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Why Is Baby Crying? There's an App for That

Photograph by Twenty20

The intersection of babies and technology is growing more congested by the minute. It's no longer enough to have a baby monitor; you need one with humidity sensors and an animated rainbow projection system. Sneaking in her room to make sure she's still breathing? So old school; now you can put them to sleep on a smart mat designed to censor her inhalation-exhalation patterns. Don't want to fold up your stroller? This one has push button self-folding capability, plus an LCD dashboard, pathway lights for low-light conditions and cell phone charging powers.

But perhaps none have so effectively answered every desperate new parent's wish list like this one: The Infant Cries Translator.

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Researchers from the National Taiwan University Hospital Yunlin designed the smartphone app, which is purportedly able to distinguish between four common, distinct crying sounds: Hungry, tired, wet and in pain. It does this using a database of more 200,000 crying sounds, gathered over the course of two years from nearly 100 newborn infants. Once you've downloaded the app ($2.99 on iOS at the Apple App Store and Android devices on Google Play and is currently only available in Chinese), you upload an audio recording of your crying babe. The technology then compares your kid's cry to the cries in its database and spits out a result. According to the app's lead researcher, Chang Chuan-yu, the app boasts a 92 percent accuracy rate.

When you're exhausted and frazzled, "neh" sounds like "meh" and everything sounds like "owh."

There are a litany of reasons for which a newborn might cry: "I'm hungry"; "I'm lonely"; "I'm tired"; "I need to suck"; etc. The Dunstan Baby Language Philosophy, created by mom Priscilla Dunstan, centers around the belief that there are five key types of newborn cries. ("Neh" means "I'm hungry" while "Owh" means "I'm sleepy.") If that's true, then perhaps this app could work. I remember reading up on the classic types of crying while pregnant, but nothing prepared me for the real thing. When you're exhausted and frazzled, "neh" sounds like "meh" and everything sounds like "owh."

Still, there's something to be said for getting to know your newborn and learning to decipher her cues on your own. Your intuition will kick in eventually.

In the meantime, check out these American Academy of Pediatrics-approved crying tips:

-If your baby has fussy, inconsolable periods throughout the day, followed by alert periods and then deep sleep, it's probably her way of letting out excess energy.

-Hungry cries tend to be short, low-pitched, with a discernible rise and fall.

-Cries signaling pain or distress usually spark suddenly and loudly "with a long, high-pitched shriek followed by a long pause and then a flat wail."

-You will not spoil an infant by giving her attention; "If you answer her calls for help, she'll cry less overall."

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-A wailing infant can do a number on your nerves and patience. No matter what, though, never shake a baby. Doing so can cause blindness, brain damage, even death. Ask someone for help or, if you're alone, place your baby in the crib for five or 10 minutes, walk away, regroup and then try again.

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