How to settle a crying baby
Crying is a young baby's way of communicating with you. A baby usually cries for a reason to let you know that there is something that they need you to do for them, such as feeding them or changing their nappy.
After a while you will probably learn to recognise your baby's signs and work out what your child needs and why they might be crying - but until that time, the best thing to do is to work through a list of possible reasons why your baby is crying and attend to each reason as necessary.
Reasons for crying
Babies usually cry for the following reasons:
- dirty nappy
- over tiredness - does he/she just want to be put in their cot in a quiet place to sleep
- over stimulation - are you putting toys/books in front of her face to stop her crying, maybe she just wants to be held calmly with some gentle rocking
- tummy pain / wind - try cuddling her in an upright position and gentle rubbing or patting her back
- too hot / too cold
Hunger, dirty nappies and too hot or cold are the easiest symptoms to check for and solve. After that, over-tiredness or over-stimulation are major causes of tears in newborns. The signs of tiredness are often misinterpreted as boredom causing the carer to wave more toys in front of the frazzled youngster, over-stimulating and setting up a cycle of crying. Look out for the signs of tiredness, such as jerky movements, pulling ears, fussing, whimpering and rubbing eyes (when older). Once you see those signs, try putting baby to bed before they become over-tired.
The following are great comforting techniques for settling a crying baby. Try:
- rocking in a rocking chair
- holding baby over your arm, face down, and gently rubbing his/her back
- soft, rhythmic music
- putting baby in a baby sling and going for a walk (or walk around your house)
- whispering can divert baby's attention and stop him/her from crying
- soothing sounds, such as "rainmaker" toys
- pass your baby to a partner, or support person, if you need a rest - sometimes just doing this can calm a baby down
Handling a crying baby can be very trying on your nerves - it's meant to be, it's nature's way of ensuring that adults attend to the baby readily. However, if the crying has been going on for a while and you've checked for the causes - tried feeding, changed the nappy, baby is not too hot or too cold, tried the comforting techniques and you can feel your nerves fraying, hand your baby to your partner or other support person. If there's no-one else available, allow yourself to put baby down in a safe place, such as a cot, and give yourself a break for a quick minute or two.
Never shake your baby or handle them roughly.
Sometimes your baby cries for seemingly no reason at all. Often called colic, crying of this nature usually occurs between 3 weeks - 3 months of age and usually takes place in the late afternoon, evening or at night. Your baby may seem calm and healthy during the day, but at night he/she can become hard to comfort, cry for hours and appear to be in discomfort or have stomach pain.
Read more about colic in our Colic and Colic Relief Ideas article.
If your baby's crying is different to normal, is high-pitched and persistant or your baby is having trouble breathing or is feverish, do not hesitate to take them to your doctor or hospital.
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