Soothing your crying baby
All babies cry sometimes. They have to – it is their only way to communicate their needs. Babies rely on someone else to provide them with the food, warmth and comfort that they need. These are the most common reasons why babies cry. If you have a baby who is hard to settle, try working your way through the list to find a way to soothe your baby.
Hunger is the most common reason a new baby will cry. A baby’s small stomach only holds a small amount, so if your baby cries you could try offering her some milk, as it may well be that she is hungry and/or thirsty. Many babies gain a lot of comfort from being next to the breast. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, and there is always some milk available in the breast. Some babies like to feed on and off all evening.
If your baby seems to have pains with wind, try feeding her in a more upright position and winding her after a feed by holding her against your shoulder.
Some babies don’t mind if their nappies are full — it feels warm and comfortable — but others will call out to be changed immediately. Checking your baby’s nappy also gives you an opportunity to check that a nappy isn’t too tight or that there isn’t something else about her clothing making her uncomfortable.
Too hot or too cold
Some newborns hate having their nappy changed or being bathed — they are not used to the feel of the air on their skin and much prefer to be bundled up and warm. You can check if your baby is too hot or too cold by feeling her stomach or her shoulders. Don’t be guided by her hands or feet, as it is normal for them to feel slightly cold.
Some babies need a lot of cuddles and reassurance. If you’ve fed your baby and changed her nappy, you may find that she now simply wants to be held.
Too much stimulation
If you’ve had a busy day with visitors, your baby may become over stimulated and then find it hard to settle. Newborns can find it difficult to cope with too much stimulation — the lights, the noise, being passed from one adoring visitor to the next — and can become overwhelmed by it all. If you can take her somewhere calm and quiet, she may calm down or want to go to sleep.
A constant rhythm
In the womb, your baby could hear the regular beat of mum’s heart: that’s one of the reasons many babies continue to like being held close. Other repetitive noises can also have a calming effect. You could try gentle music or a lullaby. Saying gently Shhhhh shhhhh shhhhhh shhhhhh can also help to calm a crying baby.
Most babies love to be gently rocked, and you may find that your baby is calmed by this, whether you just walk her around the floor or sit with her in a rocking chair. A walk in the buggy or a drive in the car may also settle a crying baby.
Giving your baby a massage or gently rubbing her back or tummy can soothe her.
Some babies have a strong sucking reflex and sucking a breast, finger or dummy can bring great comfort. Comfort sucking can steady a baby’s heart rate, relax her stomach, and help her settle.
Give your baby a bath, or have a bath together.
Sign of illness
If you have met your baby’s needs but she is still crying, you may wonder if she is ill or in pain. A baby who is ill often cries in a different tone to her usual cry — it may be more urgent or high-pitched. Equally, for a baby who normally cries alot, quietness may be a sign that she’s not well. Nobody knows your baby as well as you do – if you feel there may be something wrong, call your GP, midwife, or health visitor.
Don’t demand too much of yourself
If your baby’s needs have been met, there is nothing physically wrong and if you’ve tried to calm her but nothing’s worked, it is easy to feel frustrated and overwhelmed.
- Put your baby down somewhere safe and let her cry for a while.
- If it helps, put on some quiet music and let yourself relax for a few minutes.
- Call a friend or relative for support – let someone else take over for a while.
- If it all gets too much you can call the Cry-sis helpline on 08451 228 669. It is for parents of babies who have sleep problems and / or who cry excessively. The helpline is open 9am- 10pm, seven days a week for emotional support and practical advice.
- Remind yourself that this is a phase and it will pass.
- Being the parent of a newborn is hard work. Being the parent of a newborn who cries a great deal is even harder. Get help and support when you need it and please remember that as your baby grows and gets older, she will learn new ways of communicating and the crying will stop.