It’s tough when your baby won’t stop crying. You may be worried that something is wrong with your child, that you’ll lose your cool, that your parenting skills aren’t up to the job, or that you’ll never connect with your baby. But you can handle it! Learning the right techniques can help soothe an upset, unresponsive, or colicky baby while keeping you calm and in control.
Why Babies Cry? Common Reasons Babies Cry
Sleepiness or Fatigue
Look for these signs: decreased activity, losing interest in people and toys, rubbing eyes, looking glazed, and the most obvious, yawning. If you notice any of these in your crying baby, he may just need to sleep.
If a baby is uncomfortable–too wet, hot, cold, squished– he’ll typically squirm or arch his back when he cries, as if trying to get away from the source of his discomfort. Try to figure out what’s causing his distress and solve the problem.
If three or four hours have passed since his last feeding, if he has just woken up, or if he has just had a very full diaper and he begins to cry, he’s probably hungry.
Some babies let you know right away when they need to be changed. Others can tolerate a dirty diaper for quite a while. Either way, this one is easy to check and simple to remedy.
Overstimulation from Noise or Activity
If the room is noisy, people are trying to get your baby’s attention, rattles are rattling, music boxes are playing, and your baby suddenly closes her eyes and cries (or turns her head away), she may be overwhelmed by all that’s going on around her and wants to find some peace. Take her out of the situation and spend some quiet time together.
Colic, Acid reflux, or Food Allergies
If your baby cries inconsolably for long periods every day, he may have colic. Babies with “colic” will cry for several hours a day, usually in the evenings, says Rosen. They are fine at other times of the day, and they eat and grow well.
A cry of pain is sudden and shrill, just like when an adult or older child cries out when they get hurt. It may include long cries followed by a pause during which your crying baby appears to stop breathing. He then catches his breath and lets out another long cry. Check your baby’s temperature and undress him so you can check his body for any obvious sources of pain or discomfort.
A weak, moaning cry may indicate that your baby is sick. This is his way of saying, “I feel awful.” If your baby seems ill, look for any signs of sickness and call your healthcare provider.
Even if your baby isn’t colicky and has never been fussy after eating, an occasional bout of gas pain can make her miserable until it passes. If you suspect gas, try putting her on her back, grasping her feet, and moving her legs in a gentle bicycling motion.
Teething can be painful as each new tooth pushes through tender young gums. Some babies suffer more than others, but all are likely to be fussy and tearful from teething at some point.
If your baby seems to be in pain and you’re not sure why, try feeling his gums with your finger. You may be surprised to discover the hard nub of an emerging baby tooth. (On average, the first tooth breaks through between 4 and 7 months, but it can happen earlier.)
Stranger Anxiety or Fear
If your baby suddenly finds himself in the arms of Great Aunt Matilda and his happy cooing turns to crying, he’s trying to tell you that he’s scared. He doesn’t know this new person, and he wants Mommy or Daddy. Explain to Auntie that he needs a little time to warm up to someone new, and try letting the two of them get to know each other while you hold your baby in your arms.
How to Calm a Crying Baby
Identify Why the Baby Is Crying
- Feed the baby
- Burp the baby
- Change the diaper
- Make sure clothing isn’t too tight
Make sure baby isn’t too hot, or too cold. Of course, there are plenty of times when you can’t tell if your baby’s crying is directly related to a fixable situation such as hunger or a dirty diaper, or just expresses a longing to be held.
Know That Infants from 6-46 Weeks Old Often Have Random Bouts of Crying
Unfortunately, there is little you can do. As long as you have a baby monitor, place the child in their crib and walk away. If the crying persists for more than 10-15 minutes, check back in to make sure nothing is wrong.
Use a Comforting, Calming Hold on the Baby to Instantly Quiet It
This pediatrician-approved technique is a great way to calm a baby down no matter the circumstances. It is often used after shots or other procedures that can quickly upset a small child.
Make Sure That Their Clothes Are Loose and Provide Enough Warmth
If you’re cold in the house, chances are your baby is too. Make sure their clothes are loose enough that their skin can breathe, and that they are comfortably warm. If in doubt, it can’t hurt to add another blanket and see how they respond.
Eliminate Irritating Foods from Your Diet That She May Digest While Nursing
Colic is when a baby cries for more than three hours a day, and it usually resolves itself by three months.
Check for a Fever
Using a rectal or oral thermometer, see if your baby is running a temperature. This sort of discomfort will cause a baby to cry incessantly. If the baby is warmer than 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit (the average high for a normal baby), you should call your pediatrician immediately.
Keep Calm and Patient in the Face of Persistent Crying
If you feel your patience snapping, have someone else take care of the baby, even if this means going to a neighbor and asking for help until you regain your composure. Take a good walk around the block to clear your mind and frustrations. Don’t be surprised to find your baby calm upon your return; they often pick up on a parents’ tiredness and distress.
NEVER NEVER shake a baby
Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a baby is shaken. The blood vessels in a baby’s head cannot tolerate the impact of shaking and can break.
- Each year about 1,000 children die from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
- Death, brain damage, mental retardation, seizures, or blindness may result from shaking a baby.
- Shaking usually happens when parents or caregivers become frustrated or angry when they are not able to stop the baby from crying.
- Shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
If your baby is crying or upset often, or unresponsive, you should seek help from your pediatrician or a child development specialist. Your pediatrician should be able to recommend a specialist in early infant behaviors to help you figure out if there is a problem and what to do about it.