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Why Your Baby Is Crying

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When new parents hear their baby cry, they know something's wrong. But what? Is the baby trying to say: "I'm hungry," "I'm wet," "I'm feeling sick," "I'm scared," or just "I'm bored"?

"Crying is the first method of communication that a baby has," says Penny Warner, co-author of "365 Baby Care Tips" (Meadowbrook Press; $9.95). "The baby is trying to tell you something, but it's not always clear what the message is."

Adds co-author Dr. Paula Kelly. "It's helpful to know how to decipher baby's signals so you can take appropriate action."

In their book, Warner and Kelly detail the most common reasons babies cry. And they offer tips for each scenario that will help to relieve your infant's stress - and your own.

Hunger

Your baby probably has a unique cry when he's hungry. With experience, you will be able to identify this sound. The important thing is to be flexible.

"Let your baby establish an on-demand feeding schedule, rather then putting him on a rigid timetable," Warner says.

Realize that even if it is not his usual feeding time, he may still be ravenous. So try feeding him anyway. You may also attempt giving your baby a pacifier or some water between meals.

Remember that some babies have allergies or intolerances to certain formulas. Always check with your doctor before switching to a new formula. And make sure that your baby is gaining weight at a healthy pace and appears healthy.

Pain

What is mildly uncomfortable to you is agony to your infant. The usual suspects are diaper rash, teething, earache or stomachache. Check your baby for signs of any of these maladies.

A fluky reason may be a diaper pin pressing against your baby's skin, so make sure her diaper is set the way it should be.

And of course, there is the dreaded colic. There are several ways to treat this, and you will probably try all of them before finding a method that works. Fortunately, colic usually disappears at about four months of age.

Illness

Your baby may be signaling something more pressing than temporary discomfort. Check to make sure he doesn't have a fever, and verify that his breathing isn't labored. Also, be on the lookout for lethargy or an unhealthy appearance.

Ear pulling or rubbing the sides of his face can be an indication of illness. As with any serious concern, contact your doctor if you have any doubt.

Stress

"There may be no physical problems at all," Kelly says. "Babies also cry when they're scared, lonely or bored."

Often, simply cuddling your baby or playing with her will cause the crying to stop. When those tricks don't work, put your baby in a swing or a rocking chair to see if the motion will calm her down. Taking your baby for a walk in a stroller or giving her a warm bath may also soothe her.

Overstimulation

The opposite of being bored or lonely, some babies have trouble calming down after they've been exposed to too much activity or noise.

Try moving your baby to a quiet room, or even to an entirely different location. Soothe your bay by rocking her in your arms and singing to her.

Keeping your baby on a regular nap schedule will help. Of course, giving her the opportunity for longer or more frequent naps might be a good idea too, as long as they do not prevent her from sleeping at night.

Fatigue

Just like adults, babies sometimes have trouble getting to sleep.

Putting your infant in a baby swing will sometimes sway him to dreamland. Similarly, rocking him in your arms or in a rocking chair may lull him, or a walk in a stroller might bring on sleep.

In extreme cases, pack up the car and strap him into the car seat. Drive around until he is asleep, then bring him home for proper rest.

The Great Unknown

Sometimes, the cause of your baby's crying will be a total mystery. Learning his different crys will help both of you alleviate this problem and minimize confusion.

Just remember that whenever your baby crys, act quickly so you can tend to his needs as soon as possible. But don't be afraid to take a break every now and then. A friend or family member can be a big help in times of stress. Of course, if all else fails, and your baby won't stop crying, call your doctor.

Warner and Kelly's "365 Baby Care Tips" contains a unique and useful mix of essential medical information and helpful hints from experienced parents to help new parents do a better job of handling whatever may arise during their babies' first year.
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