What do you do with a crying baby?

What Do You Do With a Crying Baby? 

Probably the greatest dread of a new Dad is – dah dah duh – the crying baby.  Remember that this is equally daunting to Mom at first, but she’s expected to know what to do about it and has plenty of resources available to her.  So here are some things that you should know about crying babies and what you can do for them.

So…Why is the Baby Crying? 

Understand first that a baby will pretty much cry about everything because that is the only way that they have to communicate with you.  Whatever the reason, they can’t tap you on the leg and say “Yo Dad”, so they’ll cry instead.  Think of it as a jarring, frustrating translation game.  Not all cries are necessarily the same and if you pay attention, you’ll start to recognize what each one means to her.

Until then, what do you do?  Start by developing a checklist of possible complaints to consider. 

1.       Hunger.  She wants fed and if she’s having a growth spurt, her typical schedule will be thrown off.  If she was just fed, then move to the next item on your checklist but if it’s been awhile, then consider this one.  What is an indicator that she’s hungry?  Gently rub the clean tip of your finger against her lower lip and see how she responds; if she opens her mouth and moves to latch onto it as though it’s a nipple, then it’s probably hunger.  If she doesn’t respond to that, then it’s time to move on.

2.      Diaper Change.  She’s telling you that she’s uncomfortable and wants a change.  If she’s dry and not messy, take a moment to check her bottom and groin.  Redness there – or on the penis if a boy – would indicate a developing rash that will cause discomfort.  This frequently happen if you’ve had to use more wipes because of more frequent diaper changes.  If this is the case, you can apply cream and then do follow-up cleanings with a warm, damp washcloth instead of wipes; you can even opt to just let her air out without a diaper.  Put a dry towel on the floor and let her rest there but as always, be careful of what’s within her reach.

3.      Teething.  This typically starts at about four months of age.  Again, use clean fingers to check her mouth for and gums for redness or evidence of erupting teeth.  If this is the situation, you can give her a cold teething ring or cold, wet washcloth to chew on.  You can even let her suck on your clean (do you think there’s a trend here?) finger for awhile if you’re desperate.

4.      Too Cold or Hot.  A decent rule of thumb is that she should have one more layer on her than you are wearing.  After adding more clothing, hold and comfort her until she settles.  This was my particular specialty, if I might add.

5.      Wants Held.  Some kids just want close body contact and just holding her close to your chest where she can hear your heartbeat – a la in utero – might do the trick.  You can’t spoil a child from holding her too much, but remember that babies with minimal head and neck control need to have them supported and stabilized.

6.      General Discomfort.  If everything else appears alright, take a quick look to see if anything else strikes you as odd.  Is the diaper fitted properly or is the sleeper too small and pinching toes?  Both have happened in my experience.

And What About This Dreaded Colic? 

A baby who cries a lot doesn’t necessarily have colic.  A “colicky” baby is one which cries for several hours each day, several days a week and the crying will generally happen at the same time – typically late afternoon or early evening.  It can start as early as four weeks of age and last until the child is about 16 weeks, which makes for the longest three months of your natural life.  There are multiple reasons for colic, including chronic gas and abdominal distension, and any one of these can wreak havoc.

You can adopt several methods to help your child with colic.

1.       Repetitive movement in a carrier close to your body.

2.      Some form of white noise like a vacuum cleaner or radio static.

3.      Gentle infant massage with baby oil.

4.      Gently – and carefully – holding her face down while you cradle her as though she were a football in a handoff. 

If these don’t help, consult your pediatrician or check any number of colic sources online.  Just remember that while it’s an interminable three months, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Dads and Nighttime Crying Babies 

A British magazine surveyed new parents and found that fully 52% of the dads were sleeping through the baby’s nighttime crying.  And yep, there is nothing better for a new Dad than a sleep-deprived, hormonally challenged new Mom.  Although it may be due to a natural inclination on the mother’s part to awaken to the crying, dads should split the effort here mutually.  If mom does hear the crying on your duty night, have her wake you so she can get some rest too.  Mom didn’t just decide to have a kid without telling you first.

