There’s a reason newborns have a reputation for doing nothing but cry while they’re awake. Although they sleep a lot, it’s not uncommon for them to spend two or three hours bawling each day. That’s a lot of noise. So, why won’t your baby stop crying?
There are five main causes for crying in a new baby. We’re going to take a look at them here, along with suggestions for calming things down.
Newborns can feed as frequently as every couple of hours at first, especially if they are breastfed. You’ll come to know your baby’s cries, but hunger cries are often short, low-pitched, and rise and fall.
Offer a feed, even if your baby has just had one. It may be he just wants the comfort of sucking on something, in which case you might want to consider a pacifier.
We know as adults that, just because we’re tired, it doesn’t mean falling asleep is easy. We can lie awake, fretful, and may need help to drift off. We understand what’s happening and can read a book, make a milky drink or listen to music.
Your baby may need help to settle if she’s over-tired. Wrap her in a blanket with just her head peeking out as you cradle her – it can make her feel she’s back in the womb. Put her in the stroller and go for a walk. Take her for a drive. A baby carrier is a great way for keeping your baby close and calm while leaving your hands free to get on with whatever you need to do.
If you’re breastfeeding and notice your baby is especially fussy afterwards, it could be he’s reacting to something you’ve passed on in your breast milk. It might be a one-off but, if it happens regularly, it could be a sign your baby has an intolerance.
Keep a food diary and see if you can pinpoint potential triggers. Your doctor might suggest cutting out a particular food – cow’s milk, eggs or wheat products – to see if that makes a difference. If your child is bottle-fed, it could be the formula you’ve chosen doesn’t agree with him. Talk to your health professional about other kinds you could try.
If your baby cries after feeds, it could be a sign that they’ve swallowed too much air. This is more likely to happen with bottle-fed babies. Remember to pause during feeds to burp your baby. Sit them up or hold them against your shoulder while you rub their back to help release the gas. It could be the teats you’re using are allowing your baby to take in a lot of air along with their milk – try slow-flow versions, or you can also get special bottles and teats designed to reduce air intake.
Around 20% of newborns suffer from colic. It’s not known what causes it, but it usually stops on its own after three or four months. Babies with colic will cry in real distress for at least three hours a day. Their cries tend to be louder and higher pitched than normal, their faces will go red, their tummies swell, and they bunch up their legs in discomfort. There’s little you can do until it passes other than try and offer comfort. Rocking or walking with your baby can help, while noises such as the washing machine or dishwasher can lull them to sleep. There are some medications available specifically to relieve colic; talk to your health professional or pharmacist.
How to cope
If your baby cries a lot for prolonged periods, it’s naturally distressing for you and you may find it hard to deal with. If you have anyone who can take over caring for your little one for an hour or so, let them. If not, and you’re struggling, there is absolutely nothing wrong with settling your baby safely in her crib and leaving her briefly. Take five or ten minutes to go into another room where you can’t hear her so clearly. Breathe deeply or even scream yourself if you need to – whatever helps you regain your balance. Never lose control or be violent with your baby – if you are seriously worried you will hurt her, it’s imperative you seek support immediately.
When to call the doctor
If you suspect something is seriously wrong, trust your instinct and seek professional medical advice. You should also always call the doctor if your baby:
- Has been crying solidly for more than two hours
- Has a temperature of more than 38°C/100.4°F
- Is consistently refusing to eat or drink anything, either from breast or bottle
- Keeps vomiting
- Has stopped producing wet nappies or has blood in their stools