Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
Your baby communicates in all kinds of ways: smiles, giggles, hand flailing. And then there's crying. Since they can't talk yet, crying is a go-to mode of communication and can mean any number of things: your baby's hungry, tired, scared, or even gassy.
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- How Much Crying is Normal?
- Common Reasons Your Baby May Cry
- How to Soothe or Calm Your Crying Baby
- How To Cope with a Crying Baby
- What is considered excessive crying?
Rest assured you will learn to interpret your baby's various cries in no time - and when you do, you'll be able to soothe them.
Here will discuss techniques for calming a crying baby and answer questions like "Why is my baby crying?" “How do I help my baby stop crying?” and “How do I cope with my baby’s crying?”
If your baby is crying at bedtime or waking during the night upset, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. This game-changing app offers expert curated advice and science-proven guidance on how to help your baby learn to love sleep - a very important skill that can greatly improve their mood - and yours!
How Much Crying is Normal?
Newborns can cry for one to four hours every day. And sometimes more. This may sound like a lot but remember that crying is used to communicate lots of different needs or wants: hunger, dirty diaper, exhaustion.
In no time you'll learn the difference sooner than you think. For example, your baby's "I'm hungry" cry may be a bit more high-pitched than the "the dog got too close" cry.
Common Reasons Your Baby May Cry:
They’re hungry: Just like adults, your baby can get cranky when hungry - and since they eat a lot, that can happen pretty often. You'll likely learn to distinguish the "I'm hungry" cry pretty early on, but some other signs include your baby smacking their lips or moving their hands to their mouths.
They are wet or dirty: Dirty diapers are another common and uncomfortable cry-worthy occurrence, especially for newborns. As with "I'm hungry," you'll likely learn the "new diaper" cry, as well as the rhythm with which your baby "goes." But here too are some ways to check if a diaper needs replacing:
Check its wetness indicator: Pampers diapers have a line that changes to blue when the diaper inside is wet.
- Sniff test: An old school favorite because it works.
- Touch test: If the inside is wet, it’s time for a change.
- Sag test: Is the diaper sagging or heavy? Time for a change!
They're Tired: Parents will relate to this one - sometimes your baby's so tired they just have to cry. This is often referred to as overtired, following a developmentally appropriate schedule in tune with their biological sleep rhythms can help here. Download, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ and get a personalized sleep plan and schedule that updates automatically with each sleep tracked! Plus it notifies you when it is time for a nap or bedtime, so you can always stay one step ahead of their sleep.
They’re Too Hot or Too Cold: A good rule of thumb during the day is to dress your baby in the same number of layers you're wearing, and +1 at night.
They Have Reflux: It's common for babies to spit up and vomit occasionally, but if it happens very often, they may have GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. Call your doctor if these things happen:
Frequent spitting up or vomiting. This is more than the usual spit-up. This is consistent and regular spitting up or, more likely, vomiting.
Fussiness after feedings. Usually babies are tranquil after meals; if your baby's not, this may indicate a problem.
Losing weight or not gaining weight. Babies gain on average 5-7 ounces a week.If your baby's deviating from this too much, check with your pediatrician.
Tip: Wait at least two or two-and-a-half hours between feedings to prevent overfeeding.
Food allergy? If your baby cries or is sick after eating, they may have a food allergy. If you suspect a food allergy, consult your pediatrician. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, you may want to consider changing your diet to reduce caffeine, spicy foods, or dairy products - all of which can be common irritants for babies. But, again, consult your pediatrician on this front.
Teething: Teething typically begins around the 3- or 4-month mark. If your baby's this age and suddenly fussy or crying, that may be the cause. Giving your little one a gum massage or teething ring can help.
Fever: "Fever" is defined as a rectal temperature of 100.4. This can be cause for concern, and you should call your pediatrician if you observe the following:
Your baby's 2 months or younger and has a temperature of at least 100.4° F
Your baby is 3-6 months, and their fever is 101° F or higher.
Your baby is older than 6 months and has a 103° F fever or higher.
Tip: Remember that it's always okay to call your pediatrician if you're concerned. They are there to help and won't be bothered. And, trust us, they've been asked all kinds of questions.
Overexcitement: The world is new to your baby, so it's entirely possible they're crying because of too much excitement. For example, house guests or a vacation could overstimulate your baby. If you suspect this is the cause, simply take them to a quiet room until they calm down.
Boredom: See? We told you crying is adaptable. Just like crying can indicate overstimulation, it can also indicate boredom. If you suspect your baby's crying from boredom, consider singing them a song or taking them for a stroll.
Stress: A bit like being overexcited, a baby may experience stress that causes them to cry. This is completely normal - crying is their way of “shutting out” the world and managing their emotions. If this happens they may be inconsolable for a little while but will likely be calmer - and may even fall into a nap - once they’ve worked it all out.
Colic: Last and definitely least desirable cause for crying is colic - the term for inconsolable long-term crying. It can start around the 4-week mark and last until the 3 or 4 month mark. It's distinguishable from other crying because:
- Colic goes on for longer
- Your baby may turn red in the face from crying so much,
- Colicky babies often draw their legs into themselves.
