How To Translate Your Baby's Tears

Try swaddling

Wrapping your little one in a snug- fitting blanket is an age-old custom still practiced in hospital nurseries and by mothers all over the globe. “Babies have something called a startle refl ex,” explains Larry Scherzer, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatrician at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn., and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “Swaddling helps minimize these involuntary jerks of the legs that can get them started on a crying spell.” Research has also proven what mothers have long known: Swaddled babies stay asleep longer and sleep more deeply than those who are not wrapped up. In addition to inhibiting the startle reflex, swaddling keeps babies warm and gives them a sense of security and comfort.

Determine if it’s gastric distress

You may have heard of colic, a term that is widely misunderstood. Colic is not an ailment or condition, as many parents believe. It simply denotes an inconsolable baby who is otherwise healthy. Colicky babies can have crying jags that last from a few minutes to four or five hours. Although these bouts can drive parents crazy with worry, they are part of a normal behavior pattern for many babies during their first three months of life.

A percentage of colicky infants, however, “have either acid reflux or milk protein allergy,” contends Bryan Vartabedian, M.D., pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and author of Colic Solved (Ballantine Books, 2007). “Both are treatable conditions.” If your baby is prone to prolonged wailing, Vartabedian says to watch for these signs of gastro distress: arching of the back away from the breast or bottle after a few sucks, chaotic feeding pattern (e.g., takes an extraordinarily long time to eat), weight loss, frequent hiccups or prolonged congestion. If your colicky baby has these symptoms, tell your pediatrician, who may refer you to a pediatric gastroenterologist.