You can ascribe night cries to hunger for the first very months, but after the baby is sleeping for five or more hours, any crying out that norm has to be considered for other causes.  Go back to your checklist and work from there before just plugging her up to the pump for a refill.  You want to avoid teaching her to sleep when she has a nipple in her mouth; after she stops nursing, you’ll get into the habit of giving her a bottle for sleep and in many cases, that bottle will have sugar-laden juice.  The cascade effect is that this is considered one of the reasons for the rise in childhood tooth decay.  You might sleep better now, but you will pay for it emotionally and financially down the road. 

A Dad’s Response to a Crying Baby 

I know that it can make you nuts since there were nights that I didn’t think that I would ever sleep again.  But remember first and foremost – crying doesn’t automatically mean you are doing anything wrong and continued crying doesn’t make you a bad father.  Now repeat that five times.  And then repeat it five more times.

While it’s important to work with the baby during this period, she’ll survive in her crib for 10 minutes while you leave the room for a sanity check.  Give yourself a schedule with which to work and stick to it provided that you a secure place in which to put her.  If you feel close to losing your cool outside of that schedule, put her in her spot and leave the room – just don’t lose your cool.  When you have it together, go back in.  If necessary, get someone else to come and relieve you or at least talk to you; on several occasions, I called my own father and had a long-distance sanity check.

Although she’s just a baby, she’s learning at a phenomenal rate.  Just as your learning her cues and the best responses, she’s learning yours as well.  Stick with it and you can become adept at handling the situation on your own, too.

Introducing your Child to Solid Food

Junior, this is food.  Food, this is Junior.  Knock yourself out, kid. 

Introducing your baby to solid foods involves more thought and planning than just tossing a diced Italian sub on the high chair.  It is a months-long process in which the child learns how to eat solid foods and you learn what foods he can’t tolerate.  Surprisingly, one of your best tools here is a pencil and notebook or calendar as you monitor what he eats and how he responds to it.  You are, in a sense, controlling the variables in something akin to a science project. 

Why Do I Have to Do This?

The body can be allergic to certain types of food and react in a number of unpleasant ways to them.  The reaction severity can range from mild skin rashes to diarrhea to breathing problems requiring a full-blown 911 call, although this last is a rare possibility.  Foods which most commonly cause allergic reactions are milk (lactose intolerance), peanuts, wheat products (gluten intolerance) and shellfish.  Physicians will advise you to hold off on those items until later.

You introduce one particular food at a time so that you can monitor the effect of each on your child and if there is a reaction, note that food as allergenic.

How Do I Know that He’s Ready for Solid Foods?

From birth, Junior will be taking either breast milk or formula and he will continue to do so even after even starting solid foods.  It is a weaning process which commences when:

1.        He doubles his body weight;

2.       He has sufficient neck control to hold his head steady;

3.       He has enough control of his tongue that he doesn’t just push food out of his mouth (extrusion). 

4.       He can sit upright either in a high-chair or on your lap;

5.       He wants the pretzel that you’re munching while you’re reading this.

This can occur anywhere from 4 to 6 months of age and when these happen, you can take it as a sign that he’s ready to go.

What Reactions Indicate a Food Allergy?

An allergic reaction to a particular food is typically noticeable within several seconds to several minutes, although it could occur within several hours afterwards.  Here are symptoms that might appear:

1.        Reddened or flushed skin, hives or itching;

2.       Diarrhea, upset stomach/vomiting;

3.       Sniffles/running nose (aka the Green Elevens), congestion, sneezing or difficulty breathing;

4.       Anaphylaxis, a condition in which the throat and airways start swelling and lead to breathing problems.  If you suspect anaphylaxis, immediately contact your physician or 911.

So How Do We Start?

There are some foods that physicians and dietitians advise you to stay away from until the child is older.  These are:

1.        Milk and dairy products until about one year of age;

2.       Eggs and egg products until about two years of age;

3.       Peanuts, other nuts, fish/shellfish and honey until about three years of age.

Ask yourself and your mate if there is any family history of food allergies and if so, share that with your physician.  She will recommend that these particular foods not be introduced until late in the hopes of keeping your child from developing sensitivity to that food.

