Anyone who has been around babies or young children for even a short time can agree on several things. One of these things is that tots cry a lot. And some more than others. Not only does the frequency of crying vary, but so does the duration. Some babies cry very briefly while others make a marathon of it. Here are some reasons that little ones cry and ways to stop it so both of you can find relief.
Related: Why Do Babies Cry in Their Sleep?
Babies cry because they cannot speak and thus have no other way to express themselves. Even young children who can partially speak still cry because they do not yet have the mental capacity to express anger, pain, discomfort, or frustration. Tired and hungry children can be especially vocal. If your child is usually quiet and erupts into wails, this can signify sickness or discomfort. The bottom line, babies cry to let us know something is wrong. The problem might get even worse if you are doing everything you can think of to help, but nothing is working.
The Elimination Round
If a baby starts crying, you spring into action. Two good starting points are determining if the child needs to be fed, changed, or both. Other reasons for crying include being too hot or cold, fear, teething, a lost item (especially pacifiers), colic, or simply needing love. You know your baby’s feeding schedule, so crying before the next meal is almost to be expected. A dirty diaper is also easy to check. It just takes feeling for wetness or a simple sniff. In messier cases, look for evidence of a “blowout.” These are the most obvious causes of crying but certainly not the only ones.
Related: Why Do Babies Cry in their Sleep?
Sometimes a baby cries just because they need human comfort. After all, infants spend nine months safely in utero and close to the mother’s heartbeat. Once born, a baby is in a very different environment filled with strange sights, sounds, and smells. Add the new sensation of clothes and the chance of being too hot or cold, and your little one has no idea what’s happening. If they are uncomfortable or afraid, they are going to cry. Or your baby might be bored and needs to be engaged. Try something as easy as playing music, which could even help lull your little one to sleep.
Babies have gas, reflux, and constipation like the rest of us. If your child is crying a lot, and it is a different type of cry that hints at pain, tummy troubles might be the cause. When feeding and crying, a baby takes in a lot of air, so be prepared to perfect your burping technique. That gas might need to come out the opposite end, especially if you feed your baby vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. If you are breastfeeding, these veggies, along with dairy, caffeine, onions, and cabbage, can cause excess gas. In addition to a very high-pitched cry, babies with gas discomfort cry about an hour after feeding, which lasts more than an hour. They struggle to eat and sleep and are very squirmy, with a telltale symptom being pulling their legs close to their chest.
Related: How to Help a Constipated Baby
Colic is not pleasant. While it is certainly not pleasant for your baby, it can be equally difficult for parents. This condition is defined as frequent and intense crying in an otherwise healthy infant. Even worse, the prolonged crying episodes can last well into the night, taking a toll on already-exhausted parents. Colic usually peaks when infants are 6-8 weeks old and can last until the baby is 3-4 months old. To determine if your baby has colic, follow this “rule of threes.” If the infant cries for more than three hours a day, three days a week, and for more than three weeks, it likely has colic. To make matters worse, the cause of colic is unknown.
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How to Handle Things
A baby that cries non-stop can be tough to deal with. Just remember, this has nothing to do with your parenting skills. It is impossible to be fully attentive to an infant 24 hours a day. In fact, experts have determined that if you can meet your child’s needs just one-third of the time, this is enough to establish a healthy bond. Even the most devoted parent will be challenged by an infant that cries for prolonged periods. When this happens, you need to care for yourself as much as you do your child.
First and foremost, know that all babies will cry, and some more than others. If your baby cries excessively, find a support group of parents going through the same thing. If anyone offers help, take them up on their offer! Adjust your activity as this is a time to bond with and support your baby that you will never have again. Be sure to sleep every chance you get; this aligns with other people offering help. You need to get as much rest as possible to take the best care of your child. Eat as well as possible, limit fast food, and get in as much exercise as possible. Not only will this keep you in physical shape, but it is also a great way to get endorphins flowing.
Related: How to Deal With Your Child's Night Terrors
The 5 S’s
If your baby is crying for (seemingly) no reason, one of the most effective ways of calming it is the “5 S’s”. Created by pediatrician Harvey Karp, these techniques mimic being in utero and trigger a calming reflex. If your little one cannot stop crying, try
- Swaddling: wrap your baby in a blanket to create a sense of security
- Side/stomach position: hold your baby on their side or stomach to let them calm down, but always lay them on their back before they fall asleep
- Shushing: generate “white noise” that voids out other sounds. Think simple methods like hair driers, fans, or the dryer
- Swinging: create rhythmic motion such as a stroller, swing, or bouncer
- Sucking: never underestimate the power of a pacifier
When your baby finally stops crying, do they fall asleep in your arms? Find out how to get them to sleep in their crib.
You might be focused on taking care of your baby but understand that you must take care of yourself to take the best care of your child. You are not alone in dealing with a wailing baby; you just need to find the right support. Rest assured, help is out there, and these people have walked in your shoes. If you need help, never be afraid to ask for it. If you cannot do this for yourself, do it for your child.