If you ask any parent, they will tell you that their newborn baby won’t stop crying. Every day is an adventure of trying to figure out why and what can be done about it.
Chances are, the first sign you received that your newborn had arrived was a cry.
No matter whether it was a full-throated wail, a gentle bleat, or a series of urgent screams—it was a joy to hear, and you welcomed it with open ears.
Now, days or weeks (or months) later, you’re reaching for the earplugs. Will your baby ever stop crying?
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Parents-to-be expect their baby to fuss and cry, but nothing prepares you for what seems like endless, inconsolable wailing. Let’s dive into what your infant’s shrieks and squalls mean—and how to lessen them so everyone can enjoy some much-deserved peace.
Understanding and Responding to Your Newborn Baby’s Behaviour
Your newborn baby is working out what the world is like. The way you respond to your baby’s behaviour, especially crying, tells your baby a lot about the world.
For example, your baby might find out that someone comes to give them what they need when they cry.
This might be a nappy change, a feed or a cuddle. If that happens, the baby will learn that the world is a pretty OK place.
When you respond quickly to comfort your crying newborn, your baby might cry less often overall. It’s lovely to pick up your newborn baby when they call. It helps your baby feel safe and know that you’re nearby.
Why Do Babies Cry?
It’s tough when your baby won’t stop crying. You may worry that something is wrong with your child, that you’ll lose your cool, that your parenting skills aren’t up to the job, or that you’ll never connect with your baby. But you can handle it!
Babies cry for many reasons, and crying is the primary way babies communicate. It’s the way they capture your attention and express their needs.
At first, it may be challenging to interpret your baby’s different cries, but as you spend more time listening, you will become better at recognising and meeting your child’s specific needs.
Common Reasons Babies Cry
In Infants 3 Months and Younger
Your infant has many important things to tell you. In the first several months of life, they may be crying because they:
- are hungry
- have a wet or dirty diaper
- are sleepy or overtired
- are lonely or bored
- have been overfed (causing a bloated stomach)
- need to burp
- are too cold or too hot
- need comfort or love
- are overstimulated from noise or activity
- are irritated by scratchy clothing or a tag
- need to be rocked or swaddled
- are in pain or are ill
I am surprised that intestinal gas is absent from the list?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, gas passing through the baby’s lower digestive system isn’t painful.
You may think that’s the reason for their distress because they’re releasing lots of gas during crying jags, but it’s a myth that gas gets trapped in the intestines and causes pain.
Since there are quite a few reasons for crying, it can be overwhelming to pinpoint the problem.
Have a checklist, especially in the middle of the night. When you’re stumbling around sleep-deprived, it’s an excellent way to be sure you consider every possibility for the cause of the storms and get your baby—and yourself—some relief.
In Babies Over 3 Months
Newborn crying has a physiological basis, such as hunger, and infants this young rely on a parent to soothe them.
Babies older than about 3 or 4 months of age have likely mastered self-soothing by using a thumb, fist, or pacifier. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their vocal moments.
They may be frustrated, sad, angry, or have separation anxiety (especially during the night) and use crying to communicate those feelings.
Teething pain is also a big reason for crying in older babies. Most babies sprout the first tooth between 6 and 12 months.
In addition to fussiness and crying, your baby’s gums may be swollen and tender, and they may drool more than usual.
To relieve teething discomfort, offer your baby a clean frozen or wet washcloth or a solid teething ring.
If the crying continues, talk to your pediatrician about giving an appropriate dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can also give ibuprofen (Advil) if your baby is older than six months.
Tips on Managing a Crying Newborn
If your baby cries a lot, it can be frustrating, upsetting and overwhelming. It’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold your baby for a while.
These ideas might help you and your baby:
- Reduce the stimulation around your baby – for example, try sitting with the baby in a quiet, dimmed room.
- Swaddle or wrap your baby. This can help your baby feel secure.
- Hum a gentle, calming tune. Your baby knows your voice and prefers it to other sounds.
- Lay your baby on their side in the cot and rhythmically pat their back. Gently turn the baby onto their back if they fall asleep.
- Try putting in some imaginary earplugs. Let the sound of the crying pass through you, and remind yourself that everything is OK. You’re doing all you can to help your baby.
- Take your baby for a walk in the pram or a sling. Movement can sometimes be soothing.
