Does my baby have colic? Understand what is considered a normal crying pattern and how to identify colic in your baby.
Crying, difficult as it is to hear, is a normal way babies communicate hunger, discomfort, distress, or a need for your attention. Most newborns reach a crying peak at about 6 weeks. Then their crying starts to decrease. By 3 months, they usually only cry for about an hour a day. This is what is considered a “normal” crying pattern.
Then there’s colic. Although all babies cry, some babies cry much more than others. This is a condition known as “colic.” It is defined as crying that:
begins and ends for no obvious reason
lasts at least 3 hours a day
happens at least 3 days a week
continues for 3 weeks to 3 months
Although the cause of colic is unknown, the condition is temporary and won’t impact your child’s development. If you are concerned about how much or how intensely your baby cries, talk with his health care provider.
Consider Your Family
Thinking about the following questions can help you adapt and apply the information and strategies below to the individual needs of your child and family:
When you think about your baby’s crying, are there particular experiences or situations that you find upset her more than others? Why do you think that is? How does this help you understand her better?
What calms your baby? What have you tried that has worked? What does this tell you about your baby?
It is important to tune in to your own reaction to your baby’s crying. How it affects you impacts your ability to soothe her. Some parents are more distressed by their baby’s crying than others. How do you feel when your baby cries? Do you find yourself getting very upset yourself when your baby cries? If so, how do or can you calm yourself?
Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Having a baby who is difficult to comfort can increase parents’ stress and can contribute to the “baby blues” and/or “postpartum depression. ” As many as 50%–80% of new mothers experience the baby blues in the first 10 days after childbirth. Symptoms may include tearfulness, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and feelings of loss. The baby blues usually get better after about 10 days.
Approximately 8%–15% of new moms experience postpartum depression in the first year of motherhood, which is different from the blues. With depression, symptoms last more than 2 weeks and include feeling down and hopeless, increased crying, feeling little pleasure or interest in activities one used to enjoy, and loss of energy. If you are experiencing these feelings, it is very important—for you and your baby—that you seek help from a trusted health professional.
How to Comfort a Fussy Baby
Observe and Learn
Identifying, as best you can, the reason for your baby’s crying will help you figure out how to respond to him in the most sensitive and effective way. The following questions can help guide you:
Are there certain times of day when your baby is fussier?
Are there specific situations that lead to crying such as visits to busy, noisy places (think grocery store) where your baby is overwhelmed by all of the stimulation?
Are there differences in her cries for hunger, fatigue, boredom, anger, feeling overwhelmed? For example, many babies will look away and arch their backs, in addition to fussing and crying, when they are overstimulated and need a break from play and interaction.
Is your child sick? Teething? Tired? Hungry? Sad? Mad?
Has there been a recent change in his world that may be making him feel less safe and secure overall? Perhaps he recently made the switch from bassinet to crib, or nana has just left after a long visit.
Is your child’s fussiness mostly around feeding? For example, does your baby tend to take a few sips from the breast or bottle, then arch her back, cry or fuss, and turn away? (This may indicate a cow’s milk protein sensitivity. Talk with your medical provider about what you are seeing to determine next steps.)
Frequent irritability (that is worse after meals and when lying down), back arching, stiffening of the legs, and head turning may be symptoms of reflux. If you are seeing these symptoms, it is best to consult with your child’s health care provider to determine the appropriate response.
Respond Based on Your Best Understanding of the Behavior
There is not one right way to soothe a baby. Some babies love to be rocked when upset; others find that too stimulating and prefer to be walked slowly while in a baby carrier, snuggled close to a parent’s chest. Other babies are calmed by being put down in a safe place where they can take a break from the intensity of the world.
It’s a process of trial and error. No one is perfect, and you don’t have to be. When a strategy doesn’t work, don’t blame yourself. Try something else until you discover what works for your individual baby in that specific moment in time. (A strategy that didn’t work yesterday may work today.)
The fact is that sometimes, after trying every strategy you can think of, you will still not be able to comfort your baby. We all have had this experience. Being with a crying baby who is difficult to soothe can be exhausting, stressful, and frustrating. Keep in mind that just by being there—holding and comforting your child—you are teaching her that she is not alone and that you will stick by her through thick and thin.
