Coping with a crying baby

21277 Dr Fysh - Nov 30, 2015

Babies cry. Many babies cry a lot. That is unlikely to be news to any new parent. A crying baby can feel overwhelming for those looking after it but understanding what might be causing the crying can go a long way to helping meet the needs of your little one.

First of all remember that if you feel overwhelmed and ready to snap it is absolutely OK to leave your baby in a safe place for a few moments while you step away and calm down. Every parent has times when they feel they can’t cope any more.

The NHS says:

“If you don't have anyone who can take care of your baby for a short time and the crying is making you stressed, put your baby in their cot or pram, make sure they’re safe, close the door, go into another room and try to calm yourself down. Set a time limit (for example, 10 minutes), then go back.”

Try and be kind to yourself and your baby. No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Shaking moves the baby’s head violently, and can cause bleeding and brain damage.


Causes of crying

Given that crying is your baby’s only way of communicating at this age they will use it a lot.

It may sound daunting but over the coming weeks and months you will learn what upsets your baby and what triggers to watch out for.

The obvious reasons babies cry are hunger or a wet nappy. Both of those problems are reasonably easy to address. Another big trigger is tiredness.

You should also consider whether your baby has trapped wind or is too hot or too cold. Babies can also cry when they are bored or overstimulated.


Calming a crying baby

As ever, all babies are different so what works for some may not work for others.

If you are breastfeeding trying offering your breast, or if you’re bottle feeding then try offering a bottle or a dummy.

Try keeping the baby close to you and sway gently from side to side.

Go for a walk with the pram or drive in the car. Many babies find motion very soothing and it can often help to get them to sleep.

Play some soothing music.

Try giving your baby a warm bath.


Is it a sign of illness?

If your baby is crying constantly, it could be a sign of illness.

The NHS says you should seek urgent medical attention if your baby:

  • has a weak, high-pitched continuous cry
  • seems floppy when you pick them up
  • takes less than a third of their usual amount of fluids
  • passes much less urine than usual
  • vomits green fluid
  • passes blood in their stools
  • has a fever of 38C or above (if they're less than three months old) or 39C or above (if they're between three and six months)
  • has a high temperature, but their hands and feet feel cold
  • has a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby's head)
  • has had a fit
  • turns blue, mottled or very pale
  • has a stiff neck
  • has difficulty breathing, breathes fast or grunts while breathing, or seems to be working hard to breathe (for example, sucking in under the ribcage)
  • has a spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body (this could be sign of meningitis)

When you’re dealing with a screaming baby it is hard to think about anything else. But if you can, remind yourself of that old saying, ‘this too shall pass’. As difficult as these times can be they will soon end and you will be on to the next phase of your child’s life.

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About Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh is one of the country’s leading consultant paediatricians, currently a consultant at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians. Having experienced first-hand the suffering caused by serious medical conditions to babies and young children and the emotional and financial strain that this can place on parents on a daily basis. He joined the board of directors as Chief Medical Officer and has been instrumental in the building of the NurtureFirst product. 

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