A parent’s guide to newborns

What does it mean when your baby cries? How can you tell if your baby is hungry?

A parent’s guide to newborns

If you have any concerns about your infant’s development in those early months or if you feel unable to cope or handle some of these new demands in your life, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Your primary care clinic team is a great resource to make sure your baby is on track.

Crying and communication

Nothing gets our attention quite like a baby’s cry. We naturally seem to want to reach out to soothe and comfort. Your infant’s crying is how he or she communicates with you, especially early on. At first, you may not notice any differences in the different types of crying, but you will quickly begin to recognize your baby’s “language.”

In the first three months of your baby’s life, you and your baby will begin to learn to communicate. Responding when your baby cries will not spoil him/her; rather, it teaches your baby that you are there to care for his or her needs. You cannot spoil an infant by giving too much attention.

  • More Than Hunger: Be careful you don’t assume your baby is hungry every time he or she is crying. You will learn within the first two months that cries have different sounds and meanings. Being hungry is only one reason for crying; your baby may also be telling you he or she has a dirty diaper, is overwhelmed by the noise or changes in the environment, is overly tired, or simply needs to be held and cuddled.
  • Fussy Periods: You may begin to notice your baby cries more at certain times during the day. It’s common for some babies to have a fussy period at the same time every night, generally between early evening and midnight. You can expect your baby to begin outgrowing this by about three months old. There is also a normal developmental period where a baby’s crying increases, which can begin as early as two weeks and can continue until about three to four months. Pay attention though, because persistent fussiness can also be a sign of illness or pain.
  • Calming the Crying: When you try to calm your baby’s crying, try to remain calm yourself. Babies can sense stress and that can increase their distress. To calm your baby, try rocking, walking, singing and talking softly. If crying tries your patience too much, take deep breaths and remind yourself that this is not intentional on your baby’s part. It can also help to visualize a relaxed, enjoyable time with your baby. Periods of fussiness when you can’t seem to calm your baby can be very stressful. If the crying overwhelms you, remove yourself from the situation. Ask someone else for assistance so you can have a short break. If you’re alone, place your baby on his back in a safe place and leave the room until you feel in control again.

Hungry baby

Knowing your baby’s signals for being hungry or full will help you know when and how much to feed. It will also prevent overfeeding. Signs of a baby’s hunger include:

  • Putting a hand to the mouth, puckering the lips as if sucking.
  • Turning the head and making sucking movements (called rooting).
  • Verbal fussing.
  • Crying is a late sign of hunger. Once a baby is crying, feeding may become more difficult, especially with breastfeeding, as crying interferes with a baby’s ability to latch onto the nipple.

When your baby is full, he or she is likely to turn the head away from the nipple and close his/her mouth. You will also notice his or her arms and hands begin relaxing.

Time to play

As a newborn, your baby depends on you to initiate interaction and playtime with smiles, playfulness, and nonsensical or verbal conversation. This interaction provides the foundation for your baby’s development of communication skills and feelings of social connection.

  • Asking to play: By the end of the third month, you will see your baby showing you that he or she wants to play – showing that desire with facial expressions, vocalizations and gestures. At this age, babies start to reach out and swat at things. An infant gym becomes a great toy, as does facial and verbal imitation games.
  • Tummy time: Also include some playtime where you place your baby on his or her tummy. This helps develop muscles needed later for rolling over and crawling. If this frustrates your baby, it can help for you to be down next to your baby engaging him or her in fun interaction.

Your growing baby

Between birth and three months, you will see many changes in your baby. Here are some of those developmental highlights:

  • Looks at your face and makes eye contact
  • Brings fist to mouth
  • Responds to your touch
  • Sucks on pacifier, thumb and fingers
  • Begins to reach for toys and bat at objects
  • Turns head towards familiar voices
  • Lifts head when on tummy
  • Establishes head control
  • Smiles and coos

Posted In Children's, Health Information, Women's