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How to Read Your Baby

Anger and Fear

What anger looks like:

Baby is frowning and red; eyes are narrowed; jaw is clenched.

What it means: Anger is a sign of excessive distress, and your baby may even hit, kick, or bite you when in throes of it. Don't let his signs of anger turn you off or make you think your baby has a bad disposition, says Dr. Holinger. Instead, address the distress behind the anger (hunger, pain, fatigue, discomfort). While you're working to solve the problem, put words to what's happening. Though he may not understand what you're saying, he will get the sense that you're trying to figure out what's wrong and fix it.

What fear looks like:

Eyes are frozen open; skin is pale, cold, and sweating; face is trembling; hair is erect.

What it means: Like surprise, fear helps people avoid danger by pumping up stress hormones and putting the whole body at attention. But fear is also toxic, says Dr. Holinger; the hormones that are released can cause health problems if sustained. Monitor your baby's fear level and be aware of her triggers (Does she get scared when you wear that big hat? Is she afraid of dogs? Dark rooms?)  -- then try to control or remedy them. And of course, reassure her with a big hug and a calm voice when she does get scared so she can eventually learn to regulate her fear on her own. Do not shame the baby for being afraid.