Whether you have children of your own or not, being around a crying baby is no fun. Babies cry, that’s a fact— and that’s because crying is the only way babies can communicate at first. While crying in babies is totally normal, and generally not a cause for concern, an inconsolable baby can cause the people around them anxiety and stress, and could be a sign of something more serious.
In this guide we’ll teach you everything you need to keep in mind when communicating with your baby. You’ll also learn the best techniques for soothing your baby and understanding when their crying is cause for concern.
Why Do Babies Cry?
Crying is a baby's first form of verbal communication. It's how they express discomfort or needs, such as hunger or pain. Crying can also be a way of relieving tension.
In general, a newborn may cry in response to a negative stimulus. However, determining the exact cause of crying can sometimes be difficult. Figuring this out helps you get to know your baby and understand how you can either make them more comfortable. Here are some of the most common reasons that babies cry.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants eat every two to three hours. Between the ages of two and four months, this time may be spread three to four hours apart. By six months, the time between feedings will be four to five hours. As your baby gets older, the amount they consume per feeding will increase gradually.
Keep in mind: A baby cries mainly when hungry. This might mean that too much time is passing between feedings. Try to pay attention to pre-crying signals that indicate if they’re ready to eat. Among them, the most important are:
Bringing their hands to their mouth
Sticking out their tongue
Putting anything in their mouth and sucking
Opening their mouth wide
Constantly moving their jaw and head in search of the breast
Licking their lips
Some babies cry because they are too full, as this causes stomach discomfort. You might find it hard to identify hunger cries at first, but with patience and observation, you’ll pick it up easily.
Wet or soiled diapers
Can you imagine having to wait to be changed after going to the bathroom? It would be pretty unpleasant. No wonder babies cry so much! In this case, crying is often a way of letting you know that they’re uncomfortable and need to be changed.
It’s normal for a baby to feel frightened or anxious about a stranger. Babies begin to recognize faces between eight and nine months of age, so if they meet a new person, they may become frightened and start to cry. In these cases, the best thing to do is to hold and cuddle them so that they feel safe.
A newborn baby can sleep 16 hours a day or more, so it’s totally normal for them to be tired most of the day.
A tired baby will usually fall asleep on its own. Sometimes, though, it takes a little work. In order to sleep, the baby has to be comfortable. If they’re unable to fall asleep for whatever reason, they might grow irritable and fussy, which can trigger a crying spell.
When it’s too cold or too hot, your baby will be uncomfortable and may ask for help through crying. Remember to keep your baby in cool clothing if the weather’s hot. Similarly, in chilly situations, dress your baby with warm clothes and layers to keep them protected from the elements.
Although it’s totally normal for babies to cry, the spell shouldn’t last long if you’ve attended to the root cause (hunger, drowsiness). If you’ve exhausted all possible options and your baby is still crying, we recommend you consult your pediatrician.
To more accurately identify if your baby is sick, pay attention to how long your baby has been crying and consider other symptoms, such as:
Fever of 102 °F (38.9 °C) or higher in infants
Lack of appetite
Purple spots on the skin
Pale or flushed skin
Swelling of the soft area on top of their head
Keep in mind: Any of these symptoms produce characteristic cries that parents will recognize as abnormal and therefore cause for concern. Remember that crying is a language. If your baby never cries, you should also share this information with your pediatrician as well.
9 Techniques to Soothe a Crying Baby
There are certain strategies you can use to quiet a newborn. Before you lose your cool, try the following:
1. Confirm they aren’t hungry, tired, scared, or need changing
As we mentioned before, your baby may be tired, hungry, afraid, uncomfortable because of a dirty diaper. They might also be sick. The first thing to do is always to determine that none of these causes are the reason for their tears.
2. Gently pat their back
Hold your baby and place them on your chest. Caressing or patting their back softly can be comforting and calm their crying. Gently stroking their head also brings comfort to crying babies.
3. Play music
Babies love certain soothing sounds, such as soft classical music or other quiet tones. You can also turn on an appliance such as a washing machine, since its rhythmic sounds are often calming. Children's toys that play uninterrupted melodies are also a great option.
4. Take them for a walk
A baby's curiosity is extremely active as it grows and develops. If you’re dealing with a crying baby, try taking them for a walk. This can be indoors, but you can also try heading outside in the stroller or carrier. A car ride is another extremely effective option since the movement and vibration of the car help lull babies to sleep.
5. Rock them back and forth
Sometimes you just need to rock your baby slowly to soothe them. You can sit in a rocking chair, sway them gently in your arms, or even just walk around the house making rhythmic noises, singing, or simply talking to distract them from their discomfort.
6. Give them a pacifier
If your baby is already using a pacifier, then you can try to see if that calms them down. If they’re not yet using a pacifier, try offering the breast.
7. Swaddle them
If your baby is still too young to turn over on their own, try wrapping them in a soft blanket. If possible, leave one arm free so they can bring their hand to their mouth and suck. Be careful not to wrap too tightly to avoid overheating or further discomfort.
8. Bathe them
Many babies love bath time. This moment of relaxation and bonding can help soothe their crying. Keep in mind that the water should be the proper temperature, and follow safety tips for babies in bathtubs.
9. Burp them
After feeding your baby, it’s important to burp them in order to relieve the gas that accumulates during feeding. This can be uncomfortable, to the point of causing hiccups or even pain.
Why Do Some Babies Cry More than Others?
As you now know, babies cry for specific reasons. This could be because they’re experiencing pain, illness, or discomfort, such as colic. However, some newborns are more sensitive than others or simply require more attention. These are known as high needs babies, and their parents must tend to them even more quickly.
High need babies tend to sleep little during the day and eat anxiously, resulting in a desire for more stimulation from their parents. The best thing to do in this situation is to get to know your baby and accept their personality rather than fight against it. We recommend consulting your pediatrician to evaluate whether your infant is high need or if there is another explanation for their behavior.
The connection between colic and crying
Infant colic is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes pain in infants. Although the exact reason has not been determined, there are some theories, such as the passage of air into the stomach. Bottle-fed infants are more prone to developing colic than breast-fed babies, especially if the bottle’s nipple isn’t specifically anti-colic. Other possible causes of colic include:
Intolerance of certain milk proteins
Hypersensitivity to certain stimuli
Keep in mind: This condition may begin during the three weeks after birth, may worsen between four and six weeks, and usually improves by the 12th week. A baby who cries for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, and for at least three weeks in a row is likely to have colic. Avoid excessive air intake by using anti-colic pacifiers for bottles or incorporating correct breastfeeding techniques.
What to Do If My Baby Won’t Stop Crying?
First, try not to stress too much. Your peace of mind is important! We know the situation can cause desperation, but getting upset will only make it worse. If you feel you need help, call a trusted friend or family member to assist and support you.
If you've exhausted all possibilities and still your baby won't stop crying, see a specialist immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if a crying baby is in pain?
If your baby’s cries are very high-pitched or seem to express extreme desperation, they may be in pain. Knowing exactly if something hurts can be difficult to determine unless the pain is in a location where the infant cries when handled. However, by observing the intensity of their cries, you may be able to understand what is wrong.
Up to what age do babies cry?
After month three, a baby's crying tends to diminish. After that, it will depend on their development and ability to express their needs and discomfort in other ways. As they gain skills and mature, babies begin to cry less frequently.
No More Tears!
Much more than just a superficial annoyance, crying is a way for babies to communicate their different needs to their parents. With the information provided in this guide, you now have the tools to better distinguish the situations that can trigger crying spells in your baby. By understanding your child in a deeper way, you contribute to their healthy growth and development.
Remember that when it comes to taking care of your family, SABEResPODER!