The best way to handle your baby’s cries for the first few months is to respond quickly when she cries. Picking up your newborn when she cries is an important part of caring for her and will not spoil her. Picking up your baby satisfies a need and makes her feel secure. The sound of her cry will change depending on what she her cries are trying to say. Once you learn how and when your baby cries, you can respond to her needs more quickly and she should cry less.
If she is wide awake and crying, she may be hungry and want to be fed; offer her breast milk or formula. If your baby’s sucking looks frantic, she may be trying to ease her discomfort. See if you can find the reason for the discomfort. Check her diaper; it may be wet or poopy. Cries of pain are usually easy to tell, so check for something pinching or sticking her. Does she have diaper rash? Sometimes babies cry because of discomfort from gas or from a tummy ache. Air bubbles swallowed while feeding can be painful; try burping her. Or, she may just want to be held. If you can’t seem to find a reason for her crying, try to soothe her by talking to her or rocking her while holding her. Don’t bounce, shake, or jiggle her. When nothing you do seems to soothe your baby, and she has no other signs that she may be sick, it’s okay to put her in her crib and let her cry for a few minutes. It won’t take long for you to learn whether your baby is crying because she is hungry, wet, or wants to be held.
If you cannot soothe your newborn and she cries for longer than 30 minutes, she may be trying to tell you something is wrong. Check for a fever. If your baby’s temperature is over 100.4°F (38°C) call your pediatrician. If your baby sounds as if she is grunting, she may be having trouble breathing, call your pediatrician right away. If your baby’s movements look jerky, or she seems irritable, and holding or touching her seems to make her crying worse, your newborn may be sick. Call your pediatrician right away. If your baby only stops crying when she is breastfeeding, she may not be getting enough to eat or she may not be latching on the right way.
Babies that begin a daily routine of crying around 2 to 3 weeks of age are said to “have colic.” Colic is not a disease and does not mean your baby is unhealthy—about 1 in 5 babies have colic. Colicky crying usually begins in the late afternoon and can last for several hours. Crying with the colic is not the same as regular crying and does not stop with feeding, burping, or cuddling. Your baby’s cries will be long and strong; his face can even turn red. He may draw up his legs, thrash about passing gas, and nothing you do will seem to help.
Since no one knows what causes colic, there is not much you can do except to try to stay calm and relaxed. Your baby can tell if you are upset, and it may make him more upset. So, handle your baby as gently as possible and don’t let him get too excited. Play soft music or sing to him. Try rocking him, offer him a pacifier, or help him find his thumb. If nothing soothes your baby, or if you need a break, put him down and let him cry for a few minutes. Babies usually outgrow the colic by age 3 or 4 months but it can last until 6 months.
Some babies have gas with the colic. So, it may seem that the colic is caused by his milk. If you are thinking of changing his formula, talk with your pediatrician first.
Talk with your pediatrician to make sure the crying isn’t due to a medical problem. If your baby is OK, there are things you can try.
• Don’t feed your baby too much. Try waiting at least 2-2 1/2 hours between feedings.
• Feed your baby slowly and burp him often.
• If you’re nursing, eliminate foods from your diet that might be irritating to your baby such as caffeine (coffee, chocolate, some soft drinks), milk, onions, cabbage. If it’s a food problem causing the crying, the colic should decrease within a few days after you make changes.
• Try laying your baby across your lap and rubbing his back. The pressure on his stomach may feel good.
• Try a pacifier.
• Gently rub his stomach.
• Walk or rock your baby.
• Swaddle your baby so that he feels secure.
No matter how trying it gets, never shake your baby. Shaking your baby can lead to serious physical damage and even death. If you just can’t cope, call your pediatrician and asked for advice.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
When someone shakes a baby, it’s usually out of frustration when a baby is crying or irritable and they can’t figure out how to stop the crying. Shaking a baby can cause Shaken Baby Syndrome, which is serious—and sometimes fatal.
Babies have very weak neck muscles. If shaken, their heads wobble back and forth, which may cause the brain to shift inside their skull. This shifting may cause brain damage and bleeding resulting in blindness, brain damage, or even death. Never, ever shake a baby or child for any reason.
■ Always support your baby’s head when holding, playing with, or carrying him.
■ Make sure that everyone who takes care of your baby knows the dangers of shaking him. This includes babysitters, child/day care staff, family and siblings.
■ All babies cry a lot during the first few months. Respond to your babies cries early and try to figure out why she is crying. Learn what you can do if your baby won’t stop crying and safe ways to cope.
For more information about Shaken Baby Syndrome go to www.dontshake.org.
How Much Should I Hold My Baby?
Try seeing the world through your newborn’s eyes—everything is new and the only way to “talk” is to cry.Don’t worry about spoiling your baby. Newborns need to feel safe and loved. Show your baby she is safe and you love her by holding her a lot—look into her face and talk to her. Hold her to comfort her, when you feed her, and just to talk and play. When holding a newborn, be sure to hold the back of her head for support until her neck muscles are strong enough to hold her head up.
It’s OK to let children hold your baby as long as they are being watched by an adult and the child is not sick. To prevent the child from accidentally dropping your baby, have the child sit on a chair or couch while holding your baby.
Caring For Your Newborn
Table of Contents
Caring Begins at Birth
Your Newborn’s Hospital Check-up
Ten Fingers and Ten Toes
Special Care for Your Newborn
When Your Newborn Cries
Changing Your Newborn’s Diaper
Feeding Your Newborn – breast or bottle feeding
Feeding Your Newborn – spit ups, weight gain, BMs
Bathing Your Newborn
Dressing Your Newborn
Shhh!! We’re Sleeping
Keeping Your Baby Safe
Your Newborn’s Admirers
Taking Your Newborn Out
If Your Newborn Gets a Cold
If You Have Questions
When to Call Your Pediatrician
Take Care of Yourself, Too