Each baby arrives into your family with their own little personality, wants, and needs. Until a baby can talk, they express their needs through crying. Here are some things you can do to help your crying baby.
First, realize that crying is normal, especially in the first few months of life. As your baby grows and gets into more of a routine, it will become easier to identify the cry and meet his needs.
Check for and if possible correct any reasons why your baby may be crying:
(from WHO Combined Course on Growth Assessment and IYCF Counseling):
- Discomfort: Does your baby have a wet or soiled diaper? Is your baby too hot or too cold?
- Tiredness: Has your baby had too many visitors? Is your child sleepy? (Following a sleep, wake, feed, and play rhythm can make it easier to know if your child is ready for a much needed nap.)
- Hunger: Has it been a few hours since your baby has eaten? Did your breastfed baby stay on the breast long enough to get a full feed? Babies go through growth spurts at about 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months and may need to feed more frequently during these times. It’s particularly important for breastfed babies to feed more often during these stages to naturally increase Mom’s breast milk supply.
- Illness or pain: A hurt baby’s cry sounds more intense and is often louder than the usual fussy cry. When this happens look for the source of your baby’s pain. Does your baby have a fever? Is your baby pulling at his ears? Does your baby have a cough or diarrhea? Does your baby have an insect bite or rash? Is your baby pulling at his ears? Is your baby teething? (Signs of teething include drooling, putting things in the mouth, and sometimes inflamed gums. The pain usually starts before the new teeth are visible.) It may be helpful to take off all of your baby’s clothes and look him over well. Look closely at the toes and fingers as a hair could have gotten wrapped around them. Don’t hesitate to take your crying baby to the clinic for a full check up.
- Exposure to drugs or other foods: Is Mom taking drugs, alcohol, tobacco or caffeine that baby is exposed to through breastmilk? Some moms may notice that their breastfed babies are more fussy when she eats certain foods. If so, try eliminating these foods and see if that makes a difference.
- High needs babies: Some babies just need more attention than others. These babies may fuss unless they are being held or entertained. In Africa, these high needs babies love being held on the back in the traditional way where they feel safe against Mom’s back and are soothed by the sound of Mom’s heartbeat. You can enlist older brothers and sisters to sing and play with your baby.
- Colic: When a baby cries for more than three hours in a day more than three days a week, they may have colic. These babies tend to cry at the same time each day and are not soothed. Colic usually starts at 2 to 5 weeks of age. The good news is that colic goes away by 3 to 4 months. These babies are healthy babies that are also feeding well and gaining weight.
Try swaddling your baby or putting your baby on your back in the traditional way.
Try holding your baby facing down stretched across your arm with the face over your elbow and your hand on his belly. Some babies with colic like this hold. (pictured above)
Try asking grandpa to hold your baby. Babies respond to the emotions of those that hold them. There’s something about quiet old men that has a calming effect on fussy babies.
Take a break.
It can be stressful and overwhelming when babies cry, especially as new parents are getting to know their baby. A baby has never died from crying, but tragically babies have been killed when frustrated parents took their anger out on their baby. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed then lay your baby down in a safe crib or on a mat on the ground and walk away. Take a shower. Take a quick jog around the house. Have a good cry yourself. Call someone to come help you out. NEVER shake or hit your crying baby. When you are calm and feeling more in control of your emotions, then cuddle your little one.