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Crying Baby

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KEY POINTS

  • When your baby cries, check for possible reasons such as hunger, discomfort, boredom, or too much stimulation. Over time, you will be able to tell hungry cries from boredom cries and hurt cries from angry cries.
  • If your baby is crying and you are very tired or angry enough that you are afraid you might hurt your baby, put him or her down in a safe place and call someone. Ask a spouse, friend, neighbor, or relative to give you a break when you need it.
  • NEVER shake or hurt your baby.

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Crying is normal and healthy for a baby. Babies cry because they can’t talk and want you to know something is wrong. Give yourself time to get to know your baby. In a few weeks, you will get better at knowing what causes your baby to cry and what will help him or her to stop.

Soon you will be able to tell hungry cries from boredom cries and hurt cries from angry cries. There will still be times when your baby will cry and you will not know why. Don’t take your baby’s crying personally.

Why is my baby crying?

When your baby cries, check for possible reasons such as the following:

Hunger:

  • Your baby may be hungry, so try feeding first. Most newborns need to be fed every 2 to 3 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 his or her finger can relax your baby and help put him or her to sleep.
  • If you are breastfeeding, your baby can react to things 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.
  • If you are bottle-feeding, your baby may react to something in the formula. If your baby cries with each feeding, ask the healthcare provider if you should try another type of formula.

Discomfort:

  • Diapers: Check to see if your baby has a wet or soiled diaper. Changing the diaper and cleansing your baby’s skin help prevent diaper rash. If your baby wears cloth diapers, check to see if a diaper pin is sticking him or her.
  • Gas: Check to see if your baby needs to burp. To burp your baby, support his or her head with your hand. Place your baby over your shoulder or laying on his or her tummy across your knees. You can also sit your baby up in your lap as you support his or her chest and head. Rub or pat your baby’s back gently.
  • Temperature: Your baby may be too hot or too cold. Babies are usually comfortable wearing one more layer of clothing than adults wear.
  • Illness: If your baby is sick, there are usually other signs, such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, or a stuffy nose. Check with your baby’s healthcare provider if you are worried that something is wrong.
  • Injury: Sometimes your baby can get scratched or pinched. Check clothing to see if it is too tight. Check fingers and toes to make sure a hair or thread is not wrapped tightly around one of them. Also make sure clothing is not too tight or too short for your baby’s legs.

Over-stimulation:

  • Too much playing and handling can tire your baby and cause crying. During the night, keep your baby calm by feeding and changing him or her in a quiet place away from bright lights and the TV. Some babies like the secure feeling of being 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. Pick your baby up, hold him or her and provide comfort. Look into your baby’s face and talk softly to him or her. Your baby needs a lot of love, cuddling and holding. Do not be afraid of spoiling your baby - young babies cannot be spoiled.
  • Try playing lively music, dancing gently with your baby in your arms, or giving your baby a rattle or other toy.
  • Car or stroller rides often work wonders for a crying baby and for parents as well. A baby swing may also work.
  • Walking your baby from room to room may help. Babies love to see the sights and to be held close in someone's arms.
  • Try putting your baby in a front pack. This lets your baby stay close and frees up your hands so that you can do other 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 more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week. The crying usually happens around the same time each day. Most babies outgrow colic by 3 to 4 months of age.
  • Keep track of feeding, sleep, when your baby starts to cry, and for how long. Talk with your healthcare provider about these patterns.
  • Sometimes you just need to let your baby cry until he or she falls asleep. It’s OK to let your baby cry for 10 or 15 minutes as long as you have made sure he or she is in a safe place and has been fed, burped, and changed.

What if I can’t take it anymore?

If your baby is crying and you are very tired or angry enough that you are afraid you might hurt your baby, put him or her down in a safe place such as a crib or playpen. Go into another room and try to calm down. Try the following:

  • Take slow, even, deep breaths.
  • Say a word or phrase over and over again, such as “Let it go” or “Just breathe.”
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Take a warm bath.

If you are still upset, call someone. Ask a spouse, friend, neighbor, or relative to give you a break when you need it.

NEVER shake or hurt your baby.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-06-10
Last reviewed: 2019-06-03
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.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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