Look for ways to support your baby and yourself:
Swaddle your baby. Some babies cry less when they are wrapped snugly in a blanket—called “swaddling”—and gently rocked.
Use a baby carrier. Being held close as you go through your day can be very soothing.
Try different ways to hold your baby. Some babies love to be snuggled tightly against their parent’s chest. Some like to be able to look over their parent’s shoulder. Others prefer to be held faced away from you. Many respond well to the “football hold,” when a parent cradles her baby in her arms like a football. There is no right or wrong way as long as your baby is safe.
Use soothing sounds. Talk or sing softly to your baby. Background noise can be soothing. Try running a fan or humidifier in your baby’s room.
Try different kinds of movement. Some babies find gentle, slow movements like swaying soothing. Others actually are calmed by more vigorous movements such as swinging or faster rocking.
Offer a pacifier or other safe object to suck. Some babies have a very powerful need to suck and find this action very soothing.
Reduce stimulation—lights, sights, sounds, and textures—for your baby. Sometimes less stimulation leads to less crying, especially for babies with colic.
Give your baby a break. When nothing works to soothe your baby, give your baby a chance to try to soothe herself by putting her down in a safe place for 5–10 minutes. In fact, sometimes our efforts to comfort our babies actually overstimulate them and increase their distress, rather than soothe them. Putting them down can actually be calming. Babies sometimes need a break from touching, talking, and interacting. If your baby doesn’t calm down, no harm is done. You have gotten a few well-deserved minutes to rest and might have a little more energy to care for your baby.
Remember the crying will end. Usually the worst of crying and colic is over by the time your child is 4 months old. If your baby does have colic, it does not mean that he will be a difficult toddler. Colic will end.
Beware the quick fix. Cereal in the bottle? Colic drops? Rubbing something on baby’s gums? There in no evidence to show that these strategies work. There is no “magic wand” to stop crying. However, if you do decide to try a quick–fix remedy, check with your child’s health care provider first to be sure it is safe.
Soothe yourself. You deserve it. Caring for a crying baby can be very stressful. But when you take the time to calm yourself, it helps your baby calm down too. If you find yourself feeling really frustrated, put your baby in a safe place—like the crib—and take a short break to give yourself the time you need, and deserve, to take a deep breath and calm down.
Share your feelings. Talk to your partner, friends, and family. Look for parent or parent–child groups. In some communities there are also child development centers that provide support and guidance to parents struggling with their infants’ excessive crying. It can be very helpful to talk to other parents coping with similar challenges both to feel less alone and to share ideas and strategies. Ask your health care provider about these resources.
Get as much sleep as you can! Sleep deprivation makes everything more difficult. So try to get the sleep you need. Nap when your baby naps. When another caregiver can watch your baby, go back to sleep. The grocery shopping, housecleaning, and e-mails can wait.
Knowing When to Seek Help
How are you feeling right now? Coping with crying can be very challenging. What do you need to feel supported? How can you get this kind of support? Are there friends or family who can help out? Is there a community resource for new parents where you can go for support?
Although crying is they primary way babies communicate, and they are not doing it to make you feel badly, it can be very difficult to take over long periods of time. When babies cry a lot, it can feel like nothing positive is happening between the two of you. Watch your baby carefully. How do you see your baby responding to you in positive ways? For example, does he follow you with his eyes, or prefer to be held by you? Does he turn toward you when he hears your voice, or calm when he sees you coming? Soon, if not already, you will even be getting some smiles!
When to Seek Help
There are times when it is important to seek out the guidance of a trusted health care provider or child development professional to be sure your child’s development is on track. You and your baby need support during what can be a difficult time. Moments in which you and/or your child might need some extra help include:
If you do not feel bonded to your child because of her crying.
If you worry that you may hurt or harm your child (or yourself).
If your baby is taking in less milk or formula (his feeding patterns have changed) or has lost weight.
If your child seems to have a strong negative response to sensory stimulation like touch, noises, lights, smells and tastes, textures, or movement in space. (He may be frequently irritable or fussy when exposed to new or strong sensory information.)
If your child’s crying began after she experienced a life change (such as a new caregiver) or following a frightening or traumatic experience.
