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Handling a Crying Baby

Newborns may cry when they are hungry, need a diaper change, or are craving to be held. Sometimes, they may just have trouble adjusting to a life outside the womb. There are some babies who cry more than others, and their wailing sounds may signal colic or some other underlying medical condition. It is important that parents determine the cause of the baby’s distress. Recent studies show that, with time, babies will cry lesser, if their cries are promptly answered. Colic is a different matter; this condition will probably run its course no matter what parents do. Generally, though, if an infant’s needs are not met, her crying escalates and she becomes more difficult to console.

Parents need to understand their child’s crying language. The biological and hormonal changes a mother experiences when she hears her baby cry, urge her to pick up and comfort her baby. It’s important to listen to your own biological cues when your baby cries, since most parents have natural instincts for calming their infant.

Reasons for Crying
Crying has two main functions. One, it’s a message to the parents that something is wrong. A baby’s cry is really designed to be heard. The second function is a self-regulatory one. Babies use crying as an adaptive tool that helps them adjust to different environments. For example, in an airplane, an infant’s crying is her body’s attempt to deal with the change of air pressure in the plane. This crying actually helps balance the pressure in the inner ear.

There are two kinds of excessive criers: those who are crying because of colic or some kind of internal discomfort, and those who are just not sleeping well. Colicky babies tend to cry every few hours, every day, for weeks. Often these episodes occur late in the day and are accompanied by babies scrunching up their faces and pulling their knees to their chests. There is no set cause or treatment for colic.

Sometimes a change of formula is helpful.
In breastfed children, a review of the mother’s diet may be needed. Certain foods transferred through the mother’s milk may not agree with the baby’s digestive system.

Older Babies Need to Comfort Themselves
During the first few weeks of life, parents’ main concern is comforting their infants by making sure they are well fed and cared for. But after the third month, in addition to nurturing, parents need to teach babies self-control and help them develop self-soothing capabilities. Most babies wake up several times each night and need to be able to comfort themselves so they will go back to sleep. After the third month, parents should set up a routine with a regular bedtime.

Calm your baby with a bath and a feeding.
* Read the baby a book and put her to bed awake, but sleepy.
* Let the baby fuss a bit, after which you can go in and comfort her. However, do not pick her up.
* Babies who learn to go to sleep independently at bedtime will learn to soothe themselves at other times and will thus, cut down on their crying.

What’s Normal and What Isn’t?
Many parents ask, ‘What is normal crying?’ Some babies need to cry for several hours during the day, just as some babies need to sleep more or eat more than others. It is time to worry when babies cry even when they are full, are fretful, and look like something is hurting them. If parents try all the steps suggested, and their baby is still crying, bring the infant in for a physical examination to determine if the child is ill or has a condition like reflux. You can always consult your pediatrician for added suggestions.

Babies are difficult. They are not able to give clear signals of what they want. And it doesn’t help that parents are bombarded with conflicting advice on how to deal with crying babies. Listening and responding to a baby’s cries are skills that will be perfected as the parent and the baby get to know each other better.

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