Your newborn’s cry is enough to make YOU cry, but don’t worry. You’ll soon figure out what he’s saying to you.
An infant’s wail can chisel away at even the calmest of nerves, and every new mother will face the moment when she can’t seem to find the mute button on her new baby. The new mom’s delicate psyche — sleep deprived and postpartum hormonal — can lose heart when she can’t seem to comfort her baby.
But wait. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that “All babies cry, often without any apparent cause, and that newborns routinely cry a total of one to four hours a day.” So know that crying is your infant’s most common form of communication, and not an attack on your mothering skills. It will take you time to decode Baby’s howling, so give yourself some grace if you haven’t yet figured out his vocabulary!
Here are a few suggestions to help calm your baby in trying moments:
Move. Mothers have walked the floors and rocked babies for ages. First time mom Kari Vanhoose says sometimes the only thing that will calm her infant son is to hold him while bouncing gently on an exercise ball. Vanhoose speculates that it’s because she did this constantly before he was born. I admit to having tried this idea, and it worked with my son as well. Laura Schlessinger, author of In Praise of Stay at Home Moms (Harper; $25.99), recounts how her son would only stop crying long enough to take a nap if she put him in a stroller and pushed it over bumpy ground. Naps can be anything but restful for moms.
Suck. Consider offering a pacifier. Babies self-sooth by sucking.
Swaddle. Some mothers swear by this technique, which keeps a baby bundled up nice and tight. Refer to The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvy Karp, M.D. (Bantam; $15), or check out happiestbaby.com.
Bathe. Some babies respond nicely to a warm bath or a gentle massage.
Change the scenery. Go outside for a stroll on a pretty day. Sometimes you will discover what works for your baby by moving him from spot to spot.
Play music. Classical, jazz, lullabies, rock, whatever works! Some babies love to dance to music with you, too, snuggled in your arms.
Turn on the white noise. Many babies enjoy the sound, some say, because it reminds of the sounds heard in utero. My nurse practitioner told me about a mom whose child was soothed by the sound of a blow drier, so she recorded it on her phone. You do whatever works. Download white noise to your iPod at http://whitenoisemp3s.com. Search amazon.com for the wide array of white noise sounds you can purchase on CD and don’t overlook the white noise Apps!
Get a routine. The book On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam (Parentwise; $13.95), promotes the idea that a flexible schedule provides a win/win environment for Baby and Mom. The book was recommended to me by so many moms, that I finally bought it and am trying out the philosophy with my 8-week-old son.
Cry for crying’s sake. Some babies actually need to cry to unwind and eventually fall asleep, especially if they are over stimulated.
Is it colic? Colic is unexplained crying — in an otherwise healthy infant — for more than three hours a day, at least three or more days a week, for three weeks or more.
It’s normal for your baby to cry. The phrase “this too will pass” was probably coined by a frazzled mom! But it’s true, and while there are lots of things about your infant that you want to savor, the wailing may not be one of them. It’s nice to know that crying for a healthy baby peaks around 6 to 8 weeks and then gradually decreases. In the midst of the wailing don’t forget to take care of yourself as well as your baby. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help; it’s OK to take a break from your crying infant. Sometimes the best thing for Baby is for Mom to get a breather.
Mysti Koontz is a local writer and mother of four.