When your baby first arrives, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the job of caring for her. Even such routine tasks as diapering and dressing her can fill you with anxietyespecially if you've never spent much time around babies before. But it doesn't take long to develop the confidence and calm of an experienced parent, and you'll have help. While you are in the hospital, the nursery staff and your pediatrician will give you instructions and support your needs. Later, family and friends can be helpful; don't be bashful about asking for their assistance. But your baby will give you the most important informationhow she likes to be treated, talked to, held, and comforted. She'll bring out parental instincts that will guide you quite automatically to many of the right responses, almost as soon as she's born. The following sections address the most common questions and concerns that arise during the first months of life. Day to Day Responding to Your Baby's Cries Crying serves several useful purposes for your baby. It gives him a way to call for help when he's hungry or uncomfortable. It helps him shut out sights, sounds, and other sensations that are too intense to suit him. And it helps him release tension. You may notice that your baby has fussy periods throughout the day, even though he's not hungry, uncomfortable, or tired. Nothing you do at these times will console him, but right after these spells, he may seem more alert than before, and shortly thereafter may sleep more deeply than usual. This kind of fussy crying seems to help babies get rid of excess energy so they can return to a more contented state. Pay close attention to your baby's different cries and you'll soon be able to tell when he needs to be picked up, consoled, or tended to, and when he is better off left alone. You may even be able to identify his specific needs by the way he cries. For instance, a hungry cry is usually short and low-pitched, and it rises and falls. An angry cry tends to be more turbulent. A cry of pain or distress generally comes on suddenly and loudly with a long, high-pitched shriek followed by a long pause and then a flat wail. The "leave-me-alone" cry is usually similar to a hunger cry. It won't take long before you have a pretty good idea of what your baby's cries are trying to tell you. Sometimes different types of cries overlap. For example, newborns generally wake up hungry and crying for food. If you're not quick to respond, your baby's hunger cry may give way to a wail of rage. You'll hear the difference. As your baby matures his cries will become stronger, louder, more insistent. They'll also begin to vary more, as if to convey different needs and desires. The best way to handle crying is to respond promptly to your infant whenever he cries during his first few months. You cannot spoil a young baby by giving him attention; and if you answer his calls for help, he'll cry less overall. When responding to your infant's cries, try to meet his most pressing need first. If he's cold and hungry and his diaper is wet, warm him up, change his diaper, and then feed him. If there's a shrieking or panicked quality to the cry, you should consider the possibility that a diaper pin is open or a strand of hair is caught around a finger or toe. If he's warm, dry, and well fed but nothing is working to stop the crying, try the following consoling techniques to find the ones that work best for your baby: Rocking, either in a rocking chair or in your arms as you sway from side to side Gently stroking his head or patting his back or chest Swaddling (wrapping the baby snugly in a receiving blanket) Singing or talking Playing soft music Walking him in your arms, a stroller, or a carriage Riding in the car RhytAmerican Academy of Pediatrics Staff is the author of 'Your Baby's First Year', published 2004 under ISBN 9780553587944 and ISBN 0553587943.