if your baby could talk
What your newborn is trying to tell you with her cries
My clothes need to be changed. Too much or too little clothing can make a baby uncomfortable. An overheated baby breathes rapidly and may have a clammy neck. A cold baby’s skin appears marbled and blotchy.
I want new scenery. A baby often turns away from a toy or person because she’s bored or overstimulated. If she’s bored, a new plaything or playmate should do the trick.
The word overstimulated describes a baby who has been exposed to an activity or noise for too long. In this case, it’s time for a nap or a calmer environment.
I need to blow off steam. Babies can’t turn to exercise, a hot bath or a cup of tea to relax, so they cry. Often this cry is repetitive and moanlike. Hogg describes it as a mantra that babies repeat until they calm themselves or fall asleep.
I’m in pain. Until they’re about 6 weeks old, babies have only two cries: a hunger cry and a pain cry. A pain cry comes on suddenly, has a longer period of breath-holding and is louder than a normal cry, and can be high-pitched. Sometimes a baby in pain appears to hold her breath between shrieks.
If you’re using cloth diapers, an open safety pin could be the culprit. A pinched diaper, too-tight clothing or gas pains also could be to blame.
Just ’cause. Sometimes babies cry for no reason at all, at least not a reason parents — or even the experts — fully understand. If such crying persists for three hours a day at least three days a week for three consecutive weeks, it’s often labeled as colic. About 20 percent of normal, healthy babies qualify as “colicky,” according to pediatrics professor Lester.
Some babies have their worst colic episodes in the evening. Occasionally, Lester says, colic is secondary to a sleeping or feeding difficulty; consult your pediatrician if you’re concerned. “If it’s not [due to sleep or feeding problems],” he says, “then there are things you can do to try to help.”
Here are some suggestions to calm your inconsolable sweetheart:
- Nurse her.
- Rock, swing or walk with her.
- Snuggle or swaddle her.
- Stroke her back, pat her tummy or massage her.
- Sing or read to her.
- Walk outside into the fresh air.
- Help her find her thumb.
- Give her a break. Some time may have passed since she started fussing; by now she simply could be tuckered out and ready for a nap. Try laying her down or rocking her.
- Give yourself a break. Let someone else — your spouse, a grandparent or a neighbor — try to comfort the baby while you take a nap or a walk. If no one’s around to help, put the baby in her bassinet while you check the mail, refuel with a glass of water or call a friend for a pep talk. A few minutes alone won’t hurt a baby and may be just what she needs.
- If your baby simply cannot be consoled and seems to be in distress — and if she cries for 15 to 20 minutes nonstop — call the doctor.