Why is my baby crying?
Why is my baby crying?
A baby’s first cry after being born is an emotional and reassuring moment for parents. However, for new parents, continuous crying can become worrying and overwhelming, especially when you are not sure how you can comfort your baby.
Everyone knows that babies cry, but some cry more than others and some babies are harder to settle when they do. Here are a few reasons that might explain a baby’s crying, as well as some ideas to help soothe them.
Could my baby be…
Newborn babies sleep for up to seventeen hours a day, but feeling tired can actually make it harder for them to settle themselves down to sleep. A gentle, repetitive rocking motion can help to soothe a sleepy baby, as can a quiet lullaby or the hum of white noise from a vacuum cleaner, for example.
A simple routine can help baby settle. This could involve a bath or gentle massage, a feed and a lullaby – whatever you decide to do, once baby is used to it, it will become a signal that it is time to sleep.
Babies grow at a rapid rate in the early weeks, and their stomachs are tiny, meaning that they need to feed frequently to get all the energy they need. Breastfed babies will often cluster feed, taking lots of feeds close together, especially in the evening.
If a bottle fed baby has had a feed within the last two hours, they may find sucking on a pacifier comforting, or it may be something else that is causing them to cry.
Like everyone, babies don’t like to be too hot or too cold. It is tempting to wrap babies up very warmly, but a good rule of thumb is to dress them in one more layer than yourself, to avoid overheating.
It is best to feel a baby’s tummy to check if they are too hot or too cold, because hands and feet will often feel cool even if baby is warm enough. A baby’s bedroom should be kept at about eighteen degrees Celsius, and cellular blankets and sheets should be used in the cot or Moses basket.
A wet or dirty nappy can be uncomfortable so make sure you rule this out too – many nappies have indicator strips which change colour when they are wet, so you can avoid undressing baby every time you check.
A crying baby may have trapped wind, and not only after feeding; hiccupping and even crying can cause babies to swallow air too. Try holding baby over your shoulder and rubbing or gently patting their back until they burp.
If it is still difficult to soothe your baby, they might be unwell, especially if their cry sounds different or unusual. Follow your instincts and seek help if you think your baby is unwell.
If you notice any of the following symptoms seek medical help urgently:
- Much drier nappies than usual
- A high temperature, but with cold hands and feet
- Blue or grey, mottled or very pale skin
- Rapid or noisy breathing, or if your baby seems to need to work hard to breathe
- A convulsion, fit or seizure
- A spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body
…bored (or overstimulated)?
An unsettled baby may simply need some attention and variety. You can try carrying your baby around and showing them things such as toys, pictures and mobiles, or moving them between baby gym and bouncy chair, for example.
On the other hand, babies can easily get overwhelmed by stimulation, especially if there are lots of people or new things around. A baby who is unsettled by new surroundings may be comforted by being carried close to the parent in a sling or carrier, or going outside for a quiet walk.
Nothing works – I still have a crying baby – help!
If your baby cries for long periods every day and nothing seems to soothe them, it can feel overwhelming, but it is important to remember that it is not your fault and nor is it your baby’s.
It might also be helpful to know that this type of crying is so common it has a name – colic. It affects up to one in every five babies. If you think your baby has colic, it is recommended to discuss the issue with a doctor or health visitor to rule out digestive problems or issues with feeding.
Research also suggests that all babies tend to cry more and more frequently before reaching a peak at about two months, and some babies cry a lot more than others overall.
If you begin to find your baby’s constant crying overwhelming, it is fine to put baby down in his cot and leave him to cry for a few minutes while you take a moment to calm yourself. Ask friends and family to look after the baby while you take some time for yourself, or go to a local parent-and-baby group with your child.
All babies cry, but try to remember that like all phases of your child’s development, it will pass and your baby will quickly learn more and more effective (but probably equally noisy) ways to communicate their needs to you.