When babies are born, it seems as though they know one language: crying. There’s no getting around it: for almost a year, your baby will communicate hunger, pain, fear, discomfort and exhaustion by crying. Over time, you will learn the most common reason babies cry and how to soothe your baby when he or she is fussy.
Because every baby is different, it can be hard for even the most decorated veteran parent to distinguish between a hungry cry, a tired cry or an ‘I-need-my-diaper-changed’ cry. So how are you supposed to know what you baby is trying to communicate?
What every new parent can do is become familiar with the most common reason that babies cry out. If your baby won’t stop crying, trial and error will help until you and your baby are finally speaking the same language.
Check your baby’s diaper
A dirty diaper is one of the most common reasons your baby will cry out. Some babies will let you know immediately when they need to be changed, and others may tolerate a wet or soiled diaper longer. No matter which category your baby fits into, it won’t be long before you’ll be able to recognize this cry on the spot.
Feed your baby
It can take a while to get your baby on a feeding schedule, especially if you’re breastfeeding and encounter any issues with latching or supply. Once you learn to recognize the signs of hunger, you can create a schedule and feed your baby before she reaches the crying phase. This will help you start your baby’s feedings before the crying stage. In addition to fussing, some babies might smack their lips, make sucking sounds, rooting (a reflex that causes babies to turn their head towards you) and sucking on their hands or fingers.
Put your baby down for a nap
Like with feeding, it can be difficult to get your baby into a consistent sleeping schedule. Sleep is something that babies have to learn how to do, which might not be an easy road for mom and dad. Dr. Harvey Karp, renown pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends a technique known as “The 5 S’s: swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking.” These techniques are meant to trigger a calming reflex and help your baby sleep sounder and longer.
Hold or wear your baby
It might seem like your brand new baby wants 100% of your attention, all the time. New babies need a lot of skin-to-skin contact. They like to see their parents, hear their voices, and even listen to their heartbeats. Sometimes, when a baby cries, all she wants is to be picked up. If her diaper is clean, her belly full and nap time hour is away, try wearing your baby in a wrap or carrier so that he or she feels safe and secure…without tiring out your arms!
Check for tummy troubles
Even before they start on solid foods, babies have sensitive stomachs. Many infants are susceptible to colic, which is defined as inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day, at least three days a week, at least three weeks in a row. If your baby is fussiest after being fed, she may be feeling some digestive discomfort. If you are breastfeeding, you may need to adjust your diet and if you’re using formula, you may opt for a different brand. If the problem persists, your pediatrician may suggest an over-the-counter or prescription gas reliever.
Vary the room temperature
Even babies are susceptible to feeling hot and cold! If your baby feels chilly to the touch when you remove her clothes to change a diaper or wipe her bottom with a cold wipe, try increasing the temperature in your nursery or investing in a wipe warmer to reduce her discomfort. In the beginning, newborns prefer to be bundled up and kept warm — they are used to being wrapped tight in the womb. As a general rule, put one more layer on your baby than you would need. You can always resort to a swaddling blanket to keep your baby feeling cozy and secure.