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Why Is Baby Crying?
Nothing gets a parent’s attention like a baby’s cries. Those howls are more jarring than an alarm clock buzzing at 6 a.m. (Too bad you can’t just hit snooze!) While it’s unrealistic to expect a fuss-free day, all hope isn’t lost for taming the tears before baby’s cries reach a glass-shattering pitch. Armed with these soothing strategies, you’ll be able to replace your child’s shrieks with soft coos. Aah, music to your ears.
Crying is your baby’s primary means of communication, translating to: “I’m hungry!” “I’m tired!” or “I’m scared!” Babies also cry when they’re hot or cold, anxious, and need a diaper change. Over time, you will learn to recognize your baby’s different cries. Furthermore, researchers have found that many newborns follow the same pattern of fussing during the first three months of life. Regular bouts of crying generally begin during a baby’s second week, often in the late afternoon or early evening. These fussy periods will increase in duration in the weeks to follow, until peaking at six to eight weeks. Fortunately, by the third month, they begin tapering off. Crying is not abnormal or unhealthy — in fact, quite the opposite. Crying is actually physiologically important to your baby’s health. At baby’s birth, you eagerly awaited that first cry — the signal that all is well. That initial cry cleared baby’s airways, allowing him to start breathing on his own. Similarly, in the first weeks of life, crying helps keep your baby’s lungs healthy. After all, babies don’t get much physical activity, and crying opens the air sacs in the lungs. You might say that crying is your infant’s workout!
If your child is crying and there’s an odor in the air, you know what to do next. But aside from changing a diaper or offering the breast or bottle, parents often feel helpless when it comes to finding the magical method that comforts their baby.
To unravel that mystery, it’s important to understand why babies might make a fuss. “The womb is a rich symphony of sensations,” says Harvey Karp, MD, creator of The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (Trinity Home Entertainment). But when we put kids to sleep with no movement in a room by themselves, it’s like sensory deprivation. “Babies are often reacting to the lack of rhythmic sounds and motions they experienced when they were in the womb,” says Dr. Karp.
All babies cry. And at about two weeks of age, it is common for babies to develop a fussy period in the evening that can last for as long as two hours.
“They may also cry because they can’t settle down,” says Laura Jana, MD, coauthor of Heading Home with Your Newborn (American Academy of Pediatrics). “When you’re tired, nothing is more frustrating than not falling asleep.” Instead of tossing and turning, which babies can’t do, they wail.
Here’s how to pacify your little squealer according to what he sees, hears, and feels. Keep in mind, Dr. Jana says, that different children will respond to different soothing strategies. The trick is to experiment until you find what works.
Sight: Who wouldn’t feel wired when the lights are on? Create a calming environment by dimming the lights, says Dr. Jana. And while a mobile could have a hypnotic effect, it could also backfire by providing too much stimulation when baby just wants to wind down from the day.
Sound: Certain sounds can be a powerful way to trigger what Dr. Karp calls the “calming reflex.” Vacuums and fans that create white background noise can produce this effect. And it never hurts to put on some peaceful music, Dr. Jana says.
Touch: “Human contact is important for healthy development,” Dr. Jana says. “And I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a good massage!” Gently rub a part of baby’s body, such as her legs, arms, or feet. In addition, try kangaroo care — lay your naked baby belly down against your bare chest for skin-to-skin contact.
If your baby becomes fussy, what will you do? Try some of the following techniques, or perhaps a combination of them, to soothe your baby. As you offer comfort, pay attention to what your baby is trying to tell you. Through trial and error, and with loving patience, you’ll soon discover together which soothing methods work best. Here are some techniques to try:
*Hold your baby facedown over your forearm with his head at your elbow and your thumb and fingers wrapped around his thigh.
*Hold your baby seated in your hand with his back to your chest and your other hand across his chest, wrapping your thumb and fingers around his upper arm.
*Hold your baby high over your shoulder so his stomach is being pressed into your shoulder bone.
Cradle your baby in your arms, holding him tummy-to-tummy tightly against you.
Babies are most comforted at a pace of 60 times each minute, so try these methods:
#Rocking vertically by doing deep-knee bends.
#Swaying side to side or back and forth while standing up.
#Rocking back and forth in a comfortable rocking chair.
#Swaddle your baby tightly in a receiving blanket.
#Hold your baby close to you so she can receive your warmth.
#Put a heating pad in your baby’s sleep area to warm the sheets before putting her down. Take out the #heating pad and check the temperature of the sheets to be sure they’re comfortably warm.
#Lay your baby facedown over a wrapped hot-water bottle on your lap.
#Speak reassuring words in a soft, low voice.
#Hum and sing familiar songs you enjoy.
#Make a tape recording of a dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum cleaner or clothes dryer to let your baby hear repeated swooshing sounds. A fan or humidifier in the baby’s room can sometimes do the trick, as can a radio tuned to the static between stations.
#Play classical, new age, soft rock or soft jazz music. No heavy metal, please! It makes babies nervous.
#Firmly but gently massage your baby’s back from the neck down to his bottom.
#Firmly pat or rub your baby on his back and bottom.
#In a warm room, lay your baby on a firm surface and gently massage his tummy with clockwise strokes. If you think his discomfort may be resulting from gas, this can help move down the gas. Then gently press his knees into his abdomen to push out the gas.
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