Why is my baby crying so much?
Sometimes it seems like your baby just won’t stop crying. While some parents may brag about having a calm, relaxed and contented baby, other parents discover that their baby demands to be held, rocked or nursed to be quiet.
Try not to let yourself be too concerned; crying is actually quite normal and babies who never cry may not always be “normal,” either. Often, crying is good because it offers a number of benefits for both you and your baby.
- Crying allows your baby to exercise their lungs and vocal chords
- Crying is the beginning of your baby being able to communicate their needs with you
Chatting up your baby
Your baby will learn very quickly that when they cry, someone usually comes over and starts to talk to them. Talking to your baby using a high-pitched voice and soothing tones usually soothes and calms them down. You can also use techniques such as shushing, rocking, cuddling and patting to help ease whatever discomfort your baby may have. In addition to relaxing and calming down, your baby will begin watching your face and learn how to read facial expressions.
However, excessive crying can be cause for concern. Sometimes crying is caused by a medical condition that requires a physician’s attention.
To figure out if your baby needs medical attention, you can try some techniques to evaluate the meaning of the various crying episodes:
I’m hungry, feed me!
When your baby cannot be consoled with any other behavioral techniques other than nursing, you can interpret crying as a sign of hunger.
- If you are breastfeeding exclusively, you may need to return to the rocking chair and continue nursing.
- If you are using bottles of breast milk or formula, you may need to take out another bottle, warm it and offer it to your baby.
In most cases, a hungry, crying baby will calm down quickly when they have that full, satiated feeling in their tummy.
Make sure you are taking time to burp the baby:
- Every ounce or so when using a bottle
- Every 10 minutes on the breast
- When your baby seems to slow down or pull off your breast
Burping your baby will prevent air build up in their tummy and intestinal tract. Many babies become uncomfortable from gas pain and that is another cause of crying and fussiness.
I’m wet and poopy. Change me!
It’s always a good idea to get into the habit of looking at the diaper area to see if a wet or dirty diaper is causing your baby’s discomfort and crankiness. In the words of a well-known nurse and educator, Jeanne Watson Driscoll, “it’s not the warm poop that bothers the baby; it’s the cold feeling on their skin that they don’t like.”
Once you change a dirty or wet diaper, a crying baby may go back to sleep as if nothing bothered them at all. If they are wet or dirty, and you still have a fussy infant after changing their diaper, you may need to start or finish the feeding and use some of the other comfort techniques you have been practicing since you got home from the hospital.
Swaddle me please!
This technique has worked for centuries and it still works today. However, not all swaddled infants will settle down and drift off to sleep every time you swaddle them. But it is good practice to use the swaddle option as a way of teaching your infant a sleepy-time routine. When your baby is older, over 6-8 weeks, routines will be very helpful for naps, nighttime and night-waking. There are many new swaddle blankets available. You probably have received some as gifts. This might be the ideal time to take them out and give them a try. See if swaddling helps your baby settle down.
It’s a bit too still now, I need to get moving.
Throughout pregnancy, the fetus is surrounded by a soft cushion of fluid, almost in a state of free-floating with constant motion and sounds surrounding them. Even after being born, babies still enjoy the comfort of motion and sound. It’s a good thing there will be many options for you to choose from. You will find hundreds of products that are designed to swing, rock, bounce and soothe your newborn.
Infant carriers are another way to create a familiar environment for your baby. (Please check to ensure that the infant carrier you purchase or choose to use has safety features that are compatible with your infant’s age range.) Some carriers can only be used with babies after they reach a specific age or weight. Make sure the area around your baby’s face is clear so that they can get proper ventilation and do not overheat.
If you have already purchased or acquired a swing, there is no time like the present to set it up and start using it. Just like the baby carrier, check for any weight or age limitations before using it. Most of the items designed within the last 5 years will meet the safety age and weight requirements for very young infants through the first year of life, or 25 pounds. If you have an older swing, bouncer or carrier, check with the manufacturer’s website regarding safety features and guidelines. Some additional information may be found on sites that list recalled items.
Show me the love and hold me close.
Some parents get home from the hospital after delivery and are concerned about how much time a baby should be held by parents, family members and friends. Some new parents haven’t had time to look at their newborn without clothes and diapers until they do the first baby bath. Take time to look at your baby. Observe all their nooks and crannies from head to toe. Your baby will also enjoy this time because you are going to be cooing and talking to them while you examine and explore.
Let your close relatives know that your baby is to be handled by as few people as possible in the early days and weeks. Most pediatricians recommend that your baby have limited visitors and outings for as many as the first 6 weeks. If your baby was born before 36 weeks, the pediatrician might use more strict guidelines regarding visitors and outings. Check with your doctor to make sure you are following their guidelines.
During cold and flu season, October through March, remember to use even stricter rules for holding your baby with family and friends. One easy rule that everyone can follow is the use of hand washing and hand sanitizer. Keep the pumps handy around the house and changing areas so everyone has access to it.
You can never hold your baby too much. Hold your baby, comfort your baby and do what feels right for you and your baby. The old rule of “spoiling your baby” was based on the fear that a baby who was picked up and comforted every time he or she cried would never be able to self soothe, and therefore would always be unhappy. Years of research have proven that babies cannot be spoiled but they can learn behaviors that are repeated over and over.
Following this behavior modification theory, you should attempt to change your baby’s behaviors by using repetition and consistency. Be consistent, be calm and use all the resources around you including books, DVDs, friends, family members, your physician and your lactation consultant.
If you have not been able to soothe your infant after trying any of these techniques, tricks and tools, talk to your physician at your next appointment or schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your concerns. Some crying infants need more attention and may need to have a specific examination by the physician to rule out a medical condition that prevents your baby from being consoled.
Are you struggling with baby’s fussiness and crying? Talk to us about the challenges you’re facing and get help from a healthcare professional on our team.