advice

how to stop your baby crying at night

Sadly babies aren't born fully equipped for dinner party conversation (or maybe not sadly, that would be weird). This means crying is their only way to let you know what's going on. Luckily, you'll soon learn which cries mean they're tired, hungry or need a nappy change. Here's how to work out each wail, so you know exactly what's up and both of you can get a good night's sleep.

the hungry cry

Trying to sleep when you're hungry is the worst. So as you'd expect, cries for food can be desperate and unrelenting. Some babies rev up gradually, others howl as if they've never been fed before. Most small babies get hungry every couple of hours, so a good way to avoid the noise is by being ready for the next feed. If they're rooting around or wiggling about, they're probably on the hunt for some milk.

the tired cry

This weak, whining cry is usually easily soothed. Strangely enough, although your baby may have their eyes shut, they could actually be restless. Watch for the cues, like rubbing their eyes and ears. To best avoid this one, try and put your baby down to sleep before they become overtired. After six months, your baby's sleep patterns should become more predictable and routine sleep times will reduce the tears.

the overstimulated or bored cry

This cry is usually not as loud as other cries. Your baby may turn their head away from you or a toy, or may angrily bat away an object. An overstimulated baby can appear to be shrieking, while a bored baby’s cry can weirdly resemble laughter.

the uncomfortable cry

This may be a more forced and whiny cry with a pattern of short repetitions. Your baby may reach out with their hands or scrunch up their face. Start by checking all the obvious things – make sure they’re comfortable and cosy, not too hot or cold and change their nappy.

the painful cry

This can be a piercing, grating cry – watch to see if your baby arches their back, grunts, or brings their knees up to their chest. Painful wind or colic can make it seem like your baby is constantly crying. If it happens for several hours at the same time each day, especially during the evening, talk with your health visitor. Similarly, if baby has a high-pitched or long-lasting cry or appears sick, give your GP a ring.

other ways to stop your baby crying at night

When the wailing starts try one - or all! - of the following:

  • feeding your baby or giving them a sterilised dummy
  • cuddling and holding your baby against your chest
  • rocking from side to side in a rocking chair or crib
  • singing songs or playing relaxing music
  • passing them to someone else for a while
  • listening to white noise, the vacuum or washing machine
  • swaddling baby
  • moving rooms for a change of scenery
  • giving them a bath
  • gently massaging your baby and stroking their tummy in a clockwise direction

If your baby is constantly crying during the day, you can try going for a ride in the car, or taking them for a walk in the pushchair or sling.

if your baby won't stop crying at night

Constant baby crying really can be testing. You may need some breathing space, so ask family or friends to babysit for a bit if they can. You can also speak with your health visitor or GP or give support group Cry-sis a ring. The helpline 08451 228 669 is open seven days a week between 9am and 10pm, or visit www.cry-sis.org.uk.