Babies a New Life : Feeding, Sleeping, and Crying How to raise a contented baby (part 1)

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Q: When will my baby sleep through the night?
A: Like most parents, you may be eager to know when you can expect a little more nighttime sleep from your baby and for yourself. The good news: About 70 percent of babies sleep through the night by three months of age, usually lasting from their late night feeding until their next one in the early morning, giving you a precious few hour’s slumber to recharge your batteries. A full night’s sleep comes a little later, at about six months old, when you can expect a relatively undisturbed 10 or 12 hours of rest for your baby and yourself.
Q: Will my little girl go to sleep more quickly if I exhaust her with play every day?
A: It is a common misconception that you need to wear your child out through play and activity right up to bedtime so she will fall asleep from utter exhaustion. It is worthwhile to give her plenty of playtime and stimulation during the day, but not close to bedtime. As you prepare her for sleep, your baby needs less nervous-system arousal, which means calming, quiet routines. Your aim is to have her fall asleep through increased relaxation, avoiding getting her over-excited. There is evidence that the more daylight she’s exposed to, the better she’ll sleep at night. It’s also known that being in a natural environment improves adults’ sense of well-being, so a walk in the park or playtime in the backyard will help her sleep at night and elevate your mood as well.
Q: I can’t cope with my constantly crying baby. What can I do?
A: A crying baby who seems inconsolable no matter what you do can stretch any parent to breaking point. Things can get especially difficult at night, when you are most tired, and you’re probably conscious that other family members or neighbors might be woken by the crying. It’s common to feel at these times that you’re not good enough as a parent no matter how hard you’ve tried. Try to cast out any thoughts that you’re failing, reassure yourself that you’ve tried every soothing trick in the guide and that you couldn’t do any more.

If you feel unable to continue trying to soothe your child, try passing her to someone else for a while. It often happens that a new pair of hands will be enough to calm the crying. If you don’t have someone to support you at the time and must have a short rest from soothing your baby, place her safely in her crib and take a few moments to compose yourself. Have a cool drink, stand on the doorstep for some fresh air, relax your muscles by letting your shoulders droop, shake your hands and arms to release tension, or phone a parenting helpline to express how you feel. She won’t come to any harm if you leave her for ten minutes or so, as long as you are close by. When you go to her again you may find she’ll respond to your renewed calmness.

If the crying becomes so stressful that you fear you might shake your baby or harm her in some way, put her down in her crib and get help immediately from your partner, family, friends, or a professional. If you have to wait for help to arrive, don’t leave your baby alone in the house. If she’s in her crib, check regularly that she is okay.

Q: Will using cloth diapers mean my baby is more likely to wake up when she wets in the night?
A: Sometimes it can be a hard decision to balance what’s best for the environment with the need to keep your baby undisturbed by dampness in the night. However, don’t dismiss cloth diapers as a nighttime option as they’ve evolved considerably since the terry square and safety pin design. Pocket diapers, which contain absorbent inserts, can work well at night as padding can be added and they do move liquids away from your baby’s skin to avoid the sensation of wetness.

However, no matter which diaper you choose you’re likely to have to change your infant at least once a night in the early months. Minimize disruption by laying out all that you’ll need before she goes off to sleep, have a night light to illuminate the task, and avoid turning on the main light which can wake your baby further. Work calmly and confidently and she may hardly rouse as you change her.

Q: I’m concerned my baby will wake my other children when she cries in the night. Am I worrying needlessly?
A: It’s true that your children may have their routine and even their sleep disturbed occasionally by your new arrival. Minimize disruption by maintaining your older children’s existing bedtime and wind down routine. Perhaps you could enlist your partner or a family member to help with the baby while you put the others to bed. Unlike adults, your children will usually enter a phase of deep sleep soon after falling asleep. This will last a couple of hours and is achieved again during the hour or two before waking in the morning. During these periods of deep sleep, your children are unlikely to be roused by your baby, or anything else for that matter. In the middle of the night there will be times of lighter sleep and a noisy baby may be a problem at first. However, children should soon become accustomed to new nighttime noises and are less likely to be woken once these become familiar sounds.
Q: Should I breast- or bottle-feed?
A: The bonding and nutritional benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, and it’s a good option if you feel you can do it. It is not always an easy choice: Some mothers’ initial attempts to breastfeed are so painful or nonproductive that bottle feeding is introduced. For others, the prospect of being watched while feeding is off-putting, while in some families it is discouraged so that others can share in feedings.

