Babies cry, and some babies cry a lot! Babies cry softly, and they wail red-faced at full volume!
So why is your baby crying? Babies rely on you to provide them with food, warmth, and comfort. Crying is their way of communicating with you and even healthy newborns will cry for a few hours every day. It’s just what they do!
Sometimes it’s easy to work out what they want (and sometimes it isn’t!). I’m sure every parent has wished their crying baby could speak - just for a moment to tell them what’s wrong, or what they want. A crying baby can be stressful, upsetting and incredibly tiring for the whole family!
When you’ve checked your baby isn’t hungry, doesn’t need changing, that they’re not too hot or cold, are not unwell and they’re still crying, what should you try next? Here are a few ideas that may stop those tiny tears...
Swaddling your baby can make them feel calm and secure, just like they did in the womb. Some babies prefer their arms to be left out and some don’t like being swaddled at all! If you decide to try, make sure you swaddle safely.
something to suck
Sucking can help calm your baby, help steady their heart rate and relax their tummy. Offer a clean finger, their little hand or a sterilised soother.
Some babies like to be held and gently rocked. Try putting them on your left shoulder so they can hear your heart beating or pop them in a carrier or sling (particularly handy when you’ve got older children who need your hands!). Some babies like the gentle movement of a rocking chair or the sway of a baby swing, while others are comforted by faster jiggling motions and drop off almost as soon as you set off in the car.
“For the daily 6-8pm cry-fest in the first weeks, going for a drive was the only thing that worked for us.” Freya – Mum of Ottilie, 5months.
Now, the sound of a vacuum cleaner definitely doesn’t soothe me! But some babies are calmed by white noise or rhythmic sounds which perhaps remind them of being in the womb. If you don’t have a hoover or hairdryer to hand, there are sleep aids which play white noise and babycare apps, or simply try making rhythmic shhh sounds.
sing a song
Your baby won’t care if your singing is way off key if you don’t know the words or even if you’re singing the Ghostbusters theme! They will be comforted and soothed by the sound of your voice. So, settle down and sing your favourite tune. And if your baby likes being rocked or jiggled, practice some of your best dance moves too!
“At around 6 weeks Millie began having bouts of prolonged crying – the only thing that calmed her was the Coronation Street theme tune. We recorded it and it still works now!” Clare, Mum of Millicent 2 ½ years.
splash and soothe
If your baby loves a laid-back bathtime, fill up the tub with warm water or perhaps stand under a gently running shower with baby in your arms. Continue the calming afterward with a relaxing massage. No oil or lotions are needed, just a gentle touch (but firm enough that it’s not ticklish!)
side and stomach laying
Hold your baby so they’re lying on their side or stomach. Try laying them on your forearm or lay them across your lap, cradling their head in your hand and use your other hand to gently rub their back. Remember, this is for soothing only not sleeping. Always put your baby on their back to sleep and follow sleep safety advice.
“Josh was a colicky baby who seemed to cry non-stop from about 6 weeks old until he was 3 months! We spent hours pacing the floor with him laying with his tummy across our arms.” Tony – Dad of Joshua, 21 months.
Sometimes all baby needs is a breath of fresh air! So, whether you pull on the baby carrier, pop them in the pushchair or simply step into the garden, take a breath and enjoy a change of scenery for a while even if it doesn’t stop the crying.
While some babies are comforted by movement and noise, others need the exact opposite! If your little one can’t be calmed, maybe there’s too much stimulation. Try taking everything down a bit. Turn off music, turn down the lights, put your baby in their crib or cot and just sit quietly with your baby.
Sometimes you might not be able to work out why your baby is crying and whether it’s for a few minutes or hours at a time, it can be really stressful!.
You might feel responsible - that it’s something you’re doing, or not doing that’s causing the tears, or emotional that your baby seems so unhappy to be with you.
Remember to give yourself a break and remind yourself that you have met all your baby’s needs and they will grow out of this crying phase. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, when your list of techniques to calm your baby as well as you are exhausted, call a friend, speak to your midwife or GP or contact Cry-sis which is a charity which offers help and support to parents with babies who cry excessively or have sleeping problems.
*You know your baby best and If you think there's something wrong, always follow your instincts. Always see your GP if your baby has difficulty in breathing as they cry, if they have a weak, high-pitched or continuous cry.