Crying & Colic

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Why Babies Cry & How to Cope

All babies cry. They have to. It’s how they communicate. But, it can be very frustrating for a parent that doesn’t know what their baby is trying to tell them. Knowing the reasons why your baby is crying won’t make your baby stop, but it can help you get through those first few months.

Hunger

This is the most common reason babies cry—especially when they are young. Learn to recognize the signs of hunger so you can feed your baby before the crying begins.

Dirty diaper

Some babies can tolerate a dirty diaper for quite a while and some will let you know right away that they need a change.

Too hot or too cold

Most babies like to be bundled and warm, but not hot.  Check whether your baby is too hot or cold by feeling their stomach.  (Hands and feet tend to be slightly cooler, so do not use these as a guide for your baby’s comfort.) A good rule of thumb is to add one more layer of clothing than you need to be comfortable.

Tired

Many infants get cranky, especially if they are overly tired or have had a lot of stimulation.  They may fuss and cry instead of just dozing off. Try holding your baby close and speaking to him/her softly.

Wants to be held

Babies need to be cuddled.  Crying might be their way of asking to be held. When your baby is young, holding him/her will teach them that you are there for him/her and give them security.

Teething

Teething can be painful.  Some babies suffer more than others, but most will become fussy at some point along the way.  

Not comfortable

Babies can be bothered by things as small as a hair wrapped around a toe, or clothing that is too tight.  Some are even sensitive to the feel of certain clothes or blankets. Do a quick body check on your baby. Is anything pinching him/her?  Do they have a hair or string caught anywhere? Is the diaper too tight? Are their clothes scratchy?

Too much going on

The lights, the noise, the people!…sometimes it can just be too much for your newborn.  Crying can be a baby’s way of saying, “Enough!”

Not enough going on

Is your baby constantly wanting to know what’s going on?  Some infants are eager to see the world and happiest when they are active.  This can be tiring for parents. Try to carry your baby in a sling, carrier, or backpack.  Plan activities and outings to kid-friendly places, and spend time with other parents that have babies.  

Not feeling well

Gas can lead to a great deal of crying.  If your baby cries after feeding, it could be gas that is causing some tummy pain.  Try lying him/her on her back, holding their feet, and gently moving his/her legs in a bicycling motion.  Your baby could also be coming down with something. Check their temperature and watch for other signs of illness.  The cry of a sick baby tends to be different than a cry of hunger or frustration. As a parent, you know your baby best.  Call your doctor if you are concerned.

What can you do?

You might not always be able to figure out why your baby is crying.  Newborns often go through periods when they seem to cry more often and for no reason. Just like there are “usual” times for babies to grow faster, there might be times when your baby cries more.

  • At 2 weeks of age, crying increases
  • Crying peaks during the second month
  • Crying begins to decrease between the third and fifth month

Although crying is normal, it doesn’t mean it is easy. So what can you do to help comfort your crying baby?

Cuddle

Newborns often like to be wrapped and held tightly.  They may also be soothed by the sound of your heartbeat when you hold them close.

Find a constant rhythm

Just as the beat of your heart can be calming to your baby, other repetitive noises can also have a soothing effect. Try playing gentle music or singing.  Even the steady noise of a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, or hairdryer can sometimes help babies fall asleep.

Rock your baby

Most babies love to be gently rocked.  You can do this in a chair or simply by walking around.  Baby swings and car rides are other options that babies often find soothing. However, do not let your child sleep in the car seat when not in a driving vehicle. When back home from a car ride, take baby out of their car seat and place on their back in a crib or pack n’play.

Try a massage

Gently rubbing your baby’s back or belly may help soothe him/her, especially if he/she seems to be having trouble with gas. If your baby has a lot of gas, be sure to also burp frequently.

Let him/her suck on something

The need to suck is very strong in newborns and can bring a great deal of comfort.  Offering a clean finger, pacifier, or allowing him/her to nurse can help them relax and calm down. Keep in mind overfeeding can also cause discomfort for baby. 

Don’t blame yourself

If you know your baby’s needs have been met and there isn’t anything physically wrong, take some time to yourself so you don’t become too stressed out.

  • Take deep breaths
  • Place baby on their back in a crib or pack n ’play and let him/her cry for a few minutes while out of your hearing. Keep in mind that the crying itself won’t hurt him/her.
  • Call a friend or family member.  Give yourself a break and let someone else take over for a while
  • Take a shower or bath
  • Listen to some music
  • Exercise
  • Remind yourself that this crying is a phase and it will pass
  • Remember…You should check on your baby every few minutes to make sure he/she is OK.
  • NEVER SHAKE or hurt a baby or young child! Visit the National Syndrome on Shaken Baby Syndrome: www.dontshake.org

When is it colic?

If your baby cries uncontrollably at times, usually over 3 hours a day and at least 3 days a week, he may have colic.  The exact cause is unknown.

Babies start with colic around 3 weeks of age. It gets worst at around 6 weeks of age and then usually stops around 3‐4 months of age. Parents, you are not alone!

Colic symptoms

  • Loud and continuous crying that can last from 1‐3 hours at a time, occurring 3 or 4 days a week.
  • Baby’s face gets red.
  • Most colicky babies cry more in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Feet may be cold and hands may be clenched.
  • Baby may pass gas.
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Baby may seem uncomfortable and appear to be in pain.

Check with your baby’s doctor to make sure there is no medical cause for your baby’s crying. If your baby is healthy, all you can do is try to keep your baby calm. Check out the list of ways to comfort a crying baby listed above. Remember, every baby is different, so keep trying different ways that will comfort your baby.

This post was last updated on December 19th, 2019 at 11:36 AM

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