Thursday, May 19, 2005

Understanding your baby's cries

When you bring your first baby home from the hospital, you will be hyperaware of every coo, sniff and cry that she makes. Little mews in the night wake you up, ready to feed, cuddle and change her. Every sneeze makes you rush for the thermometer to take her temperature. Real cries and unhappy screams scare you and make your search to relieve her discomfort as quickly as possible.

As you and your baby get to know each other and as your schedule normalizes a little bit, you will start to understand what all of her little sounds mean. Even though she is not talking to you yet, her sounds are a way for her to communicate with you and you will soon learn to understand many of them if you pay attention. Yes, there will always be mysteries and you will often wish that only she could tell you what the problem is or where it hurts. Nonetheless, you will often know the answers.

The most important thing is to listen to what your baby is telling you. If she lets out a little gasp or a coo, you do not need to rush over to her and start checking her diaper. She is learning to use her voice, her breath and her body and sometimes babies just like to make noise. Many mothers find the first cry that they can recognize and differentiate from others is the hungry cry. Many babies start with a small fussy sound as they realize they are hungry. They repeat a discontented noise like a CD player with a bad laser. If they do not get fed in response to this sound, often the cry will transition into full-fledged wailing.

Some babies become aware at a very early age of when they wet or soil their diapers. If you pay attention, you may realize that your baby makes a sound or gives you a signal that tells you a diaper check is in order.

If your baby is crying frantically or in a way you have never seen before, this is a message you should always pay attention to. Any unusual and unhappy behavior can often signal that something is wrong in your baby's world. If the crying does not abate as you do things to try to make your baby more comfortable, a visit to the doctor is probably in order.

Of course as baby gets older, she will start to communicate in more ways. Many of these will be easier to understand, since your baby is already learning communication methods from you. For example, as you snuggle her or play silly games, she will first smile and later will let out little giggles. There is little that makes a parent feel happier than the laughter of his or her infant.

There will still be mysteries, of course. Your baby is not yet skilled in communicating and sometimes she will not even really know what she wants or needs. But, paying attention and watching your baby's signals can help you make progress toward getting to know your baby as well as possible.

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