aving a crying baby can be very distressing for parents, especially when there seems to be no apparent cause. However, in most cases, if you take a systematic approach you can eventually work out what is causing your little one to get upset and take action to soothe them.
Why do babies cry? Here are some of the most common reasons:
By far and away, the most common reason for infants to cry is because they are hungry. Some babies seem to cry because they’re hungry almost all of the time, and if your little one was only just fed and is crying again, it can be tempting to think that they can’t possibly want more milk.
However, it’s important to remember that babies have very small stomachs which can only hold a very small amount. Offer your baby more milk, and you may well find that he or she does need another feed after all.
If you are breastfeeding, this is even more likely, although for formula-fed babies it could take up to 2 hours for your baby to need more milk.
Some babies, however, prefer to be fed little and often, so if your baby leaves half of their bottle and then cries for more just an hour later, they may just prefer to have more smaller meals.
Another common reason for babies to cry is because they become over-tired and then find it hard to sleep. You will probably notice the signs that your little one is tired because he will start to cry and whine at little things, will stare vacantly into space and will be quieter than usual.
If you spot these key signs, you can help your little one to soothe himself to sleep so that he can avoid the over-exhaustion which leads to hours of frustrated crying. Take your baby to a dimly lit and quiet room and try just lying quietly to encourage them to drop off more easily.
A sign of colic is crying in the evenings and late afternoons on a regular basis, especially if your little one is under 5 months of age. Although this is a common problem, it can be extremely stressful for parents because it happens on a regular basis.
A baby with colic will often be flushed and will clench their fists, pull up their knees or arch their back. Colic is sometimes associated with food allergies or intolerances to their formula milk or, if you are breastfeeding, to something that you’re eating, however it is more likely to be a natural stage that babies go through called PURPLE crying.
This acronym stands for:
Peak of crying – babies cry more with each week that goes by up to a peak at their second month of life. The frequency will then drop between 3 and 5 months of age.
Unexpected crying – crying from colic comes and goes with no apparent cause.
Resistance to soothing – when babies have colic they may refuse to stop crying, whatever you do to soothe them.
Pain-like face – although babies with colic look like they are in pain, they are probably not. Long periods of crying which can last for a number of hours every day.
Evening – babies with colic cry most during the evenings and late afternoons.
There are a few things that you can try to rectify the problem such as cuddling your baby and rocking them gently, taking your little one out in the car for a drive, or creating some white noise, for example by running a hairdryer, to soothe them.
Alternatively, there are also several brands of colic drops which can be bought in your local supermarket, pharmacy or even online which may help to soothe your baby.
Babies often cry because they have a soiled or wet diaper which is causing skin irritation and rubbing. Whether or not your baby has diaper rash, you should still apply a barrier cream every time you change their diaper and, whenever possible, let them have some diaper-free time each day for healthier skin.
Some babies hate having their diaper changed, and if your little one gets distressed every time they have bare skin, you can try distracting them with a toy or by singing a song during changing time to help take their mind off it.
Need of Reassurance
All babies need a lot of reassurance and cuddling, and if your baby is especially clingy they may cry whenever they are put down on their own.
While it is important to teach your little one to be self-sufficient for some of the time, if you find that you can’t get anything done because your baby sobs every time you leave him, you can try using a baby sling which will keep your hands free so that you can get household tasks accomplished while you carry your little one around.
Babies are naturally reassured by closeness to your body and by the sound of your heartbeat which they recognize from when they were in the womb, and just carrying your little one close to you and swaying gently will help to recreate the conditions they remember from before they were born.
If your baby cries during feeding, or just afterwards, trapped gas could be the problem. Air often gets trapped in your little one’s stomach as they often swallow air when they feed. Rub or pat your baby’s back while holding them in an upright position to allow the air to escape.
If babies are too hot or too cold, they may cry to alert you to their discomfort. Avoid overdressing your baby when inside the house as they are likely to overheat and become uncomfortable.
It can be hard to know how many clothes to put on your little one, however as a general rule, make sure your baby has one more clothing layer than you. It’s easy to check if your baby is too cold or too hot by gently feeling the bare skin on their tummy.
Touching their feet or hands is not a reliable way of determining their temperature as they usually feel cold. Using cellular blankets and sheets as your baby’s bed linen is the best way to be able to remove or add layers rather than using a duvet which is very thick and can lead to overheating.
