How To Translate Your Baby's Tears

By Nancy Gottesman

Of all the changes that new parenthood brings, your little bundle’s howls and shrieks may be the hardest to adjust to. Your immediate reaction, of course, is to staunch the tears for both your baby’s happiness and your peace of mind. Being unable to do so may feed any new-mom insecurities you may feel and even leave you questioning your parenting abilities. But we’ve got news for you: Crying is not only natural, it’s your baby’s only means of communication!

“Pediatricians need to educate parents that crying is developmentally normal,” explains Karen St. Claire, a pediatrician at the Duke University Medical Center for Child and Family Health in Durham,

N.C. “We [medical professionals] think of it as a neurological phase that babies go through.” A baby’s peak crying period usually occurs at 4 to 8 weeks old and tapers off by 12 weeks. Until that quieter time arrives, the following steps can help soothe both baby and parents.

Translate the tears

“Crying is the way a baby attracts the attention of the parent,” says Kathleen G. Nelson, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. “You need to respond and figure out what’s going on.” Often, that’s not easy. First, experts say, address the obvious. Try to feed the baby, burp her, put her down for a nap, change her diaper, pick her up and hold her. If those responses fail—they often do!—give these a shot:

› Rock baby in a chair or cradle.

› Sing a sweet song.

› Give a warm bath.

› Gently rub baby’s belly.

› Offer a pacifier.

› Place baby in an infant wind-up swing (one with head support for newborns).

› Stroll around the neighborhood.

› Put your baby in the car seat and take a drive.

› Walk around the house cradling your baby.

› Use the football hold (with baby’s body on your forearm).

› Make sure no thread or strand of hair is wrapped around baby’s toe or finger.

Remember, these aren’t guaranteed to work. If baby keeps crying, it’s no reflection on your parenting skills!