Even if you or your child is not experiencing the kinds of challenges described above, it can be very helpful to talk to a child development professional who can provide guidance and support during this stressful period.
This resource was made possible by generous funding from the Carl and Roberta Deutsch Foundation.
How much crying is normal for a baby? | Baby & toddler articles & support
Do you wonder whether your baby cries too much? It’s useful to know what’s ‘normal’ so here we discuss how much crying you might expect.
The trouble is, every parent and baby is different and so normal can be hard to define. A 2017 review of studies from around the world found:
On average, babies cry for around two hours a day in the first six weeks.
Crying decreases from eight to nine weeks to around one hour at 10 to 12 weeks.
Danish and Japanese babies cry significantly less than babies in the UK. (Wolke et al, 2017)
Some babies cry very little for the first two weeks of their lives because they are still sleepy and adapting to life outside the womb. As they start to become more awake and alert, they might start to cry more, letting you know what they need.
Is this really normal?
If you feel like your baby cries a lot, for a long time, and you find it hard to soothe them, you’re far from alone. In fact, between two in ten and five in ten babies cry for long stretches, without an obvious reason, during the first three to four months (Wolke et al, 2017).
Long stretches of crying can start when your little one is around two weeks old and continue until they reach three to four months. Inconsolable crying that can last up to five hours a day is a perfectly normal stage of development called the period of PURPLE crying. PURPLE is not about the colour – it’s short for: Peak of crying; Unexpected; Resists soothing; Pain-like face; Long lasting; and Evening (NCSBS, no date).
Will things get better?
Any crying can be tough to cope with. The good news is that as you become more confident with your baby and they become more familiar with the world around them, you both start to relax and feel less distressed.
When your baby is eight to nine weeks old, you might notice they start to cry a little less. In fact, babies aged 10 to 12 weeks tend to cry on average for around an hour per day. This still sounds like a lot, but in fact this is about half the amount they cried as newborns up until the six-week mark (St James-Roberts, 2013; Wolke et al, 2017).
Katie*, a mum of two, shared her experience of excessive crying with her second baby:
"Max was so chilled out for the first two weeks. We even booked a last-minute holiday thinking how easy it would be.
"I spent every evening on that holiday pacing around the hotel with him screaming. We tried reflux medication, cranial osteopathy, you name it...but he just gradually calmed down given time.
"Around 12 weeks was the real turning point for us and now those nights of crying are a distant memory, thankfully."
Why is my baby crying so much?
You can find lots of information on the causes of excessive crying and how to soothe your baby on our website. From coping with a crying baby to reflux.
If your baby’s cry doesn’t sound like their normal cry, or they have other symptoms, this could be a sign they are ill. Contact your GP or NHS 111 if you are concerned that your baby is unwell.
Listening to your baby cry can be really tough and soothing them is hard work. Having support from family or friends, especially in the first six to eight weeks, will help you cope. Cuddling the baby, making you dinner, tidying the house – accept any help you can get.
Many parents find it is useful to get support from fellow parents, so you can share hints and tips and offer moral support. Perhaps check out your local NCT branch to see what activities are on offer to local parents.
If your baby’s crying is making you feel very overwhelmed or angry, put them down in a safe place such as their cot or pram and go into a separate room. Take five minutes to calm down, taking deep breaths, before returning to your baby. Tell someone immediately that you feel like this, and don’t be ashamed of these feelings. You might find it useful to read our article about coping with a crying baby.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0333 252 5051.
You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Watch our coping with crying film.
Understanding Childhood also have a range of resources available online and to download, developed by child psychotherapists, including a leaflet on crying.
There’s also useful information on soothing a crying baby on the NHS website.
The NSPCC helpline provides help and support to thousands of parents and families.
The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information and support for parents about safe sleep.
Read more on how to keep calm with a crying baby here.
You can also speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
What is your child crying about?
Interesting facts about baby crying - tips and instructions for parents
Scientists are trying to help children and parents and explore infant crying - the only available communication method for people in the first year of life. We have collected seven interesting facts from the latest scientific research. We suggest reading for therapeutic purposes. Experienced parents will smile, future ones will prepare, and real ones will be able to exhale a little and calm down.
