Sometimes it may be obvious why your baby is crying, for example, they may have soiled their nappy, want to feed or just need a cuddle. Other times, it can be more difficult to work out why they are crying. Finding out why your baby is crying is often a matter of working through all the possible options.
When a baby cries, it can be distressing for parents and carers. A crying baby can make you stressed and disturb the amount and quality of sleep you get. It is very important to give yourself some time out if you are faced with a baby who will not stop crying.
If your baby’s crying seems abnormal in any way (such as a very high-pitched cry, or a whimper), then seek medical advice. Crying can sometimes be a sign that your baby is unwell. Trust your instincts – you know your baby best. If in doubt, call your doctor or, out of hours, Caredoc at 1850 334 999 where a trained nurse advisor will be able to assess your baby.
Sometimes it can be hard to work out why your baby is crying. However, there are some common causes, which include:
- wet or soiled nappy,
- trapped wind,
- being too hot or cold,
- loneliness (wanting bodily contact or your attention),
- being uncomfortable (such as clothing or covers being too tight), or
- being over-stimulated (such as too much noise or activity).
Colic is a very common condition in newborn babies, and usually begins a few weeks after birth. It can make babies not want to feed. Another sign of colic is when your baby pulls up their knees towards their chest. Babies with colic tend to have a loud, high-pitched cry, and are often very difficult to calm.
The cause of colic is not known. Some research has suggested that indigestion plays a role.
Other research argues that it occurs because in the first few weeks of life, your baby’s digestive system is still developing. Sometimes, the developing digestive system becomes sensitive to certain substances found in breast and formula milk, such as lactose (a natural sugar).
Your baby’s cry can sometimes be a sign that they are unwell. If you suspect your baby is ill, look for other signs and symptoms, such as a high temperature, pale skin, sickness or diarrhoea. Always trust your instincts. If you think your baby is unwell, make sure you seek medical advice.
When your baby cries, it can be stressful for both you and your child. Sometimes, you will know what their cry means, and you can take the appropriate action. On other occasions, you may find it more difficult to stop your baby is crying.
The first step is to rule out all of the common causes of crying, such as hunger, or a soiled nappy (see ’causes’ section). If feeding or nappy changing does not help, then there are a number of other things you can try.
- Keep your baby close – try using a baby carrier or sling, so that you can maintain bodily contact.
- Give them something to suck – whether it is your breast, bottle, (clean) fingers or a dummy, sucking can often be very reassuring and settling for a baby.
- Play them some music – you could try playing some soothing, relaxing music. If this doesn’t work, you could try singing a song or lullaby. Some babies like background noise, like a washing machine, or vacuum cleaner.
- Give them a bath – a warm bath can often soothe a crying baby. Make sure you always check the temperature of the water beforehand.
- Move them around – gently rocking or bouncing your baby may help. Taking your baby out in the car or in their pram can also help.
- Get some fresh air – this can help both you and your baby. It will help you to feel less stressed, and it might soothe your baby too.
Getting into a routine
Try to avoid over-stimulating your baby with too much activity or new experiences, because this can make them restless and more prone to crying.
Instead, it is best if you can try and introduce some sort of routine for your baby, such as a regular evening bath time and a quiet bedtime. This should help reassure your baby, and eventually may help them to cry less. Be aware that it can take approximately 12 weeks for your baby’s brainwave patterns to settle into a regular routine.
Sucking can give relief to babies with colic – you may wish to try offering your (clean) little finger, or a sterilised dummy.
There are medicines available for the treatment of colic, which either work to ‘mop up’ tiny bubbles of trapped wind in the gut or break down the lactose in the milk to aid digestion. However, success is varied and the colic may not stop until your baby’s digestive system matures at around three to four months.
Take a break
It can be stressful and exhausting when your baby cries, particularly if your sleep is frequently being disturbed.
If you have tried your best to comfort your baby, and you are confident that their crying or behaviour does not seem unusual; it is fine to leave your baby for a brief period, as long as they are safely in their crib or cot.
You could try going into another room to watch television, listen to music or to practise some breathing or stretching exercises. If you feel it is best, you can check on your baby at regular intervals, to check they are still okay, and are not displaying any signs of abnormal crying or behaviour.
Although it may seem difficult, it is still important that you have time to yourself when you are bringing up a baby. Where possible, ask a trusted family member or friend to help you out, even just for an hour. This will give you time away from the stress of the situation, and will help you return in a more relaxed state of mind.
Dealing with stress and anger
If your baby’s crying is making you feel stressed to the point where you are getting angry or are about to lose your temper; take a break. Leave your baby safely in their crib or cot, close the door, and take time out from the situation to calm down.