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.
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:
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.
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.
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.