How to Soothe or Calm Your Crying Baby:
We encourage you to check on and engage your baby if they’re crying during the day, and sometimes at night. While solving the problem may be as easy as changing their diaper, here are 14 ways to soothe your baby when they're crying:
1. Swaddle: Wrapping your crying baby comfortably in a lightweight cotton blanket can work wonders at soothing them. That said, you should only swaddle until they're about 2 months old.
2. Make it Dark: Sometimes bringing your baby into a darkened room - like their room with the blackout curtains closed - can help calm a crying baby. This is especially true if they're crying from overstimulation, like house guests. (Also, this can be good for you, too!) Creating an ideal sleep space is a core fundamental of better sleep, take our free sleep assessment if your baby is struggling with sleep right now.
3. A Warm Bath: Warm water can help calm and relax a crying baby.
4. Burp Them: If your baby's crying after a meal, they may have a bit of gas. To help them, and reduce the crying, burp them.
How to Safely Burp Your Baby:
Here are three methods to burp your baby….
- Over the Shoulder: Put a burp cloth over your shoulder to prevent messes. Hold your baby to your chest with their head on your shoulder. Place one hand under them to support their body. With the other hand, gently pat your baby's back with your palm.
- Sitting On Your Lap: Place your baby on your lap sitting upright. Support your baby's chest and head with one hand while gently patting their back with the other.
- Laying On Your Lap: Lay your baby tummy down over your lap. Support your baby's head so that it's slightly higher than their chest and gently pat their back.
5. Loving touches: If your baby's crying, sometimes holding them, stroking their head or patting their cheek is all it takes to calm them down.
6. Sing or Talk Softly: You're likely doing this already, but it bears saying that just the sound of your voice talking sweetly or singing can help a crying baby relax.
7. Take a Walk: A stroll around the block or neighborhood can distract or pacify a crying baby. Plus, the fresh air is good for you both.
8 . Wear Your Baby: As with the deep breathing and holding techniques, this longer-term contact provides motion and closeness that make your baby feel safe and secure - two antidotes to crying.
9. Gently Rock Your Baby: Whether manually in your arms or with a rocking chair, the rocking motion can remind your baby of the warm, welcoming womb, which helps calm them. If that doesn't work, try a swing or a glider for a similar effect
10 . Go for a Car Ride: A tried and true method for calming a crying baby is a drive in the car. The rhythmic motion can help lull an upset baby.
11. Deep Breathing: No, your baby can't do deep breathing yet, but you can - simply hold your baby close to your chest, either with clothes or skin-to-skin, and take some deep, calming breaths. The rhythm and your calmness can help soothe a crying baby.
12. Calming Sounds: Sound machines, white noise, or even just a regular fan can help relax a crying baby - especially when listened to in a dark, calm room.
13. Calming Music: If you're over the sound machine or want to try something new, calm music, such as classical, soft folk or slow R&B can help bring a baby from meltdown to mellow. No matter what genre, just keep it low tempo and low volume.
14. Pacify Them: Not all babies like pacifiers, but if yours does, see if a pacifier will - well, pacify them.
Learn more science-driven tips and expert curated techniques to soothe your baby by downloading the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It is jam packed with everything you need to help establish healthy sleep habits for your baby, which in turn helps the whole family rest easier.
How To Cope with a Crying Baby:
Hearing your baby cry can be upsetting, and that's especially true if you can't get them to settle. This is completely normal. And, yes, sometimes you won't be able to calm your baby. That too is normal. So, what do you do if your baby's crying?
Here are 5 tips for coping with a crying baby:
1. Take deep breaths and count to 10: This works in other stressful situations, too.
2. Listen to calming music: Just like calming music can help soothe your baby, it can help soothe you, too.
3. Call a friend. Good friends are always there for you to vent, and there's no shame in doing so. BUT, if you don't even want to talk about it, you can always call just to chat and have some "me time." Your friends will probably be thrilled to hear from you - and you them!
4. Do some chores: This may not be as fun as calling a friend to gab, but chores go a long way in calming one's nerves. Just think of the phrase "busy hands, quiet mind." And, who knows, maybe the vacuum sound will calm your baby.
5. Take "Me Time": If your baby's crying and you can't calm them, or yourself, it's completely acceptable to put them safely in their crib, close the door, and take 10 minutes for yourself. It's better to do this than keep getting frustrated, which your baby can sense, and which can cause them to cry even more.
The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ also includes mindfulness techniques and emotional support to help you grow and thrive through parenthood’s ups and downs.
What is considered excessive crying?
If your baby is crying for more than four hours or their crying gets progressively worse, shriller, or more urgent over the course of a few hours, it may be colic or a medical condition. If you suspect something is wrong, always reach out to your baby’s pediatrician. Your peace of mind is important and they are there to help.
Finally, we must mention that you should never shake a baby to “snap them out of it” or from frustration. This can cause irreversible damage or death. If you’re struggling to copy with your baby’s crying seek professional help.