Most babies do not cry much during the first three weeks of life. This silence is part of a baby’s MO to lull moms into a false sense of security. “This is so easy,” Mom thinks. “What’s the big deal about a newborn?” During the fourth week, however, a strange sound pierces the air, and it’s not a coyote.
We were eating dinner when our newborn son let out a loud wail. His big sister, only twenty months old, looked at him with disdain and said, “What do you mean, Waaaaah?” That was exactly how I felt when she first cried. No one ever told me that newborns typically sleep eighteen hours a day for the first three weeks of life. Had I known this, I could have prepared myself for what was ahead.
With so many meanings behind cries, the only truly obvious cry from a baby follows from a witnessed injury. If you see your baby get hurt and he cries, any Sherlock can deduce that the cry is due to pain. Nothing gives a greater warning of the intensity of a coming scream like The Pre-Scream Factor. After an injury, the longer the preceding silent scream, the louder the actual scream. If your child gets hurt and starts to cry immediately, you are safe. If, however, an injury is followed by a long gape-mouthed look of frozen horror as your child writhes in agony – take cover. The blood-curdling scream that is to come will be explosive.
In your efforts to help your baby stop crying, start with the most obvious clue:
Hunger. The hunger cry is the easiest to recognize, as it is the one that will jolt you out of sleep in the middle of the night for the first few months. It is not as loud and sudden as a pain cry, but it is usually persistent. Keep in mind that sometimes during a growth spurt, more frequent feedings are required. Forget about whining, “But it’s only been two hours!” If your baby is showing signs of hunger, you might as well use your carefully crafted schedule as a diaper wipe.
Signs of hunger include: fussing (hunger cry), rooting, and sucking on fingers, his or yours. “Rooting” refers to the turning of your baby’s head toward your breast. He will often open his mouth in frustration and move his head like he’s bobbing for apples. Of course, consider it a major hint if your baby starts dialing for take-out at 2 a.m.
Plenty of adults still seek food or drink as a solace for stress or frustration. Be careful not to use milk as a weapon to silence your baby every time he cries. You may gain peace and quiet, but he will gain unnecessary weight. If polite people start referring to your baby as “healthy-looking,” it may be code for “obese.”
Check back next week for more clues…