Crying is one of a baby’s most powerful means of communication. She can’t speak to tell you what she needs. It’s sometimes difficult to work out what your baby is telling you, but, in time, you’ll learn to recognise what your baby needs. And, as your baby grows, she’ll learn other ways of communicating with you, which will reduce her need to cry for attention.
In the meantime, if your baby is crying, she may be trying to say:
1. “I’m hungry.” The younger your baby is, the more likely it is that she’s hungry. Your baby’s small stomach can’t hold very much, so if she cries, try offering her some milk.
2. “I just feel like crying!” If your baby is younger than about five months old, she may cry in the late afternoon and evenings. This is normal! It’s upsetting when it seems you can’t do anything to ease your baby’s distress, but, rest assured, your baby will grow out of this trying phase.
3. “I need to be held.” Picking her up and cuddling her will quickly stop the tears. A carrying sling may be useful, and some babies like to be snugly wrapped in a blanket while being held.
4. “I’m tired.” Often, babies find it hard to get to sleep, particularly if they are over-tired. Take your baby somewhere calm and quiet to help her to settle down.
5. “I need a change.” Your baby may protest if her clothes are too tight or if a wet or soiled nappy is bothering her.
6. “I’m too hot/cold.” Check your baby’s temperature by touching her neck and readjust her temperature by adding or removing clothes.
7. “I’m sick.” If you think your baby may be ill, contact your doctor or health visitor for advice.
What do I do now?
Trying different strategies will probably eventually hit on the one that helps. Next time your baby is upset, the thing that worked last time might not work again. Then it’s time to rummage in the baby-settling toolkit again. Here are some ideas:
1. Pick her up, which might soothe her right away.
2. Feed her.
3. Change her nappy.
4. Play music or sing.
5. Move. Experiment with walking and rocking, and with dance-like movements that move up, down and around all at once. Try swinging her gently.
6. Try a pacifier, if you are comfortable with this.
7. Take a walk with her in a sling, carrier or stroller.
8. Give her a bath.
9. Change positions: cradle hold her with her head against your shoulder; lay her tummy-down over your forearm, with her head in the crook of your arm; or, try laying her across your lap, face down. These positions put gentle pressure on the abdomen, which often feels soothing.
Jeanne Hauguel is a mother of two who has lived in Asia for seven years. She has been a doula in Hong Kong for the past two years, helping families through birth and post-partum. Jeanne has designed a new antenatal class called Babies Essentials, in which she covers all the main topics regarding newborn care for future and new parents. Classes are held in Causeway Bay. Click www.doulabirthstory.com, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.