The Early Weeks - Your Baby

Crying

All babies cry. It's their way of saying that something isn't right. Sometimes you'll be able to find the reason for your baby's distress and deal with it. At other times all you can do is try to comfort or distract your baby. If it's not obvious why your baby is crying, think of possible reasons. Could it be:

hunger?

wet or dirty nappy?

wind?

colic?

feeling hot, cold or uncomfortable?

feeling tired and unable to sleep?

feeling lonely and wanting company?

feeling bored and wanting to play?

'I think there must be something there even before the birth.

But it builds up as well. You know, it takes time to form a bond and over

the months and years it grows stronger.'

It could be none of these things. Perhaps your baby simply feels overwhelmed and a bit frightened by all the new sights, sounds and sensations in the early weeks of life and needs time to adjust. Holding your baby close and talking in a soothing voice or singing softly will be reassuring.

Movement often helps to calm down crying. Gently sway or rock your baby or take your baby for a walk in the pram or baby carrier or even for a ride in a car. Sucking can also be comforting. You can put your baby to your breast or give your baby a dummy if you wish. But if you do, make sure it is sterilised.

Do not dip the dummy in honey or sugar to make your baby suck - he or she will suck anyway. Using sugar will only encourage a craving for sweet things which are harmful to children's teeth.

Some babies do cry more than others and it's not really clear why. Don't blame yourself or your baby if he or she cries a lot. It can be very exhausting so try to get rest when you can. Share soothing your baby with your partner. You could ask a friend or relative to take over for an hour from time to time, just to give you a break. If there's no one to turn to and you feel your patience is running out, leave your baby in the cot, put on some music to drown the noise, and go into another room for a few minutes. Make yourself a cup of tea, telephone a friend or find some other way to unwind. You'll cope better if you do.

Never shake your baby. Shaking makes a baby's head move violently. It can cause bleeding and damage the brain. Put the baby down safely in a cot or pram and calm yourself; don't be angry with the baby. If you feel you're having difficulties in coping with your baby's crying, talk to your midwife or health visitor. Or contact CRY-SIS who will put you in touch with other parents who've been in the same situation.

If your baby's crying sounds different or unusual, it may be the first sign of illness, particularly if the baby isn't feeding well or won't be comforted. If you think your baby is ill, contact your doctor immediately. In an emergency, if you cannot contact your doctor, take your baby to the nearest hospital Accident and Emergency Department.

Sleeping

The amount babies sleep, even when they are very small, varies a lot. During the early weeks some babies sleep for most of the time between feeds. Others will be wide awake. As they grow older they begin to develop a pattern of waking and sleeping which changes as time goes by. Some babies need more sleep than others and at different times.

You'll gradually begin to recognise when your baby is ready for sleep and is likely to settle. Some babies settle better after a warm bath. Most sleep after a good feed. A baby who wants to sleep isn't likely to be disturbed by ordinary household noises, so there's no need to keep your whole home quiet while your baby sleeps. It will help you if your baby can get used to sleeping through a certain amount of noise.

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