Excerpt from Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week (part 6) - What Baby’s Crying Can Mean, Cradle Cap

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15. What Baby’s Crying Can Mean

Crying is one of the ways your baby communicates with you. It’s his way of telling you he’s uncomfortable, hungry or needs some attention. As you get to know your baby better, you’ll be able to understand what his crying means. However, it’s important to understand that not every newborn cries a great deal—some don’t cry much at all.

Don’t worry about picking him up when he cries—you won’t spoil him. You’ll actually be building a stronger bond with him. You are teaching him that you will take care of him, and he will feel secure with you.

As you get to know your baby, you’ll understand his crying and what it means. Crying usually falls into basic categories:

• boredom—may sound like a fake cry and stops as soon as you pick him up

• discomfort—sounds whiny, similar to boredom but doesn’t stop when you pick him up

• fatigue—soft, rhythmical cry as baby attempts to soothe himself

• hunger—a short, low-pitched cry that rises and falls, and doesn’t stop when you pick him up but does if you feed him

• pain—a sharp scream, followed by no breathing, then another sharp scream

As you become more experienced as a parent, you’ll find ways to soothe your crying baby. You might want to try some of the techniques below to help you discover what works best with your baby. Ways to calm a crying baby include the following:

• swaddle him in a blanket

• put him in a front carrier

• put him in his stroller and walk him around the house

• sing to him

• play white noise

• go outside

• take a drive in the car

• give him a bath

It may seem like baby cries a lot, but on average, he cries only about 4 hours out of every day this first week. And that is usually only 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there. By the second week, he’ll be crying only about 2½ hours a day.

If baby cries nonstop for more than 30 minutes, call his doctor. Be sure to call if his crying is accompanied by fever, vomiting, a lack of appetite or a change in his bowel movements. It could mean he is having a problem that needs to be taken care of by his doctor.

16. Cradle Cap

Your baby may have chunks of yellow or brown waxy material on her head—this could be cradle cap. Also called seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, it is common in newborns and infants. It usually occurs from 1 week to 12 weeks following birth and is usually gone between 8 and 12 months. It’s very common—50% of all infants get it. If your baby has cradle cap, you’ll notice patches of thick scaly skin on the scalp; these may also appear in other areas of the face or at the hairline. It’s not painful or itchy, but it looks cruddy.

What You Can Do at Home. You can treat the symptoms at home with mineral oil or olive oil. Dampen your baby’s scalp with water before applying the mineral oil. Apply the oil to your baby’s scalp to loosen the material enough so you can shampoo it off the scalp. Or rub a small amount of diluted adult dandruff shampoo into baby’s scalp. Be sure to keep it out of her eyes! Rub into a lather, rinse, then brush out the flakes.

It’s OK to use a soft brush to remove skin patches after rubbing with lotion. Keep the area clean and dry. Don’t pick at the patches because you might irritate them or infect them.


Until baby reaches 12 weeks old, anything out of the ordinary can qualify as a possible emergency, even if you might consider them minor in an older child. That’s because baby’s immune system has not matured yet and cannot fight infection.

As a new parent, you may be unsure what is normal and what is not with your baby; you may not know when to call the doctor. Be alert to the following signs and symptoms, and call your baby’s doctor if he:

• has difficulty feeding

• has a bruise or bump on the head

• has difficulty breathing—if he sucks his ribs in when he breathes or if his lips look blue

• vomits after most feedings, especially if vomit is brown or green, or is ejected with force (projectile vomiting)

• if you see mucus or blood in his stools or if he has diarrhea after each feeding

• doesn’t have a bowel movement during the first week

• has a fever of 100.6F or higher, measured rectally

• appears yellow; it could be jaundice

• looks and/or acts differently, such as extreme lethargy or sleepiness, is highly irritable or is very pale

Call your pediatrician if your baby sleeps longer than 6 hours, is hard to wake up or skips more than three feedings. Repetitive movements in your newborn that don’t stop when you hold your baby are serious. Contact your doctor immediately.

Baby’s soft spot may also alert you to illness in your baby. If it remains sunken for longer than a few minutes, it may be a sign of severe dehydration, especially if accompanied by fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Take your baby to the hospital immediately!

Don’t worry about calling the doctor—your pediatrician and his or her staff are there to help you. Your questions won’t sound silly. They’ve probably heard any question you can think to ask many times before!

When to Call the Doctor. There should be no signs of infection on the scalp; contact the doctor if the area seems to be infected. Call the doctor if the problem lasts longer than 8 weeks. Call if the area shows signs of oozing or pus, if the cradle cap fails to respond to the measures listed above, if the skin becomes red or scaly, or if the area becomes inflamed.

If there are signs of inflammation or redness on other parts of the body, it could indicate another problem, so be sure to call your pediatrician. This form of dermatitis may be treated by your physician with a cortisone lotion.

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