Crying baby: What to do when your newborn criesNewborn crying jags are inevitable, but a crying baby can test your patience all the same. Here's help soothing a crying baby — and renewing your ability to handle the tears.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
The dream: Your baby sleeps through the night after just a few weeks, gurgles happily while you run errands and fusses only when hunger strikes.
The reality: Your baby's favorite playtime is after the 2 a.m. feeding. Crankiness peaks when you're out and about. You had no idea a crying baby could keep the tears flowing for so long.
Sound familiar? On any given day, a newborn might cry for up to two hours — or even longer. Find out why babies cry, and what to do about it.
Decoding the tears
A crying baby is trying to tell you something. Your job is to figure out why your baby is crying and what — if anything — you can do about it.
Consider what your crying baby could be thinking.
Most newborns eat every few hours round-the-clock. Some babies become frantic when hunger strikes. They might get so worked up by the time the feeding begins that they gulp air with the milk, which can cause spitting up, trapped gas and more crying.
To avoid such frenzy, respond to early signs of hunger. If your baby begins to gulp during the feeding, take a break. Also take time to burp your baby during and after each feeding.
If you're breast-feeding your baby, the flavor of the milk might change in response to what you eat and drink. If you suspect that a certain food or drink is making your baby fussier than usual, avoid it for several days to see if it makes a difference.
I want to suck on something
Sucking is a natural reflex. For many babies, it's a comforting, soothing activity. If your baby isn't hungry, try a clean finger or pacifier.
Tired babies are often fussy — and your baby might need more sleep than you think. Newborns often sleep up to 16 hours a day. Some newborns sleep even more.
For some babies, a wet or soiled diaper is a surefire way to trigger tears. Check your baby's diaper often to make sure it's clean and dry.
I want to move
Sometimes a rocking session or walk through the house is enough to soothe a crying baby. In other cases, a change of position is all that's needed. Keeping safety precautions in mind, try a baby swing or vibrating infant seat.
Weather permitting, head outdoors with the stroller. You might even want to buckle up for a ride in the car.
I'd rather be bundled
Some babies feel most secure in a swaddle wrap. Snugly wrap your baby in a receiving blanket or other small, lightweight blanket.
A baby who's too hot is likely to be uncomfortable. The same goes for a baby who's too cold. Add or remove a layer of clothing as needed.
Sometimes simply seeing you, hearing your voice or being cuddled can stop the tears. Gentle massage or light pats on the back might soothe a crying baby, too.
I've had enough
Too much noise, movement or visual stimulation might drive your baby to tears. Move to a calmer environment or place your baby in the crib. White noise — such as a recording of ocean waves or the monotonous sound of an electric fan or vacuum cleaner — might help your crying baby relax.
Remember that many babies have predictable periods of fussiness during the day. This kind of crying can help your baby get rid of excess energy. There might be little you can do but comfort your baby as the crying runs its course.
Over time you might be able to identify your baby's needs by the way he or she is crying. For example, a hungry cry might be short and low-pitched, while a cry of pain might be a sudden, long, high-pitched shriek. Picking up on any patterns can help you better respond to your baby's cries.
Crying it out
If you've tried everything and your baby is still upset, consider letting your baby cry it out. Crying won't hurt your baby — and sometimes the only way to stop a crying spell is to let it run its course.
Of course, listening to your baby wail can be agonizing. If you need to distract yourself for a few minutes, you might take a shower, call a friend or make something to eat.
Oct. 16, 2012
See more In-depth
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