The Truth About Babies | Fit Pregnancy

The Truth About Babies

What they can see and feel, plus how much they need to eat, sleep and more.

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 It's okay to cry.

Crying is normal and healthy most of the time and helps babies communicate hunger, pain or the need for a new diaper. But what of those times when an infant simply breaks out in cries for no apparent reason? It may be that he needs to be held and touched.

“Barring all the usual causes, it is something I call baby boredom,” says Christine Wood., M.D., a pediatrician in Encinitas, Calif. “Once you pick them up and walk around, they’re fine for a few minutes, but the minute you stop, they start again. They seem to be looking for another type of stimulation.”

Many babies tend to cry in the evening. While doctors don’t know exactly what causes this pattern, proven soothing techniques include rocking, nursing, singing, swaddling, laying baby on his tummy over your knees, or even riding with him in the car.

They'll squeak, rattle and hiccup.

Even without speaking, a baby can make his presence known with his sneezes, hiccups, gurgles and rattly breathing. All these noises, no matter how strange, are completely normal. “The gurgling and rattles tend to peak at age 2 to 3 months,” says pediatrician William Sears, M.D., author of The Baby Book (Little Brown & Co., 1993) and The Family Nutrition Book (Little Brown & Co., 1999).

One culprit, he says, is all the extra saliva babies begin to produce in preparation for teething, which can lead to noisy bubble-making in an infant’s mouth and throat. Doctors don’t know why hiccups, which aren’t harmful, often occur. Sneezing and snorting usually are attributed to dust irritating tiny nasal passages that haven’t yet grown the hairs to help filter out such particles.

They'll sleep a lot, but not at night.

While newborns experience obvious active periods, they mostly sleep. “During the first weeks of life, babies will sleep 18 to 22 hours a day,” says William A. Engle, professor of pediatrics at the Indiana School of Medicine in Indianapolis. The trick is in trying to make sure that the longer chunks of sleep occur at night. Not knowing that I could encourage my newborn son to stay awake a little longer during daylight hours, I was one of those parents who often found him wide awake and playful at 3 a.m., since he had taken deep “power naps” right after dinner. 

It is possible to gently tamper with the sleep cycle by keeping baby awake (with play or baths, for example) for longer periods during early evening. Establishing separate day and night environments in the household (keeping lights low, avoiding play and minimizing stimulation in the evening) may also help baby sleep longer at night.

But even with a little prodding toward nighttime hours, parents of infants should understand that more than a few sleep-deprived nights lie in store. “They should expect two to three months of night wakings for feedings, diaper changes and development of self-comforting abilities,” says Engle. Some parents find that keeping their babies in bed with them helps everyone sleep better.

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