The perfect temperature for your baby’s room is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18-21 degrees Celsius) and you should always make sure that your little one is one their back, with their feet right at the bottom of their bed so they cannot wriggle under the blankets and overheat.
You need to pay close attention to any changes in your little one, as if they feel unwell, it is likely their cry will have a different sound – often weaker, continuous, higher pitched or more urgent.
Your baby may also be suffering from a fever, and may feel hot and look flushed. If you’re worried your baby could be ill, don’t hesitate to call a medical professional for advice.
Another reason that babies may cry and be restless and irritable is if they feel under the weather because of teething. This is most likely to be the case if your little one is drooling more than usual and is trying to chew on everything.
Sometimes, just become over-stimulated because of all the attention they are receiving. This is especially the case if there are a lot of visitors, or if they are out and about in a busy place. If you think this is the problem, simply take your baby to a quiet and calm place to allow them to settle back down.
How to soothe a crying baby?
Having a crying baby is not only frustrating, it can be very upsetting, especially if you don’t know how to calm them down. However, there are several tried and tested techniques which you should try to help soothe your little one.
When your baby was in the womb, they could always hear your heartbeat. One way to reassure and soothe your baby is to replicate that experience.
Try holding them close to your chest so they can hear and feel your heart, or try other repetitive noises such as using a hairdryer, vacuum cleaner or the washing machine.
There are also white noise apps which can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet, as well as white noise CDs which are specially created for soothing crying babies.
Most little one love gentle rocking which simulates the movement they experienced in the womb. Try gentle rocking your little one while walking around the room, or putting them in a baby swing or rocking chair. Rides in the car and walks in a stroller may also work well to stop them from crying.
Tummy Rubs and Massages
Babies love physical contact, so try using a mild cream or massage oil to gentle rub your little one’s tummy or back. Always use a clockwise motion.
Doing this on a regular basis will often help them to relax and stop fussing, and if they have trapped gas, this may also help to release it. The best time to carry out a baby massage is when they are alert and settled, but if they cry more while being massaged, stop.
If you baby cries during a feed, you can try using a different feeding position to see if it helps. Sometimes they may be swallowing a lot of air due to poor positioning and this could be causing trapped gas.
If you are breastfeeding, your baby may be latching on poorly and struggling to get enough milk, while if you are bottle feeding, you may find that using an upright position helps to reduce gas.
Always burp your little one straight after feeding by holding them upright against your shoulder and rubbing their back gently.
Sucking is very soothing for babies, and some have a very strong need to suck. Pacifiers are one
option, or you could allow your baby to suck on a clean finger. Many babies eventually find their own hands and start sucking their own thumb or finger to self-soothe.
The warmth of bath water may help your little one to become more calm. Always remember to check the temperature of the water before placing your baby in the bath – the water temperature should be just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you have no thermometer, dip your bare elbow in the water to test how hot it feels. Don’t use your hands as they are less sensitive to heat.
What to do if my baby keeps crying?
Remember that crying is the only way in which a baby can communicate, so some crying is normal for all little ones. Babies who cry almost all the time will not harm themselves, although it can be very stressful and upsetting to you.
If your baby is unhappy and refuses to calm down no matter what you do, it’s normal to feel rejected and worried. Remember, though, that nothing you are doing is causing your baby to cry, and if you have tried all of these steps to no avail, take care of yourself instead.
Put your baby down in her cot and leave her to cry for just a few minutes while you get yourself out of earshot and take a few deep breaths. Try calling a relative or friend for support – if you can, try to take a break and allow somebody else to take over for a bit.
Find a local parent and baby group where you can meet other new parents who are all in a similar situation and find lots of moral support.
If you are worried that your baby cries too often, or cannot be soothed, even after using all of the above methods, you should take your baby to the doctor just to make sure that everything is fine.
A crying baby can be very frustrating, but it is very important to never ever shake your baby as even mild shaking can result in serious injury or even death due to their delicate brains and organs.
If you are feeling very stressed when your baby cries put him down safely in his crib and leave the room until you have calmed down.
If all else fails, you should remember that this crying is probably just a phase that your baby is going through. It will eventually pass as your baby grows and learns new ways of communication. Once they have better ways of letting you know what they want or need, the crying will become much less frequent.