Feeding your baby is a special quiet time when you can hold her close, make eye contact, gently caress her, and relax as she lies in your arms. Breastfeeding mothers can make the most of skin-to-skin contact too. If you are bottle-feeding, make sure that all, or almost all, bottles are given by you or your partner in the first few weeks. If other adults are feeding your baby, too, she’ll miss out on this prime bonding time with the two of you.

Whether you breast- or bottle-feed, dads can get involved. Expressed breast milk allows dads to play a role. Picking up some night feedings can be especially helpful to the mother. Bottle-fed babies get the benefit of being held close by both parents, which can even out the balance of the baby’s experience of both caregivers.

Your breast milk is made specifically for your baby. It transfers your antibodies to fight disease, and provides all the nutrition your baby needs up to the age of six months. Formula is also designed to provide a good nutritional balance, as long as it is prepared exactly as described on the packaging. Do not add any other ingredients or use cow’s milk in your baby’s first year.

Q: What are the challenges for breastfeeding mothers?
A: Breaking a family tradition of bottle-feeding may be one of the challenges you face as a new parent. You may have little support from family members if no one else has breastfed and they can’t offer advice on the best methods. There may even be resentment for keeping the feeding to yourself when others are eager to enjoy the closeness of offering a bottle. It will take plenty of resolve to resist these pressures. Support from your partner is crucial: When they take a role in defending your decision to breastfeed and responding to pressure to bottle-feed, you can concentrate on the important task of feeding itself. Breastfeeding can be an immensely satisfying experience, but it does entail giving yourself over to your baby, which may lead to the feeling that your body is not your own. At these moments, your consolation can be in knowing you are giving your baby the best nutritional start in life, that each feeding gives you the skin-to-skin contact that enhances bonding, and that breastfeeding can help you lose your baby weight.
Q: When should I wean?
A: Breastmilk or formula should meet your baby’s nutritional needs until he’s six months old. Weaning used to be recommended earlier, but the prevailing opinion is now that solids should not be given before your baby is four months old, since the digestive and immune system is not yet fully ready.

When you introduce solid food, expect a mess. Your baby will want to squish it, spread it, and, if you’re lucky, get it into his mouth. He’s exploring new textures, so let him experiment and keep a damp cloth handy for clean-up. And expect some tears and refusals. The feel of the food on his tongue will be different from the smooth sensation of milk, and since he’s used to a steady flow of fluid, he may be surprised at the gap between spoonfuls of solid food.

Do go at his pace and never force-feed him. If he’s becoming unhappy, stop and try again next time. That way he will come to see mealtimes as a pleasure rather than an ordeal. Don’t give up on a new taste; even if he rejects something, try again next time. It takes at least ten tries before a new food becomes familiar, so perseverance is the key. Always stay with your child while he is eating.

Well fed How to tell if it’s enough

I breastfed my baby and constantly wondered if I was giving her enough to drink. I was always envious of bottle-feeding moms who could tell you exactly how many fluid ounces their baby had each time. I worked out in the end how to gauge it for myself. I kept an eye on her diapers to check she was having enough wet ones each day. If she had five or six wet diapers a day and her urine was pale yellow, she was getting enough to drink but if it was less or her urine was dark, then I needed to breastfeed her more often.

Bottle-feeding Fighting disapproval

I feel so judged by other parents for bottle-feeding my baby. Some mothers, and even some health professionals, tell me breastfeeding is better or imply I could have tried harder before switching to the bottle. I do wish I had breastfed for longer than six weeks, but it simply proved too painful, and my baby was constantly hungry. I’m lucky that I had a supportive pediatrician, she did want me to continue to breastfeed, but gave me good advice when I made the decision to change. She reminded me to be sure to hold my baby while I bottle-fed, to make the most of that time to bond, and to limit the number of others who wielded the bottle.