When he has reached the solids threshold, start with a single helping of rice cereal one a day.  The rice cereal is free of gluten, a protein found in wheat and a potentially allergenic substance.  Mix the dry cereal, available in the grocery’s Baby Food section, with a small amount of formula, breast milk or warm water.  Then feed it with a rubber tipped spoon to protect your child’s gums.  Continue the feeding until he lets you know he’s done by turning his head away or pushing on the spoon.  One of my children was notable for a particular “get that crap out of my face” look.  You’ll increase the number of feedings – up to three – each day as the weeks continue until he is taking cereal with every feeding; once regular food is established, you can stop the cereal.

After several days of cereal, you can start with a highly strained vegetable.  Again, try it for about three to five days to see if there is any allergic reaction and if none is found, note it as okay and move onto another food.  After each new food has been tried and found to be okay, it can become one of the stable of acceptable foods for meals so that there are additional choices for meals.  If there is a problem, you can link it to the new food being tried.

There is no set way of determining what food to introduce when but you might want to consider starting with some green vegetables instead of fruits and sweet potato.  Some kids get hooked on the sweet flavor early and then snub the plainer foods.  Since your memory can suffer from the pace and confusion of caring for a baby, be sure to use the calendar or pad for brief notes so that you can keep things straight.

As the first year passes, you can start shifting from strained to solid foods.  You must cut the solid foods into very small pieces so that the child doesn’t choke as he eats.  His esophagus is very small and there is a choking hazard.  By the end of the first year, he can be off of breast milk/formula at meals as well as the rice cereal.  A typical lunch for my kids at this point consisted of finely diced meat (hot dog, for instance), grapes sliced into quarters and carrots microwaved for softness (but then cooled before serving).

Remember that even as he takes in more solid foods, he may still need breast milk or formula until he’s about one year of age.  The general format of a meal in the latter part of his first year would be a small amount of formula or breast milk, followed by cereal and topped off with the food.  As a practical note for Dads, check with the new Mom before you introduce a new type of solid food since it can be a memorable event.  I was frankly ticked off to return from a restroom to the restaurant table to find that eldest had had her first bite of solid food while I was away.

Even if science wasn’t your best subject, keeping things consistent is the key.  Remember that and you should have no problem.

A First Year Timetable for Dads – What to Expect When You Don’t Know What to Expect

Frequent sleep deprivation and integrating a new child into your life can result in a first year that’s a complete blur.  If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll probably wonder what the first year’s milestones are and whether Junior is on track.  So here’s a brief list of the first year milestones that ought to help.
Remember that this is comprised of averages and that there is likely to be some differences between children.  For example, the occasional child is born with one or more teeth or your daughter may not choose to crawl until later.  One friend’s son was eating cut-up steak at two months.  Be patient and if you have questions, talk to your mate or contact your pediatrician.
You should also note that some of these milestones build upon one another.  For instance, holding the head up and sitting up without support all build upon the basic control of the neck muscles.  Happy reading and hang on tight!

Event Timeframe
1st stool (Meconium*) 1st day
1st Well-baby doctor visit 2nd day
2nd Well-baby doctor visit 4th day
Umbilical cord falls off 2 weeks
Well-baby checkup 1 month
1st time clearly smiling at you 1 month
Lift head up 1 month
Well-baby checkup 2 months
1st sex with new mom (theory) 3 months
1st tooth 3 months
Able to grasp/lift light objects 3 – 4 months
Well-baby checkup 4 months
Hold head up 4 months
Turn over 4 months
1st pulling up 4 months
Well-baby checkup 6 months
1st time clearly seeing you 6 months
Stops needing breast milk/formula 6 months
1st time solid foods introduced 6 months
1st time crawling 7 – 8 months
1st time walking 10 – 12 months
1st Dental visit 1 year
Well-baby checkup 1 year
* Meconium is not a gladiator or fuel for a Federation Starship. It is the term for the thick, tarry substance that constitutes your child’s first stool and is the remains of what was in his intestines/colon while he was in utero. Despite the rather nasty look and concept, it doesn’t smell – that comes later.