Did you ever see that Simpson’s episode where Homer’s brother invents a baby translator? It goes on to make sense of Maggie’s baby talk. ‘Lavish attention on me and entertain me’ she’s translated to say.
It would be nice if one of these was on the market. I know our family would have done whatever it took to have one in our home. Perhaps one for the mom of a mumbling teenager too.
Sadly, nothing like this exists, so until that day comes, you hazard a guess, but are you correct? Here are five tips to help you make sense of what your crying baby is trying to tell you.
1. ’She’s only just fed but she’s crying and hungry again’
If your baby is requiring a feed less than every two hours, she’s either not fed well at the last feed, or she’s trying to tell you something else. Chances are, a breastfeed might satisfy her noises, but it may not be what she actually needs (or wants) at that point in time.
Babies fuss and cry for many reasons, they are not always communicating hunger. She might need a nappy change, a cuddle, to be warmer, cooler, some sleep… or indeed another feed, but if she’s breastfed, check your timing on this one first.
Tune in to hear what it is your baby is telling you. Fussing and crying will sound quite different according to what it is she needs from you. Your radar will become more finely tuned to her and the translations will become clear.
2. ‘She’s always looking to suck. I guess she’s just a ‘sucky’ kind of baby’
I’m not suggesting your baby sucks…. lighten up girlfriend, just that she is doing loads of sucking! If you think you’ve got a ‘sucky’ baby, you’re probably right.
Some babies cry and suck at their hands continuously and others become addicted to needing their mother’s breast to go off to sleep. Breastfeeding is more than just a food source for baby, it offers a comfort and closeness like nothing else. However, using the breast as a ‘dummy’ is not a fabulous way to solely satisfy your babe. By offering the breast whenever you hear her cry, might mean your missing what she’s trying to tell you.
Some babies would suck at your breast for all of eternity and others would be happy with your shoe or your dog’s tennis ball, if given a chance. How about trying a dummy to satisfy this need? There’s no crime in it and there are plenty out there in loads of different materials, shapes and sizes. Have some fun and try some different ones to see if it makes a difference for her.
‘Aren’t dummies just another habit-forming issue?’, you ask. Yep! but you can break this one later. For now, you and baby need all the peace and sleep you can get. ‘Pick your battles!’ this is not a hill you want to die on right now.
3. ’She’s crying and bored. She needs more wake time’
As a doula, I hear this all the time. If she’s woken, had a good breastfeed and some interaction with you, she in all likelihood will be telling you she’s ready for her next nap. New babies need a crazy amount of sleep and your baby will be no exception. There will be more chance of your baby being over-tired than not-tired-enough.
A newborn needs on average 8 hours of sleep during the day and 8 hours sleep at night. That’s a lot of sleep time to be clocked-up.
She might try to communicate tiredness by jerky movements, crying, moaning, fussing, longer blinks, rubbing her eyes… Watch carefully and don’t miss what she’s trying to tell you. You don’t need to wait for ALL of these signs, just one or two is telling you she needs a nap. Wrap that kid and get her snuggled down for a solid sleep. It’s what she needs.
4. ‘She’s crying and fussing. She’s probably too cold/warm’
You might be entirely correct. If the baby is unsettled, check her temperature by feeling the back of her neck. It should be warm, but it’s quite reasonable for her hands to feel cool.
As a general rule, baby should be wearing one more layer than you. Because she is not able to regulate her temperature yet, she needs to be dressed just a little more warmly than you. However, don’t make the mistake of over-heating your baby.
If you want to take the guesswork out of this one when it comes to sleep, look for sleepwear that goes beyond the TOG warmth indicator. Look for temperature-regulating sleep suits that are suitable all year around. These clever kinds warm baby up fast but won’t over-heat her and will keep her comfortable in the warmer months too. And don’t forget a little pair of cotton socks to keep her toots warm as well.
5. ’She’s crying because she’s very social and needs to be out all of the time’
Is it baby who needs to be out all the time or mom? I was one of those moms who wanted to be out ALL THE TIME with my baby. I needed interaction with others to feel sane and happy. I needed to be talking about how my baby was going and asking loads of questions to others. So if this sounds like you and you were a socialite before kids, you’ll be on a higher drive now!
Babies are super transportable for the first couple of months so there’s a real ease in being able to do continuous outings if you’re a social type of gal. Babies sleep very happily, for the most part, being worn by their mothers in a soft carrier, and they benefit from the stimulation and all of the benefits that baby-wearing can bring.
However, food for thought: As our babies grow, they become more engaged with the happenings around them and can become easily over-stimulated. This means sleep, and in-turn development, can be compromised, and this, of course, is not what we want for our babies.
We need to keep it real – Going out to cafes and meeting up with friends are social interactions for us and we NEED them and should be encouraged to take part in them. However, if you notice baby becoming less settled and is lacking familiarity with a daily ‘rhythm’, you might need to adjust the social intensity of your days and let baby have some uninterrupted sleep time at home.
So, with all of this in mind, tune into your baby’s cues and remember most of all your baby wants your face, your warmth, your love and all of this consistently.
Mum of six fabulous kids and foster-mum to numerous others. Event manager, doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, owner of Sydney Birth Support, Mamaway Advocate and an encourager of all mums out there giving it their best crack!