Foreign babies cry differently
On average, all newborns cry about the same amount of time: about two hours a day in the first weeks of life. The peak is in the sixth week, when crying takes 2 hours and 15 minutes a day. By the 12th week, babies cry much less: about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Researchers at the University of Warwick compared the crying time of 8,700 babies across the world. Their behavior was monitored from birth to the 12th week. It turned out that children from the UK, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands cry more for a long time. And less than others, the cries of newborns are listened to by parents from Denmark, Germany and Japan. Crying due to infantile colic was specifically measured, which usually lasts more than three hours in a row and more than three days a week. It turned out that 28% of British babies suffer from them, 34% of Canadians, 21% of Italians, but in Denmark and Germany there were the lowest rates: 5.5% of young Danes and 6.7% of German babies were bothered by colic.
“Babies differ from birth in how much they cry in the first weeks of life. There are big variations and this is the norm. We can learn more if we look at cultures where babies cry less, perhaps due to parenting or other factors related to the course of pregnancy or genetics, ”the study authors note. They note that some babies cry for as little as 30 minutes, while others cry for more than 5 hours a day.
Some babies sing
The language of the mother affects the intonation of the crying of the newborn. This is especially evident in tonal languages, where pitch and pitch fluctuation determine the meaning of words. Researchers from the University of Würzburg found that the crying of newborn babies from China and Cameroon is different from the crying of European babies. The crying of Nso (Bansau) babies born in Cameroon is more like singing: it has rising and falling tones and large intervals between high and low tones, just like in the language of their mothers - lamnso. Slightly less pronounced, but also intonational, crying is characteristic of the northern Chinese language Putonghua: children easily and quickly move from height to height compared to newborns from Germany. So the recommendation to talk to your baby in the womb and sing songs is not an empty phrase. The baby really perceives the speech of the mother even in the stomach and begins from birth to try to reproduce the native language.
Don't wake up a crying baby
Babies crying in the middle of the night is the most common problem for parents around the world. Scientists from the American Temple University conducted a study involving 1200 infants from 6 to 36 months and found that the best tactic in this case is not to interfere. That is, when crying at night, do not take the child in your arms, but give him the opportunity to calm down and fall asleep on his own. “The best advice is to put kids to bed at the same time every night, let them fall asleep on their own, and resist the urge to immediately respond to awakenings,” experts advise.
Scientists explain that children, like adults, move from cycle to cycle every 1.5-2 hours, wake up and go back to sleep. At this point, those who are not used to falling asleep on their own may toss and turn and cry, but if they are helped all the time, they will never learn to sleep all night. The study revealed that 66% of six-month-old children sleep through the night or wake up one of the nights of the week. The remaining participants, who woke up every night at six months, began to sleep better by 15 months: they woke up 2 times a week at night, and by 24 months - once a week. The children who slept poorly were mostly breastfed boys.
Massage prevents crying
Massage for babies under six months old can help them sleep better and cry less. This is evidenced by the results of nine studies on baby massage, covering a total of 598 infants. Not only did infants experience improved sleep and mood after massage, but they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to infants who did not receive massage. It is clarified that the children were mainly massaged by parents who were trained by medical workers. If the massage is done by a person unfamiliar to the baby, there may not be a positive effect.
Responsive mother - calm baby
It is not easy for parents to react sensitively to the crying of a child. Some mothers are afraid to spoil their newborns and bide their time without responding to their needs in time. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro conducted a study to find out which exit strategy is right. They followed 259 mothers from the moment they got pregnant until their babies were six months old. It turned out that babies whose mothers react quickly, consistently and warmly to the crying of the baby have healthier emotional development than babies whose mothers are less sensitive to their cries. The study also showed that mothers who had a positive experience of communicating with parents in childhood are more child-oriented.
Fear, anger or pain?
The main causes of crying in babies are hunger, pain, anger and fear. But it can be extremely difficult for parents to understand what exactly the child is signaling with his cry. Spanish researchers decided to help in this matter and compiled a memo about crying babies. The study of facial expressions, eye movements and cry dynamics, as well as the analysis of the manifestation of similar emotions in adults, helped to recognize the emotions of babies.
