For Crying out loud!

Tonya remembers the images she had of what it would be like to be a mom: the glow of a soft nightlight, the smell of baby lotion, the feel of a warm cuddle, and the sound of gentle cooing. She did not imagine the glare of bright lights as she searches for the "butt cream," the smell of the diaper pail she was too tired to empty, the feeling of full breasts, or the endless (or so it seems!) crying of her baby.

All babies cry, and maybe you've discovered that most new mommies cry as well! Crying is communication. Newborns begin to increase their amount of crying at around two weeks of age, and the time they spend crying peaks by six weeks. Colic is defined as crying for more than three hours a day, for at least three days a week, for at least three weeks. That's a lot of tears! Though the cause of colic is still not understood, recent research shows that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of colic. (

Jamal is an intense, robust young fellow. When he cries, he is serious about it! He flails around and won't put up with swaddling. After being fed and changed, he is calmed only by a vigourous sway. He likes the swing, and he's fond of a car ride, a stroll around the block, or dancing with Dad. It takes a lot of stimulation to keep him calm.

On the other hand, Reggie seems especially sensitive to the world around him. A loud sound or even the movement of a diaper change rattles him. He needs to suck his paci and close his eyes (as if to shut out the whole world!) before he can calm down. His parents discover that swaddling and holding his hands against his chest help him. Being carried in a baby sling or cuddling on the couch with Mom helps too.

Parents struggle to learn what works best for their baby. Research (by Bell and Ainsworth) shows that when mothers give an early and more nurturing response to their crying babies during the first year of their lives, those babies criy less the second year of their life. Their mother's prompt response seems to increase attachment and to enhance the child's sense of security.

Though crying is a challenge for all parents, for some it triggers a frightening reaction. Mothers experiencing post-partum depression, parents lacking good social support, and all families struggling with substance abuse issues are at risk for letting their feelings fly out of control. These parents need special help.

Ask for help: a neighbor to stroll the baby while you take a quick nap, a huband or friend to take the baby to the store for some diapers while you soak in the tub, a grandma to show you what trick worked best when you were a baby. (See Soon you will be able to tell his tired, from his mad, from his hungry cry-- and know what works best for your baby, and for you.