You have already fed the baby, changed a soiled diaper, the baby is not unwell, but the crying will not stop. You have tried everything- from cuddling, rocking, swinging to changing positions but your efforts do not count. So, why is the baby still crying? Looking at your baby crying without knowing the reason they are crying is tough, hurtful and disappointing especially if you are a new parent.
Experts say that crying is okay for a baby and sometimes, it is inconsolable. It is their way of communication before they adapt to other advanced methods. Thus, persistent crying in a baby who is not sick is considered normal. When the baby is not calming down, do not feel like your parenting skills are wanting. In fact, you should be concerned when your baby becomes emotionless and unresponsive.
In this article, we have some simple techniques that you can use to soothe your baby, but first, why do babies cry?
Table of Contents
- Why Babies Cry and How to Soothe Them
- What to do
- When should you call the doctor?
Why Babies Cry and How to Soothe Them
One of the top reasons that babies cry is due to hunger. Babies have a small stomach, a large surface area to volume ratio and higher nutritional growth demands. Thus, hunger pangs strike faster than in adults. The first thing that should come to your mind when a baby cries should be feeding even though you just fed an hour ago. Do not go by the clock, but instead, respond to the baby’s cues.
2. Abdominal discomfort
A baby can cry for about three hours in a day, for absolutely no reason. This is mostly referred to as baby colic, and it can occur as from six weeks to about six months of age. Gastrointestinal discomfort accounts for 10 to 40% of colic crying episodes. Holding the baby on the left side to aid digestion, breastfeeding, burping, swaddling when the legs are flexed and making shushing sounds help to relieve the discomfort.
If you are feeding the baby on formula, switching to hydrolyzed formula type will really help with colic too. Proteins take long to digest and are the primary culprits of fussiness, cramping, and gas. Hydrolyzed formulas have either partially or extensively broken proteins that are easy for the baby to digest. Furthermore, they reduce the chances of protein allergies.
3. Diaper issues
Babies get so irritable when the nappy or diaper is wet. You may also notice at times even when you have changed the diaper, the baby still remains irritable. You might want to check whether the baby has or is about to develop a diaper rash. Allow the baby to stay diaperless for a while. Meanwhile, keep the baby dry and apply a protective layer of lotion or jelly to prevent more irritation by urine. The baby could also be communicating that the diaper band is uncomfortable.
At times, your baby may find it difficult to fall asleep, or the sleep cycle may become shorter than they are used to. It may be due to overstimulation, or the baby is too tired to sleep. A relaxing routine like a warm bath, some fresh air, cool relaxing music or sounds and a gentle massage can help soothe your baby to sleep.
When babies start teething (usually between three and six months), they are generally fussier than usual. It is because of the soreness and swelling that occurs in the gum before a tooth erupts. If the baby is distressed due to teething, the crying may be accompanied by drooling, low-grade fever, eagerness to chew objects and persistent rubbing of the chin. You can soothe the baby gently rubbing the gums or giving a safe and soft object to chew.
If the crying and distress do not subside, you can ask your pediatrician whether it is okay to give the baby pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
The baby may be crying just because they are longing for some love, bonding, and closeness. A warm embrace, holding them as you talk or sing softly will reassure and calm the baby. Avoid leaving the baby alone or in a single position for long, and get to the habit of talking to them even when doing some chores. Science shows that babies start recognizing their mothers’ voices as from the third trimester. So, by birth your voice is recognizable and comforting to them.
What to do
Sometimes you may not be able to find the reason as to why the baby is crying. Do not worry as you can always soothe the baby even without knowing the cause of their distress- so long as you have made right, all the reasons stated above and the baby is not ill.
Make some movements
Calming motions like bouncing the baby up and down, rocking, swinging or even walking when the baby is cradled between your cheek and shoulder are very effective. As you are making the movements, rhythmically pat the back or bottom as you hum their favorite tones. However, never shake the baby as it can lead to serious brain injuries.
The cozy and snug swaddling of the baby not only helps to keep the baby warm but also calm, secure and prevents them from being distracted by their little movements. Moreover, swaddling recreates the bundled feeling that the baby enjoyed before birth. Swaddling is a technique that most probably you were taught before leaving the hospital. It is a technique that if done correctly, it will save you headaches and chilling screams.
Nevertheless, you should not get into the habit of always swaddling. By the time the baby turns two, you should go slow on the practice. Also, place the baby on the back, take caution not to leave loose blankets as it increases the risk of suffocation and monitor the baby to ensure that they do not roll over. You can also modify the swaddling method by leaving the baby’s arms outside the blanket.
Make the baby lie on the left side
Hold the baby and place them on the left side then gently rub the back. Wait for the baby to calm down and if they fall asleep, return them to the back position. Lying on the side aids in digestion and supports the stomach to relieve gas and promote intestinal motility.
Play some music
You can also play some calm music or a calming whooshing sound that reminds the baby of the amniotic fluid in the womb. A white noise machine, a fan, or a vacuum cleaner can also be soothing to some babies. To cut on your electricity expenses, audio tape the sounds or download some sounds from the internet. You can also try putting the baby in a kangaroo position, for them to hear your heartbeat as they get some warmth. Remember that the baby was used to your heartbeat in their uterine life.
Get some fresh air
The baby could be tired of the indoors, so why not enjoy what mother nature has to offer. It will not only calm the baby but will also do you right. George Santayana, a philosopher and novelist, once said that the earth has a soothing music for those who care to listen. Involuntary attention to the diverse outdoor nature will divert, distract and engage the mind of the baby as they try to understand the change of environment.
Bicycle their legs
Place the baby in the supine position, flex the legs then gently move them in a cycling (semi-circle) motion. This will help relieve discomfort that may be caused by gas pain. This method works by lightly applying pressure on the stomach to move the gas through the gastrointestinal tract. Note that you should only move the legs in one direction.
Lie down together
Lying down together with your little one could be all it takes to soothe them. Lie facing each other, belly to belly or with the baby’s back close to your stomach. Your presence, closeness, and warmth will make them drift away into their sleep so fast. This is also a perfect chance to reward yourself with a nap.
Dr. Robert Hamilton, a California based pediatrician, came up with a rather interesting but very effective holding technique to soothe a baby. The hold has four simple steps. Begin by placing the baby’s arms on the chest. Second, gently secure the arms with one hand. Third, using your other arm, grasp the baby’s bottoms. Finally, gently rock the baby back and forth at a 450 angle.
Babies love to suckle and at times, they cannot get enough of it even when they are not hungry. When nothing works to soothe the baby, a pacifier seems to help in most cases. It should not be used as a replacement for feeding and should also be introduced when breastfeeding is fully established at around one to six months. Preferably, use a pacifier in between feedings, when you are sure that the baby is not crying due to hunger. Ensure that it is always clean as it can be a source of infections.
In the beginning, it may be difficult to watch your baby crying for no apparent reason. It is normal to feel helpless at times, and it is very okay to call the doctor if you are in any doubt.
You should be particularly concerned if the baby is crying and also exhibits the following symptoms
- Body temperature higher than 380C (100.40F)
- The baby ha weak cries and moaning
- The baby is not able to feed
- Is lethargic
- Bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on top of the head)
In conclusion, nonstop crying that lasts for more than three hours should be suspected of being a medical problem that needs attention until proven otherwise. Try all our techniques in this article, call a friend or a relative, and if nothing works, it is time to call the baby’s pediatrician.