If the child is in pain, he begins to cry sharply as loudly as he can. The eyes are usually closed. This crying is usually stronger than in other cases.
If the baby is angry, his eyes are usually half closed or he looks away. The intensity of the cry gradually increases, the gestures intensify.
If a child cries out of fear, then the cry is immediately as strong as possible. The eyes are usually open, fixed and rounded.
Crying from hunger is usually the first thing parents think. It is this cause that is always easy to recognize and eliminate, so scientists did not consider this type of crying.
Scientists believe that the cry of babies can be used to assess the state of their health. Children with autism, neurological problems, birth traumas give signals in the form of special crying. For example, premature babies and babies exposed to lead and drugs cry at a higher and more variable frequency than normal babies. The nature of crying can also reveal diseases of the respiratory system and other problems. In 2013, Brown University researchers developed a computer analyzer that can evaluate and categorize a baby's crying to indicate a possible medical problem. The system takes into account 80 different parameters, each of which can contain clues about the child's health. This research is rooted in 19The 60s, when the cat's cry syndrome was first described. This is the cry of children who have a rare genetic disorder caused by the absence of a fragment of the 5th chromosome.
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When a baby cries a lot
When a baby cries a lot
A significant psychological difficulty for a mother is the attitude to the crying of a newborn. The question of what baby crying means will especially worry you if this is your first child and you feel insecure.
Psychologists have found that crying is as unique a characteristic of an infant as fingerprints, and enables the mother to distinguish her child from other children already on the second day after birth. Newborn crying is an innate and involuntary response to discomfort, designed to inform parents of the baby's needs. In most cases, the crying of a newborn is caused by physical discomfort due to hunger, cold, pain, wet diapers. Even chills when sick, a loud sound, or a change in light (bright light) can make a baby cry.
The cry of a newborn is a complex vocal signal that can range from whimpers to high-pitched cries. Many babies cry differently depending on the cause of the discomfort. However, it is quite clear that in all cases, by crying, the child seeks to convey to adults one thought: "I feel bad, help!". Nature made sure that this signal was effective and reached its goal. Parents, and above all mother, are literally "programmed" to immediately respond to such a call for help. Crying also affects the mother at the level of physiological reaction. Many breastfeeding mothers experience certain sensations in their breasts when they hear their baby crying.
Age-related changes in crying The most difficult time for a mother is the first three months. After two weeks, and sometimes before, many babies (especially firstborns) have daily periods of loud crying. If the baby cries regularly at the same time (usually between 18 and 22 hours), then they say that he has colic, he is worried about gases. All over the world, babies cry the most during the first 3 months of life. This behavior is typical and usually corrects after three months: babies become calmer, and by 6 months they cry much less. The common cause of these changes is the maturation of the brain and the adaptation of the imperfect nervous and digestive systems of newborns to the outside world.
Typical reasons for crying When a baby cries, the mother starts to worry: "Is he hungry? Maybe he's wet? What if he's sick?" These questions are easy to answer. If you feed your baby on a relatively stable schedule, you can guess when he is hungry and when he just woke up earlier. If during the previous feeding the baby drank little milk and woke up much earlier than the due date, then most likely he is crying from hunger. Feed him. It should be noted that the feeling of hunger is much stronger in an infant than in an adult. Therefore, many children, especially boys, scream louder, precisely when they are hungry. If the baby drank the usual amount of milk and woke up after an hour or two, then the most likely cause of his crying is gases. If the child not only cries inconsolably, but also looks unusual, it is possible that he is ill, take his temperature and call a doctor. However, keep in mind that the baby can scream a lot and be completely healthy.
Many mothers believe that wet (soiled) diapers or diapers are the cause of crying. In fact, this rarely bothers babies, but it won't hurt the baby if you change them once again.
Few parents realize that, perhaps, the main reason for a baby's crying can be fatigue. If a child has been awake for a long time among strangers who have talked a lot with him, then this can cause his nervous overstrain. Sometimes parents want the child to "work up" before going to bed, thinking that he will get tired and will sleep long and soundly. But instead, the baby, who really feels mentally tired, gets excited, screams loudly and cannot sleep. This is due to overstrain and malfunction of the nervous system. If your baby cries at the end of each waking period, it's likely that he's overworking himself.