- Try playing ‘white noise’ like a fan or the radio tuned to the static between stations. This can help to settle your baby.
How to Relieve Your Baby’s Crying
Here are the things to try if you have an inconsolable little one:
Feed Your Baby
You’ll want to be a little preemptive with this one. When your baby started wailing, this is probably the first thing you did, but it may not have gotten the results you expected.
Offering the breast or bottle after crying escalates, sometimes results in frantic and disorganised sucking.
If a newborn gets to the point that she’s crying because she’s hungry, you’re already late.
Look for clues that your little one’s beginning to get hungry: One sign is when they suck on their hands or vigorously root around for the nipple. To prevent inconsolable crying — and the agitated, often unsuccessful, feeding that follows — offer the breast or bottle while they’re still calm.
Identify Your Baby’s Cries
Generally, a sudden, long, high-pitched shriek means pain, while a short, low-pitched cry that rises and falls indicates hunger. But to say a particular cry means one thing for all babies isn’t possible.
Crying is individual from baby to baby and has much to do with temperament.
If your first child was super chill, and this newborn is, well, not so much, you may wonder if there’s something wrong with them.
There’s probably nothing wrong. Some babies have a more sensitive temperament and, therefore, are more dramatic in their crying.
If you observe and listen to your infant every day, you’ll start to distinguish the different sounds of their cries. If your baby screams when they’re hungry, listen to that cry and how it’s different from the others.
Notice Your Baby’s ‘Tells.’
Other subtler cues offer a peek into what your baby needs, and reading these can prevent crying spells.
A few are straightforward, like rubbing their eyes or yawning when they’re tired.
Others are less obvious, such as averting their gaze when they’ve had enough stimulation.
Watch your baby closely — their body movements, positions, facial expressions, and vocal sounds (such as whimpering) — at various times of day to learn these cues.
Remember, every baby is unique. Just because your first baby sucked on their hand when hungry doesn’t mean your second one will. Instead, this action may say, “I need to calm down.”
Put Yourself in Their Place
If your baby’s cry or cues hold no insight into what is troubling her, think about what would bother you if you were them.
Is the TV too loud? Is the overhead light too bright? Would you be bored? Then take the appropriate action.
If you suspect your baby is bored, carrying them around in a front-facing carrier or taking them outside in a stroller offers a welcome change of scenery. We have the best range of baby nursery blankets to keep your baby just right day and night.
To mask ambient sounds in the household and recreate the shushing your newborn heard in the womb, provide calming white noise, such as turning on a fan or the clothes dryer.
Consider Other Relief Strategies
If the cause of crying is still a mystery, try:
- rocking baby in a chair or your arms (rapid tiny movements generally are best for calming)
- swaddling your baby (ask your pediatrician or nurse how or check out our how-to)
- placing them in a windup swing
- giving them a warm bath
- singing to them
If you suspect your baby’s in pain, check hands, feet, and genitalia for a “hair tourniquet” (a hair wrapped tightly around a finger, toe, or penis), which can undoubtedly set your baby off.
Do One Thing at a Time
To stop the crying pronto, parents will often pile one strategy upon another in quick succession.
Parents often hold, bounce, shush, sing, pat, change positions — all at once! They also will try to change the diaper, feed, and finally pass it off to the other parent for a turn.
Often all these happen within a couple of minutes. The only thing this does is overstimulate the baby.
Instead, carry out one action at a time — such as just rocking, just patting, or just singing — and stick with it for about 5 minutes to see if your baby settles. If not, try another relief method.
Recognise and Cope With Colic
Colic is a general term used for babies who cry more than three hours a day for more than three days a week. A baby with colic will often cry inconsolably despite all attempts to comfort and soothe.
The cause of colic, which affects one in five babies, is not clear.
Some experts think that colic may be connected to the infant’s intestinal system development, related to acid reflux (GERD) or food allergies.
Address the Colic
If your doctor confirms your baby has colic, first remember it has absolutely nothing to do with your parenting skills.
To help ease the crying, we recommend you try a specific infant massage developed for colicky babies.
It helps with calming, sleeping, and digestion and helps form a bond between you and your infant.
There are YouTube videos for on-the-spot colic massages. Or you can locate an infant massage instructor to teach you how to help your colicky baby.
