Babies cry. It's in their job description. Your task as a parent is twofold: to interpret the wails and to figure out how your child wants to be comforted.
If he isn't sobbing because of an obvious trigger (such as hunger, exhaustion, or a wet diaper), then it's time to dig a little deeper. "You've got to become a detective and investigate what he's trying to tell you," says Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., professor emerita of child development at Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York.
Even more important than determining the cause, though, is finding a way to calm your child. There are a number of methods that should be a regular part of any new mom's repertoire -- swaddling, playing mellow music, using an infant swing, offering a pacifier. But if none of these are helping, it's time to branch out. The sound of the vacuum cleaner always settled down my oldest son. With my second child, a leisurely car ride around the neighborhood was the surefire fix. Until, one day, it wasn't. Because a baby's soothing needs may change over time, you'll need to stay flexible and get creative. Check out some of these surprisingly effective ideas from moms and experts.
Seize the Moment
Listen for a lull or a pause in your baby's crying, then pick him up and comfort him before it starts again.
Why it works: This technique, known as quiet training, gives your child an incentive for positive behavior. "When you pick him up during these pauses, you're saying, 'I am paying attention to you, and I love you,'" says Robert Epstein, Ph.D., a psychologist in San Diego. Plus, by not rushing to pick him up when he's crying, you're teaching him how to self-soothe, whether it's by sucking his thumb or closing his eyes to shut out the world.
Take your baby to a quiet place, dim the lights, and cradle her until she stops.
Why it works: Infants get stressed out too, though for different reasons than adults do. "A baby's brain can't deal with all the stimulation in her world," says Meg Faure, a pediatric occupational therapist and the author of The Babysense Secret. This is especially true during the late afternoon and evening, when the cumulative effect of all the sights and sounds she's encountered during the day can start to overwhelm her. When you remove her from the noisy toys, barking dog, blaring TV, and family chatter, she'll finally have a chance to chill out. In the future, try giving her little calming breaks throughout the day.