How to calm a crying baby? If your baby seems to have a stomach ache, help him burp. Many children swallow some air while sucking, which then disturbs them. Immediately after feeding, it is recommended to give the baby an upright position so that this air comes out.
The cause of colic and angry intermittent crying has not been fully established. You can change the diet if the baby is breastfed, or the type of baby food. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about medications to help manage painful gas.
Try different ways to soothe a crying baby. Give him a pacifier. Try to swaddle tightly. This will provide the baby with constant tactile sensations and help to switch to them and calm down. Sometimes a warm heating pad can soothe your baby's colic.
Baby can be soothed by being carried, the warmth of your body, the rhythmic sound of the heart, a slight rocking. It is useful to turn on quiet calm music. It appears that the infant's nervous system is programmed to respond to gentle, rhythmic stimulation.
Psychological studies show that motion sickness, stroking, rhythmic sounds reduce muscle activity and slow down heart and respiratory rhythms.
Another particularly effective way to comfort crying babies is simply to get them out of bed. Stroking and rocking help the baby fall asleep. And giving the body a vertical position has the exact opposite effect. The child gets the opportunity to examine the surrounding objects, especially if an adult places his head on his shoulder. Psychologists believe that parents who often resort to this technique contribute to the cognitive development of the baby.
Parents often ask what is the right thing to do, is it always necessary to immediately respond to the cry of the baby and do they run the risk of over-spoiling the child, who will begin to demand increased attention?
Probably not. Psychologists have definitely established that babies whose mothers responded quickly to their cries cried very little. Attentive, responsible attitude to parental responsibilities leads to the fact that the child is less nervous. In addition, an attentive, sensitive mother tries to prevent situations that can cause discomfort to the child.
Individual differences in ability to calm down Newborns are agitated to varying degrees and take varying amounts of time to calm down. Already in the first days of life, some children are easily upset and difficult to calm down, while others rarely cry and quickly return to a calm state. There are also cultural differences in the ability to calm down. It has been found that Caucasian children are usually more anxious and more difficult to calm down than Chinese and Japanese babies. Such different responses to stress and the ability to calm down may be genetically determined. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the methods of upbringing have a significant impact on the behavior of children. Many Asian mothers are quite successful in coping with even the most "difficult" children. Carrying out their daily work, they carry children in a sling or in a special bag-backpack and feed the babies on demand.
If you were told at the maternity hospital that your baby is restless and excitable, be prepared for the fact that he will scream angrily for a long time. This behavior does not mean that he is sick, but it becomes a severe test for you. If a child cries frequently and is difficult to soothe, parents may become anxious and feel incompetent. Such feelings do not contribute to the creation of strong emotional bonds between them and the baby. That is why parents of difficult children must abandon their ideas about the "normal" or "ideal" child and learn to adapt to the characteristics of their own baby. After all, the fate of their relationship in the future depends on how parents will react to the difficult temperament of their newborn son or daughter.
An excitable child needs to create a calm environment: a quiet room, a minimum of visitors, soft gentle voices, slow smooth movements during daily care. Do not drastically change the environment and methods of care. If the baby needs to be left, for example, with a grandmother, it is better for her to use the mother's baby care techniques, and not start to "educate" the child in her own way.
The mother suffers when she hears the cry of her baby. Surprisingly, most children who cry a lot develop well physically, gain weight regularly, eat vigorously and with appetite. And many babies, no matter what, need a little screaming before bed to fall asleep. It is best if you tell yourself that colic, gas, periodic loud crying are all temporary phenomena, and calmly react to the cry of the baby. Try to calm him down in one of the ways listed above.
If you're unlucky and your baby is crying despite your best efforts, talk to your doctor, a simple sedative may help. If this does not help much, then you should think about yourself.
Perhaps you are a calm, balanced person by psychological make-up and will not worry, knowing that the child is not sick. But many mothers of restless children are in constant tension and anxiety. The case can end in exhaustion and depression. Mom needs to learn to relax and rest in order to maintain strength and courage. You need to find the time and opportunity to leave home and switch to other activities at least a few times a month. You can go to visit or to the cinema. Relatives and friends can be of great help.