What Colic Looks and Sounds Like
Parents of babies with colic often say that the babies look angry or in pain, have gas, or are trying to go to the bathroom without success.
Other characteristics of a baby with colic:
- Higher pitched, more frantic crying
- Sudden crying, starting of nowhere, and for no apparent reason
- Rigid or stiff body, often with clenched fists
- Bent legs and stomach may feel hard
Timing of Colic
Colic often begins at two weeks after a baby’s due date, reaches a peak about six weeks past the due date, and generally ends when the baby is 12 to 14 weeks old (or four months past the due date).
Your baby’s crying may taper off gradually past the six-week mark, or one day your baby might stop the extended crying spells altogether.
It may feel endless and unbearable while you are in the midst of it, but it will end.
What to Do About Colic
Pediatricians may be sympathetic and recommend Mylicon (simethicone) drops or gripe water. Still, often doctors will tell parents to “just be patient” because colic is not harmful and will go away on its own.
Of course, amid all that crying, having someone tell you to “be patient” may seem impossible to consider.
To make it through, you will have to develop some great self-care strategies and enlist support.
Just Let Them Cry (within Reason)
Your baby is fed and changed. They’ve been rocked, patted, sung to, and bounced. You’re exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed. All parents of a newborn have been there.
When you’re approaching the breaking point, it’s perfectly OK to put your baby in a safe place, such as their crib, and leave the room.
Calling upon your partner or a trusted family member or friend to take over may be an option.
If it’s not, realise that leaving your baby to “cry it out” for a short period won’t do any lasting harm.
We know that letting babies cry does not damage them emotionally. This has been studied many times.
How much? It probably depends on you and your baby, but over the long term, you can feel OK about letting your baby cry if she needs to cry to transition from a waking state to a sleeping state, and even more so if you’re hitting your emotional limit.
On the other hand, continuing to try to comfort your inconsolable infant when you’re at your wit’s end may do lasting harm.
The shaken baby syndrome often occurs when a sleep-deprived, frustrated parent can’t take the crying anymore.
When you feel at your limit, take a deep breath, step away for a few minutes, and know that this parenting gig is hard.
Know When to Seek Help
If you constantly feel overwhelmed and the feeling doesn’t go away, you probably need some outside help.
Additionally, if you feel like you can’t pick up on your baby’s cues or your baby isn’t alert enough to engage in the early milestone behaviours, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible. Problems that are identified early can almost always be solved.
Dealing with crying gets more manageable as your newborn learns more about the world and gets better at letting you know what they need. Also, it gets easier to understand your baby’s cues and body language.
No one knows your baby better than you, so if you’re worried about your baby’s crying, talk things through with your GP or child and family health nurse.
All children have the right to be safe and protected. Seek help if you feel that you can’t cope or you might hurt your child.
Tips for Keeping Your Cool and Calming Your Baby Down
Remember that your baby has feelings. Babies are emotional beings and experience happiness, sadness, joy, and anger from the very first moment of life.
If you are having trouble being responsive to your baby for whatever reason, your child will pick up on those signals.
How would you feel if your spouse or parent was unresponsive to your signals or attempts to communicate?
Thinking of your baby as an individual with a unique personality may make it easier to interpret and respond to his or her cries.
Choose Some Techniques for Taking a “time out.”
Strategies like counting to ten, going outside, taking deep breaths, putting your baby down and walking around the house for a minute can all help you maintain a calm frame of mind.
Find a Mantra.
A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase, often said repeatedly, to provide comfort and inspiration.
With a crying baby, you may find yourself talking out loud anyway, and a mantra can help provide perspective, comfort, and energy to keep going.
Some examples might be: “Just breathe,” “This is hard but doable,” and “All will be well.”
It may seem impossible to you now, but the crying spells will eventually slow down.
According to a 2017 study, newborns cry about 2 hours a day in the first weeks after birth. The crying increases and peaks at 2 to 3 hours daily by six weeks, after which it decreases (hallelujah!) gradually.
When a baby is four months old, their crying will probably only add up to a bit more than 1 hour a day. Change table for baby nursery have you stressing? Look no further, My Baby Nursery have you covered with our extensive range of baby change tables.
Even more reassuring: By then, you will have gained much experience learning to read your baby’s cues and cries, so tending to their needs should prevent the inconsolable crying that was a hallmark of their early weeks.
You got this.