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Why does baby fuss after naps?
Q: Is there any way to make my 3-month-old daughter stop crying or fussing when she gets up from naps? She only wants to go in her swing and sit there. It seems like she’s lazy. Is this a phase? Whenever I pick her up I try to be happy with her, but it never works. When my boyfriend picks her up she’s fine for a while. Help! I’m a first-time mom who doesn’t really know how to raise a child.
Jessica Tomahawk
A: Jessica, being a first-time mom can feel very overwhelming. By reaching out and asking for advice you are showing that you are flexible, resourceful and willing to learn. These characteristics will help you be a good mother. Be sure to take your baby to her regular doctor visits and ask your doctor about any questions or concerns that you have.

It seems like your 3-month-old daughter, just like all babies, is learning how to manage transitions from one activity to another, such as moving from being asleep to being awake. Babies can wake up slowly and drowsily or fussing and crying. It’s difficult for you to hear your baby cry or fuss, and it can make you wonder whether something is wrong. But we need to remember that crying is normal for babies. That’s the only way they can communicate that they’re feeling something or they need something.

When your daughter cries after she wakes up, she might be trying to say, “I was asleep and now I’m awake, and I don’t know how to deal with this change!” Or she might be trying to say, “I’m hungry, and I need to eat” or “My diaper is wet and I need to be changed.” Over time, you’ll get to know your baby’s daily patterns, what her cries mean and how to give her what she needs. As you develop regular routines with your baby, both you and she will know what to expect next and you’ll feel more comfortable, calm and in control.

It’s fine that your baby likes to rock in the swing when she wakes up. Most babies find movement soothing. If she’s calm and happy sitting in her swing, that’s great. If she gets bored sitting there or wants more stimulation, she’ll let you know by fussing, waving her arms or kicking her legs. You may find that she’s also happy if you hold her and rock and sing quietly to her, or put her in a front-pack or a stroller and take her out for a walk. You might also find that she’s calmed by having a pacifier to suck on or by learning to suck her thumb or fingers.

It sounds like you’re worried that your baby might be “lazy” because she doesn’t spend a lot of time playing. Try not to worry about this. It’s normal for infants to be less active than older children. At 3 months of age, babies sleep 14 to 16 hours a day, and much of their time awake is spent eating.

When your daughter is awake, well fed, calm and alert, that’s a good time to try to play with her. Put her on her back facing you on your lap or on the floor. Talk to her and see if she tries to make noises and “talk” back to you. Dangle a rattle or toy near her to see if she watches it and tries to reach out and touch it. For more information about your baby’s development and ideas about how to take care of and play with your baby, visit the “All about play” and “Prepare and Care for Baby” sections of this website.

Also, remember that you need to take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of your daughter. Ask your boyfriend, friends and family members for help. Get as much sleep as you can. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. Get exercise every day, even if it’s just walking your baby in the stroller around the block.

It’s always helpful for new parents to talk with other new parents. Check out parent chat rooms online. Visit the playground and talk with other parents and grandparents. Find a new parent group nearby. Ask your baby’s doctor, contact your local childcare resource and referral agency, or check online for parenting information at sites such as www.parentsasteachers.org.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician