In the early months so much is new that it is natural to wonder or worry about how your baby is feeding, sleeping and crying. Below we answer some of the questions most frequently asked about newborn cries, feeding, sleep and how you can interact with your baby at this age.
Understanding your baby's cry
Crying is the most important way your baby has of communicating with you. There are seven main reasons for a baby to cry - babies do not cry without a reason! Some babies cry more than others and are often called 'high-needs' babies - they need more attention than those with more placid personalities.
Babies cry because:
- They are hungry. Little tummies can empty fast so even if you have just fed baby she may need a top-up. If you leave a hungry baby to cry it can take ages to settle her, so always try offering more food before she gets very upset.
- They are in pain. It may only be a little pain - a bruise or knock, but babies can't tell the difference between big and little pains. If you can't see the cause of the pain try cuddling, rocking and soothing. If baby has had an accident your best precaution is to seek medical attention.
- They are uncomfortable. Wet or dirty nappies, scratchy clothing, prickly hats, tight bootees or socks. Baby may be too hot or cold. Put the back of your hand on baby's bare chest to check.
- They are lonely. For nine months your baby was snug and comfortable inside your uterus. Some babies need company more than others but babies who are left alone too much feel insecure. Baby can sleep near you (even in a noisy room), lie on a rug nearby or be carried in a sling or your arms.
- Baby has had too much. Too much light, too much noise, too many people, too much play - babies can get over stimulated by strong sun, loud noises, clucky relatives and over-excited children. Take baby away into a quieter, darker place where you can soothe her.
- Baby is bored. Older babies need a stimulating environment, but this will not be a big problem until closer to his half year mark.
- They are frustrated. This usually happens to older babies who are trying to learn a new skill and simply getting cross when things don't work out!
Most mothers are capable of breastfeeding, but one of the most common reasons that women give for giving up is that they believed their baby was not getting enough milk. Breastfeeding needs to be learnt and if it is not working for you, then now is the time to ask for help from a breastfeeding or lactation consultant or your child health nurse. There are a number of simple signs that your baby is getting enough milk and the most obvious will be in her nappies! Provided baby is not receiving any other fluids, six to eight sopping nappies in a 24 hour period plus one or two loose, soft, yellow bowel movements are a very good indication that baby is satisfied. Breastfed babies' nappies don't smell nearly as bad as those of a bottle-fed baby! If baby's urine is a dark yellow colour and her stools are infrequent or quite firm, then baby may not be getting enough milk and you need to work on increasing your supply of breast milk. The best way to do this is to feed more often! Other signs of enough milk are bright eyes and alertness, firm healthy looking skin and some gains in weight and length.
Remember, help is always available and breastfeeding only gets easier and less complicated as baby gets older.
If you are already bottle-feeding can you underfeed?
This is quite rare. Overfeeding is far more common in babies who are fed infant formula. This is because it is quite easy to believe that more is better and to put extra formula into the mix. It is very important to follow the measurements very precisely as increasing the strength can lead to health problems. The other reason for overfeeding is that you naturally want your baby finish up the bottle. Go against your instincts if you feel this way and let baby decide when he has had enough. If he doesn't finish, throw the leftover away. Kept baby milk is the ideal place for germs to breed.
Bottle-fed babies need to be fed on demand or to need. If baby seems unhappy you can offer just a little more milk (about 60ml) but if he refuses then don't persist, explore other possibilities for his unhappiness. Also check the holes in the teats and make sure they are big enough and not clogged up.
Your baby can be immunised by your doctor, an immunisation clinic, your local council, your community child health nurse or possibly at a hospital, depending which State you live in. If you haven't received a reminder (or maybe you have mislaid it!) this is the month your baby needs the next lot of immunisations. This website will help you to determine what immunisations are due: Don't forget to take your child's Personal Health Record when you go.
Your sleeping baby
Between one and two months of age:
- Most babies will continue to wake every two to four hours - day and night.
- Around the six week mark some babies (only about 25 per cent) will sleep for a five to six hour stretch - some will do so at night, others during the day.
- Baby will also spend more time awake than he did in the first month.
- On average, baby will sleep for around 16 hours in 24, but that is only an average. Some will sleep for 22 hours, others for only 12 - both are normal.
Is colic real?
For some years many pediatricians denied colic even existed and blamed poor parenting - which didn't solve anything! Colic is characterised by unexplained, often intense crying, commonly in the afternoon or in the evening when parents are less able to cope. A red face, little legs drawn up tightly into the abdomen and tightly clenched fists are also common. The signs are clear, but the causes are not; doctors still have various answers and there are no sure-fire remedies. You can also try the remedies in the list 'understanding your baby's cry'.
Some of the best advice for treating colic comes from Dr. William Sears, an American pediatrician. He recommends a gentle dance with baby in your arms; or someone other than mum holding baby in various positions until the crying dies down; or a gentle exercise he calls the 'gas pump' whereby you gently pump baby's legs, knees to chest, as he lies on his back; or a gentle tummy massage. You will find more details of Dr. Sears methods in his Baby Book or at www.askdrsears.com
You are baby's favourite plaything and at this age she is not able to play on her own. Here are some suggestions for what you can do with baby:
- Put baby down on her tummy on a rug. Choose two or three bright objects or toys and put them within baby's field of vision - within 25 cm. Talk to baby and 'play' with the toys. Baby may not want to stay here very long, but it is good exercise.
- Sew a little bell onto the top of one of baby's socks and add a face with a fabric marker. Watch baby listen to the bell when she waves her legs about.
- Sit in a rocking chair or on a low swing and hold baby in your lap. Rock and sing nursery rhymes to baby. You can also read a little book.
- Talk and sing to your baby as you go about your daily activities.
Find out more:
The Parent Easy Guides from Parenting SA, a government organisation and the fact sheets from the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service are amongst the best and most up to date sources of information for Australian parents. Here you will find PDFs on all these topics and more.
Visit the Essential Baby Forums to meet other parents and share your experiences at each stage.
These guides are written for Essential Baby by child care author, Carol Fallows. Carol established Australian Parents magazine in the early 1980s as Australia's first parenting magazine and managed it for nearly 18 years. She continues to write about and for parents. Her most recent title is Having a Baby. The essential Australian guide to pregnancy and birth. (Transworld/Random House, 2005).
Back to the Baby's First Year Monthly Guide - covering development, sleeping, baby care, immunisation reminders, feeding and more.
This information is not a substitute for professional advice. If you have any concerns about your child's health or wellbeing it is important that you seek help from your doctor or a health professional.
Unless otherwise indicated the pronoun he or she refers to either sex. We have chosen to alternate.