Babies can cry as much as two to three hours in a 24-hour period, and living with the wailing isn’t easy. Babies cry for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s easy to calm them down: All it takes is a feeding, a burp, a diaper change or your calm voice and gentle touch.
But then there are other times when your baby — possibly even because she’s going through a bout of colic — may seem inconsolable no matter what you do. It may even be enough to drive you to tears. But don’t lose hope. First, try to nail down the type of baby’s cries and rule out any obvious culprits (like a dirty diaper or an empty tummy) along with any symptoms of illness that warrant a call to the doctor, such as a fever or runny nose, or signs of pain, like swollen gums. Still got a fussy baby on your hands? Let’s read and find out hơ to soothe a crying baby.
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 main way babies communicate. It’s the way they capture your attention and express their needs. At first, it may be difficult to interpret your baby’s different cries, but as you spend more time listening, you will become better at recognizing and meeting your child’s specific needs.
Common reasons babies cry
Sleepiness or fatigue
Wet or dirty diaper
Overstimulation from noise or activity
Colic, acid reflux, or food allergies
Pain or illness
Stranger anxiety or fear
Is your baby unresponsive or indifferent?
Most babies use crying to communicate and they will continue to cry or show that they are upset until a parent or caregiver responds to their needs. Other babies, instead of crying, become upset and then tune out and fail to show any emotion. If you think about it, you probably know more than one adult who acts this way when faced with difficulty.
An unresponsive baby might seem like an easy baby, because they may be quiet and agreeable. But a baby that doesn’t respond to you, the environment, and sensory influences needs help. Call your pediatrician right away.
Here are ways you can try to comfort a crying baby. It may take a few tries, but with patience and practice you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t for your baby.
Swaddle your baby in a large, thin blanket (ask your nurse or child’s doctor to show you how to do it correctly) to help her feel secure.
Hold your baby in your arms and place her body on her left side to help digestion or stomach for support. Gently rub her back. If your baby goes to sleep, remember to always lay her down in her crib on her back.
Turn on a calming sound. Sounds that remind babies of being inside the womb may be calming, such as a white noise device, the humming sound of a fan, or the recording of a heartbeat.
Walk your baby in a body carrier or rock her. Calming motions remind babies of movements they felt in the womb.
Avoid overfeeding your baby because this may also make her uncomfortable. Try to wait at least 2 to 2½ hours from the beginning of one feeding to the next.
If it is not yet time to feed your baby, offer the pacifier or help your baby find her thumb or finger. Many babies are calmed by sucking.
If food sensitivity is the cause of discomfort, a change in diet may help.
For breastfed babies: Moms may try changing their own diet. See if your baby gets less fussy if you cut down on milk products or caffeine. If there is no difference after making the dietary changes, resume your usual diet. Avoiding spicy or gassy foods like onions or cabbage has worked for some moms, but this has not been scientifically proven.
For bottle-fed babies: Ask your child’s doctor if you should try a different formula. This has been shown to be helpful for some babies.
Keep a diary of when your baby is awake, asleep, eating, and crying. Write down how long it takes your baby to eat or if your baby cries the most after eating. Talk with your child’s doctor about these behaviors to see if her crying is related to sleeping or eating.
Limit each daytime nap to no longer than 3 hours a day. Keep your baby calm and quiet when you feed or change her during the night by avoiding bright lights and noises, such as the TV.
A final thought: Babies are born in a very immature physical state, with nervous systems and brains and bodies that have a long way to go—25 years, really—until they reach maturity. Parents and caregivers have to be flexible and adaptive in supporting the child’s current developmental needs.
Different kinds of responses are important at different ages. For young babies, consistent affectionate responding is about meeting their physical and psychological needs, calming and integrating the nervous system, and creating a loving and trusting foundation to the relationship.
As babies grow—one to two years old and beyond—it may not be appropriate or even possible to soothe every cry. In fact, small bits of manageable stress in the presence of a caring adult help to “inoculate” a toddler for some of life’s vicissitudes and realities. But this is a gradual on-ramp, with a supportive adult. Later, new factors become important for parents to consider, like the development of language and cognition, the neurological ability to inhibit oneself, and the scaffolding of emotional skills.
Whatever the age, a good cry can always go a long way toward letting off steam, communicating, and healing.