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Getting to Know Your Baby

Your child is unique

Infants are born with their own, unique bodies and very quickly begin to show their own personalities. It is important to learn your baby's physical characteristics, likes and dislikes. Have fun getting to know your newborn as he or she gets to know you and the rest of the family. Touch, hold and cuddle your baby as often as you can. He or she will thrive on lots of love and attention.

Normal newborn behavior

Babies make lots of sounds. Sneezing, coughing, passing gas, hiccups and occasional spitting-up are all normal behaviors. Newborns often breathe loudly and alternate rapid and slow breathing. Infants startle easily; sudden loud noises, such as the telephone or a siren, may make them cry. Before you pick up your baby, make your presence known by talking softly and gently touching your baby before lifting.

Infants are born with many involuntary reflexes. When the palms of their hands are touched, they grasp firmly. When they are startled, they stretch out all their limbs, then curl up. When their lower lips are rubbed, they turn their heads and open their mouths (called rooting). They also have a strong desire to suck, whether they are hungry or not. Most of these reflexes disappear a few months after birth.

Crying and fussiness

Crying is the only way a newborn can communicate. Most newborns cry two or three hours a day, but some cry more. It is never a mistake to pick up your baby and comfort him or her. When your baby cries, check for these possible causes of distress:

  • Hunger
  • Dirty diapers
  • Diaper rash
  • Gas (needs to burp)
  • Colic
  • Needs to suck (try your finger, baby's thumb or a pacifier)
  • Too hot or too cold

If none of these is the problem, try rocking, singing or playing soothing music, or taking your baby for a walk or a ride in the car.

It is normal to feel frustrated if you cannot calm your baby. Once you have checked the obvious reasons for discomfort, it's okay to put your baby in the crib and let him or her cry while you leave the room for a few minutes. This is especially important if you are exhausted or frustrated. If you need a longer break, ask someone to watch the baby for awhile or take turns being "on duty" with your spouse or partner.

Some experts recommend the "10 minute rule" for crying babies. Leave the baby in the crib to cry for 10 minutes. He or she will most likely fall asleep during that time. If not, go back and comfort the baby, then leave for another 10 minutes. If you choose to use the 10 minute rule, do so only after you have checked all the possible causes of distress listed above.

If you become concerned about how often your baby cries, contact your physician.

Sleeping

For the first few weeks, it may seem that your newborn sleeps constantly, waking only when he or she is hungry. As weeks pass, your baby will gradually spend more time awake. Newborns have no regular pattern to their sleeping periods, but they become more predictable as they get older. Most infants sleep through the night by about six weeks of age. This happens naturally - you needn't force your baby to adjust to a regular schedule, although you can help by establishing a bedtime routine. Feed your baby, sing a lullaby and read the same story to settle him or her for sleep. By keeping night feedings quiet and low-lit, you can further help your baby learn the difference between night and day.