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How to Easily Decode Your Babies Cries

A CHECKLIST: Digestion, Diaper, Support/Swaddle, Stimulation, Ill or in Pain

It has been my experience... that whenever a baby cries, “she must be hungry,” is the first thing that comes to a mother’s mind. You are breastfeeding your growing baby, she is gaining weight, has regular pediatric well-baby visits, is up-to-date on her immunizations, and is content most of the time. You have just finished a feeding; she detached spontaneously from your breast with a belly full of hind milk and seems content. You set her down... Wah, Wah, Wah...

Don’t take the blame; it’s not the breastfeeding. You’re doing fine.

There could be many reasons why your baby is crying.

DIGESTION: When babies feed - they swallow air. While you try to keep this at a minimum by getting lots of breast tissue into your baby’s mouth, air in the stomach happens. Burps need to come up when your baby stops sucking after a period of rhythmic swallowing or become squirmy from gases moving around in her belly. Simply moving your baby to an upright position and straightening her spine will likely produce a burp. Back patting, with her belly flat against your upper chest – not with her arms folded under her – will release more trapped air.

DIAPER: Some babies become fussy when left in a wet diaper for only a few minutes. Crying is how they let you know. Babies will pee and poop during or shortly after a feeding. A diaper that is soiled needs to be changed as soon as it is discovered. If the diaper is too tight around your baby’s belly or thighs, she will let you know... by crying.  Be sure the waistline of the diaper isn’t rubbing on her belly button and you can slip your fingers into the waistband easily. Are the side tapes directly against her skin? Irritation is serious, crying is the expected response and you can come to the rescue.

SUPPORT/SWADDLE: If you believe your baby is ready to sleep and you set her down, on her back in her sleeping place, she needs to feel fully supported. Just as when she is at your breast, she has to feel the earth beneath her, so to speak, from head to toe. Loose and free floating doesn’t work for many babies. Swaddling or a tight blanket wrap, on a firm mattress, with your baby’s arms inside, will keep her feeling supported. Try wearing your baby, whether sleepy or alert, to soothe her. Supported against you, from legs to head, your baby will be comforted by everything about you. Your warmth, heartbeat, smell, voice...

STIMULATION: Can my baby be bored? Yes, she can. When your baby has a full belly and remains awake and alert, she is ready to learn. Putting an awake, alert baby down to sleep might very well result in crying. Incorporate your baby into your daily activities. An infant seat or swing near where you are working, talking to her about your work, dancing, singing, playing familiar music... will all quiet a crying baby. Keep her as close to you as possible, wear your crying baby if possible.  

ILL or in PAIN: A rectal temperature over 100 degrees F could be a sign of illness. A baby who is no longer feeding well could be a sign of illness. A change in the consistency, color or frequency of a baby’s bowel movements could be a sign of illness. Babies can feel pain from something as simple to remedy as a chafing diaper or as serious as an ear infection. Call your pediatric care provider immediately if you suspect that your baby is unwell.

Don’t ever leave your baby to “cry herself out.”  

Reassure her that you will be there to meet her needs... forever.

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC

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