• If she's teething, give her a teething toy to chew on. Ask your doctor if it's safe to give her infant pain-relief medicine.
• Rock her in a cradle or swing her in a baby swing.
• If she seems to be having stomach discomfort, gently rub her stomach or place a warm water bottle on her stomach (tested against your wrist to be at body temperature and wrapped in a towel or diaper so that the bottle itself doesn't touch your baby's skin).
• If the crying continues, and doesn't seem like her usual behavior, call your doctor. She may be sick or need medical attention.
Many parents worry that if they pick up their crying baby too readily she will become self-centered and even more demanding. In fact, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that babies who are responded to quickly and calmly tend to cry less as they get older. They trust that someone—you, another family member, the caregiver—will respond to them, and so they see the world as a pleasant place to be.
It's important that you try to listen to what your baby is saying through her sounds and her body. Try to read your baby's cues. Look for patterns in her behavior. Does she suck on her hand when she is hungry? (Resist the temptation to immediately feed her unless you think she is hungry. She may be asking for a hug, a clean diaper, or to be shifted into a new position.) Does she rub her eyes when she is tired? Keep in mind that as your baby grows, the patterns you recognize will probably change. Over time, you'll get better at understanding her signals, and she'll get better at sending signals you can understand.
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