A crying baby who seems inconsolable can stretch anyone to breaking point


Your breastmilk is made specifically for your baby and transfers your antibodies to fight disease

Soothing a crying baby Why they cry and what to do

If your baby is crying and you’ve ruled out illness, and practical solutions such as feeding, a diaper change, and more or less clothing haven’t worked, then hands-on soothing strategies are the next step.

Crying is your baby’s most important way of communicating with you, especially in the early days. She’s trying hard to help you understand what she wants and needs. Crying tends to be at its most frequent (about two hours per day) when your infant is three to six weeks old.

Common reasons your baby cries…
  • Being hungry or thirsty

  • Having a wet or dirty diaper

  • Being too cold or too warm

  • Needing reassurance that you are around.

  • Boredom and wanting to play or the opposite—being overwhelmed by too much going on

  • Being overtired

  • Being in pain and needing help

  • Colic

  • Hold

    Feeling securely held can be calming in itself. Position your baby firmly against your body; either in your arms, upright and supported against your shoulder, or in a baby sling.

  • Sing

    The sound of your voice is naturally soothing to your baby, so humming, singing softly, or murmuring can help reduce her state of arousal. If you speak to her, keep to a low, steady tone, rather than your usual “sing song” voice.

  • Pace

    Hold your baby close and simply pace the room. Make sure you are not too abrupt as you turn and choose a dimly-lit room with nothing else going on, particularly no TV, loud music, or other people moving around.

  • Wrap her up

    Swaddling your child by wrapping her firmly in a soft blanket can recreate the reassuring feeling of being held tightly that she experienced in the womb.

  • Gently rock

    Repeated, smooth rhythmic movements can have a settling effect. Keep your baby’s head well supported and rock her in your arms side to side or up and down.

  • Massage

    Touch has a powerful soothing effect. Softly patting her, rubbing her back, or gently holding her hands or feet may help. Try baby massage which is known to reduce episodes of crying; don’t do this while she is distressed though, wait until she’s calm and relaxed.

  • Machinery

    Oddly enough your baby may be calmed by the rumble of machinery, such as the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, or dryer. She may also like tape recordings of heartbeats or other rhythmic sounds. These sounds mimic the noises of your body that she heard before birth. Sounds of nature can also be soothing, such as recordings of birdsong.

  • Take a break

    It can be very distressing, not to mention exhausting, trying to soothe your crying baby. It’s important to recognize your tolerance levels and seek help from your partner, family, or friends before you reach the breaking point.

  • No relief?

    If your baby’s cries persist no matter how hard you try to soothe her, and you judge that she is in pain that you can’t relieve, seek medical help from her pediatrician.

Colic: trying to understand

The specific cause of colic is not known. Experts suggest a range of explanations, from food intolerance to gas to overstimulation. Its effects are well known to many parents; up to one in five babies will go through it. Crying as a result of colic can last for several hours and is worse in the early evening. Your baby is likely to graduate from cries to screams, and her body will be involved. She may pull up her knees, clench her fists, pass gas, and show facial expressions of pain. Colic and its associated crying usually start at around two or three weeks of age and will often have abated by 12 weeks. Since a colic spell may last for hours and is difficult to soothe, it is intensely stressful for both you and your baby. To manage your colicky baby, try all the usual techniques to calm crying.

Other suggestions include laying your baby face down over your lap and gently patting her back, encouraging her to suck on the breast or bottle, and practicing baby massage when she is calm. Through trial and error you will find the combination of strategies that work best for your child. If colic seems worse in the evenings, one possibility may be overstimulation; soothing measures such as swaddling and dim lights may help, as well as a calmer daytime routine.

Getting a break from soothing your colicky baby is crucial, since coping with her distress is exhausting in itself. Be reassured that by the age of four months, very few babies still experience this condition.


When your baby cries she is trying to explain to you that all is not right in her world and she is asking for your help. It is up to you to determine what she’s trying to say.


Singing or speaking softly to your distressed baby may calm her, since your voice is familiar and naturally soothing.

Back and forth

Gently rocking your baby in your arms or pacing the room with her may help; she’ll enjoy the rhythmical motion.

All wrapped up

Swaddling calms and reassures many babies, because the gentle pressure recreates the feeling of being in the womb.

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