What to Do When Babies Cry
Page Updated on
November 24, 2007
It's your job to try to figure out what your baby needs and fulfill those needs until he/she is developed enough to fulfill them him/herself.
"Colic" is a term used by doctors to define crying with no known cause. This doesn't mean that there isn't a cause. It just means that we don't know what the cause is. This term doesn't apply to babies that are simply fussy. A fussy baby can usually be calmed down by taking steps to alleviate discomfort and interaction. With colic, babies cry for hours, often during the same time every day, and their cries sound as though they are scared and/or in pain. It adds a major deal of stress to everyone's life. Without knowing what the cause is, it is almost impossible to get a colicky baby to calm down. If you find yourself doing everything on this list and anything else you can think of, but your baby is still crying, it is best to see your pediatrician to rule out any known underlying cause, such as illness. Then find a support group for parents with colicky babies; you'll be surprised by what you can learn from what other parents have tried.
Common Causes of Discomfort
Uncomfortable Position Imagine being in an uncomfortable position and not having the ability to move around to get comfy. Try just changing her position. If she's on her tummy, put her on her back. Sometimes babies just want to be held, because in mommy or daddy's arms is often the most comfy place of all. (Notice if she acts as though any part of her body is tender and fusses even more when you touch her. Sometimes an arm or leg will fall asleep, giving them that pins and needles feeling if you touch it. If it doesn't get better after a couple of minutes, she might be injured or ill.)
Offer baby something to eat or drink. If baby takes the food/drink and immediately quiets down, this may be the solution. (This is easiest if you're breastfeeding because you don't have to make up a bottle only to discover that your baby isn't hungry.) If you were already feeding your baby with a bottle, check the nipple to make sure it isn't clogged. If baby refuses to eat, move on to the next step.
Needs to Suck Babies have a strong need to suck. It's an important urge because it allows them to feed, but sometimes a kid needs to suck even if he's not hungry. Try giving your baby something to suck on, like a finger, a toy, or a pacifier, if you're not opposed to it. (Don't abuse the pacifier. If baby is hungry, continually forcing the pacifier on her will just make her so upset that she won't be able to eat.)
Wet or Poopy Diaper Yes, they really do mind sitting in their own filth sometimes. Change diapers as soon as you realized they are soiled, especially if baby has diaper rash, to avoid frustrated fits. (Always be sure to treat diaper rash to reduce pain that would otherwise cause additional crying after the diaper is changed.)
Work out any gas bubbles baby may have. Hold your baby upright and try to burp her. Feel her stomach to find out if it is distended. Hold your hand on her stomach to feel for gas bubbles moving around or gurgles. Move babies legs to help work out gas from the back end. Also try gently massaging the stomach. If gas comes out from the top (burp) and baby is still crying, try offering food again. If gas comes out from the bottom, check the diaper for poopies. You can also try try infant simethicone drops (anti-gas drops). Mylicon did wonders for our gassy baby.
Boredom I know it doesn't seem like they do much, but babies really do play. Learn how to play with your baby and start entertaining her.
- Tired Babies don't always know that they need to sleep when they're tired, so it's your job to calm them down for nap time. Try soothing techniques.
- Too Hot / Too Cold
Feel her hands, feet, and head. Look for signs of shivering or sweating. Bundle baby up or remove some layers to keep baby at a comfortable temperature. If your child seems unusually warm, take her temperature with a non-invasive thermometer (such as a ear thermometer, pacifier thermometer, or underarm thermometer). If the reading comes out a bit high, go ahead and take a rectal temperature.
- Uncomfortable Clothes
Change baby's clothes. Sometimes clothes can just be uncomfortable. The fabric could be itchy. There could be a small pointy object poking at her (such as the plastic from a tag or a tiny splinter stuck in the fabric). Try putting baby in a different outfit or have some "naked time". Sometimes a kid just needs a little naked time. Take off all his clothes, keep him warm with a blanket or in a warm room, put him on an underpad, and let the naked time begin. It's amazing how well it works sometimes when you don't know what else to do.
- Itchy There were times when my baby would cry frantically, and I didn't know why. One day I decided to just scratch her all over, and I must have scratched an itch because it worked, and she stopped crying.
Babies get stressed out too, and we all know how uncomfortable stress feels. They have a lot to learn and adjust to, so it's easy for them to get over-stimulated or overwhelmed, which leads to frustration and crying. Try to soothing techniques. Sometimes children, even babies, are very sensitive to their parents emotions. If you've been stressed out lately, your baby may have picked up on it. Try calming yourself at the same time that you try to calm your baby. If you are relaxed, you have a much better chance of helping your baby relax.
Sadness / Anxiety / Fear Babies have emotions too. Sadness, anxiety, and fear often occur from separation from a primary caregiver, not being able to play with something they wanted to play with, being scolded, or being left alone. Sometimes sadness, anxiety, and fear are just a part of life, but that doesn't mean they should have to learn how to deal with it during their first year of life. Keep situations that may trigger such emotions in your child to a minimum.
- Allergic Reactions
If you're breastfeeding, did you eat something within the last day that could produce gas or that your baby is allergic to? Did you switch baby's formula or introduce any new foods? Do you smoke, drink, or take drugs or medication? Did your baby just start eating a new food? Keep a food diary and check your baby for diaper rash or unusual stools which may indicate food allergies. Eliminate possible problem foods to see if it fixes the problem in the future.
Illness / Injury / Pain We all get uncomfortable when we're sick, and pain is never much fun. Assess if baby looks ill or injured (e.g. pale, vomiting or excessive spitting up, discharge from nose or eyes, excessive drooling, dry eyes, sunken fontanel, unusual swelling, not moving limbs normally, straining more than usual to poop, wheezing, etc.). Check your baby's temperature. A fever is an indicator of infection or inflammation. Babies will also cry because they're teething, or their diaper rash is bugging them. Quickly look for anything external that might be causing pain, such as a diaper pin that popped open, hairs tangled around fingers or toes (it happens a lot), a rough or sharp edge that she's laying on, etc. If you find such a situation, fix it immediately. Make sure that you address any possible symptoms of illness or injury by calling your pediatrician (that's what you pay them for).
G.E.R. (Gastroesophageal Reflux) After eating, does your baby cry, spit up forcefully, or scrunch up and writhe as if in pain? Does your baby suddenly burst out in a painful cry during the middle of the night? Discuss this with your doctor. Your child may have gastroesophageal reflux (baby heartburn) which is painful and can cause damage to the esophagus over time. Try to keep your child upright or hold her slightly forward, give her smaller, more frequent feedings, and try to sooth her as much as possible until your doctor can see her and possibly prescribe medication for the problem. Some mothers swear that giving their baby rice cereal in a bottle helps too.
U.T.I. (Urinary Tract Infection) If your baby cries whenever she urinate, she might have a urinary tract infection, especially if she has a fever. UTIs happen more in girls than in boys because girls have a shorter urethra. UTIs can be caused by lack of hygiene, introducing bacteria into the urethra from the anus by wiping back to front during a diaper change (always wipe front to back), and even soaps, bubble bath, and bath toys like soap crayons. Call your doctor and have her seen immediately for treatment. It won't go away on it's own and could develop into a kidney infection.