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Your New Baby: A Troubleshooting Health Guide

She Cries So Much!

"Ella had one of those bloodcurdling screams pretty much round the clock," says Kelly Sklar of Houston about her baby, now 4 months old. Most of the time, the problem was hunger. "Just about the only reason she cries now is if I'm a few minutes late with her bottle," says Sklar.

The average full-term infant needs to nurse every one and a half to two and a half hours, since breast milk empties rapidly from the stomach, while formula-fed infants eat about every three hours, says Maura Frank, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City.

If after eating your baby arches her back, spits up a lot, or releases a high-pitched wail, she may be experiencing gastroesophageal reflux  -- painful heartburn. (Elevating the head of the crib about 30 degrees and burping her frequently may help comfort her.)

If it's not hunger (or heartburn), besides checking to see if your baby's diaper is wet, make sure it's not stuck to her bottom or too tight; if you're using cloth diapers, be sure the pin isn't touching her. Or undress her completely and do a top-to-bottom check; sometimes a strand of hair can get wrapped around her finger or toe and pinch.

Still crying? She might be extra sensitive to loud noises, vibrations, and changes in the room, such as lights being turned on or a window being opened. Many moms find that the best soother is a "mummy wrap": Turn off the TV and the phone's ringer, swaddle your baby in a blanket, and hold her close.

If nothing works, it might be colic, which affects 20 percent of babies. The cause isn't known, but the excessive fussiness usually starts between weeks two and four, peaks around week six, and subsides by the time the baby's 3 months old. So just hang in there.

"I'd set Ariana  -- she's eight years old now  -- in her bouncer on the dryer at times until she fell asleep," says Jennifer Ortiz of Lexington, Kentucky. Judith Matloff of New York City nestled her son, Anton, now 3, in her arms and swayed him along to some tapes of Angolan ballads. "They're slow and haunting, with a rhythm similar to a heartbeat. I guess that's why they soothed him."

Of course, you may have a baby who doesn't cry much at all. "Not every newborn is a crybaby, and that's normal too," says Dr. Dungy. "Some infants are able to soothe themselves."

Call the pediatrician if: she's spitting up excessively; the doctor may prescribe a baby-safe reflux medication. Also call if she cries uncontrollably, or if she's under 3 months of age and is running a temperature above 100°F (under the arm) or 100.4°F (in the ear or rectally).

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