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Crying Baby

To say that crying is a big challenge to early parenting is an understatement, especially when it is 3 AM, you haven't gotten any sleep, and your baby is still crying!

With crying, there are no firm rules as to what causes it and what you can do to get your baby to stop. As you get to know your baby, you will get better at knowing what causes your baby to cry and what will get him to stop. Soon you will be able to tell hungry cries from boredom cries, hurt cries from angry cries. And then of course there are times when your baby will cry seemingly for no reason at all.

Why is my baby crying?

When your baby cries, check for causes such as:

FEEDING: If your baby is hungry, try feeding first. Newborns need to be fed every 2 hours for about 20 minutes at a time. The feedings provide comfort and closeness as well as keeping your baby's tummy full. If your baby is not hungry, sucking on a pacifier or a finger (his or yours) can relax your baby and put him to sleep.

If you are breastfeeding, your baby can react to things that you eat that pass into breast milk. To see if a certain food or drink upsets your baby, avoid that food or drink for a couple of weeks before you try it again.

DISCOMFORT: Your baby may be bothered by something such as:

  • Illness: If your child is sick, there are usually other signs, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, or a stuffy nose. Some things cause discomfort without other obvious symptoms. Sometimes a baby can get scratched or pinched or get something stuck in the throat. Make sure your baby's eyes look OK and that he can swallow. A doctor should examine your baby if you are worried that something is wrong. If you think your baby is not ill, your baby may simply need to cry himself to sleep.
  • Clothes: Check clothing to see if it is too tight. Sometimes threads from the baby's clothes get wound around his fingers or toes and cut off circulation.
  • Temperature: Your baby may be too hot or too cold.
  • Diapers: Unless they have been trained to cry about dirty diapers or unless they have a bad diaper rash, babies generally don't mind wet or soiled diapers. For babies in cloth diapers, check to see if a diaper pin is sticking them.

OVER-STIMULATION: Over-stimulation from playing and handling can make your baby too tired and cause crying. During the night, keep your baby calm by feeding and changing her in a quiet place away from bright lights and the TV. Some babies like the secure feeling of being tightly swaddled in a blanket.

Quiet music, gentle rocking, soft singing, or talking may help. You might also try a warm bath or a gentle massage. A steady sound (white noise) such as a fan, a dishwasher, clothes dryer, or a vacuum cleaner may calm your baby. Your baby can tell when you are tense and may also get tense and cry. It helps if you can stay relaxed.

BOREDOM: Crying can also mean that your baby wants a change in scenery or activity.

  • Babies can often be distracted by lively music, by your dancing with them in your arms, or by a noisy rattle or toy.
  • Car or stroller rides often work wonders for a crying baby and for parents as well. A baby swing may also work.
  • Since babies love to see the sights and to be held close in someone's arms, walking your baby from room to room is may help.
  • Try putting your baby in front pack. This lets your baby stay close and frees up your hands so that you can do things. (While this can help keep your baby from crying, it can injure your back, so don't overdo it.)

COLIC: Colic is when a baby cries daily for several hours at a time, usually at the same time each day. Almost all babies outgrow colic by 3 to 4 months of age.

Keep a diary of feeding, sleep, and when your baby starts to cry and for how long. Talk with your healthcare provider about these patterns.

What if I can’t take it anymore?

NEVER shake or hurt your baby. Ask a spouse, friend, neighbor, or relative to give you a break when you need it. If your baby is crying and you get so angry that you are afraid you might hurt your baby, put the baby down in a safe place and call someone. It’s OK to let your child cry in a safe place for 10 or 15 minutes as long as you have made sure she has been fed, burped, and changed. Sometimes you both just need a break.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-04-19
Last reviewed: 2012-04-16
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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