Ways that tiny babies can communicate are limited. Crying is one of them. Crying is how your baby makes their needs known and their displeasure felt. Most parents quickly learn to identify whether their baby is crying from hunger, restlessness, pain, anger, or some other reason. Many babies go through unexplainable fussy periods each day as they adjust to living in the world. If your baby is crying, run through the following list:
- Is the child hungry? If the child’s last feed was not a good one or the child appears to be hungry, consider that they may need some more calories.
- Is the child wet or dirty? Some babies are very sensitive to having a dirty diaper.
- Is the child too cold or hot? House temperatures of 70-78 degrees usually do not upset a baby unless they are over-wrapped.
- Is the child in pain? Is your baby spitting up and then crying or is the crying associated with feeds? Have you recently added a new food or been giving formula more lately instead of breast milk? If you are breastfeeding, have you recently changed your diet? Check to make sure that something like a clothing tag is not aggravating your baby. Check their little fingers and toes for hairs wrapped around them. Look over the body to see if something else is bothering the child.
- Is the child getting sick? Does the child have any symptoms of illness? Check the child’s temperature with a thermometer to make sure the child is not getting a fever.
If these questions do not explain your child’s crying they may simply have “colic.” Colic is just a fussy time in the evenings (usually around 5:00 – 10:00 pm) beginning about two weeks, peaking at six weeks, and resolving by eight to twelve weeks. No one knows exactly what causes colic, but many doctors feel it is the baby’s way of “unwinding” after taking in all the stimuli of the day. As long as the checklist above has been met, reassure yourself during this time. It’s okay to let your baby cry during this time, although this is easier said than done. Try soothing or distracting your baby. There are a number of things you can do to comfort your baby:
- Give the baby something to suck on, such as a pacifier.
- Give the baby more physical contact and movement. Walk or pat you baby.
- Take the baby for a stroller ride or car ride.
- “Bundle” or “swaddle” the baby (wrap your baby snugly in a blanket; do not permit overheating).
- Change the baby’s position. For example, move the baby from their back to their side or vice versa.
- Sing to your baby. (No one else is listening. If your baby cries more, then you should stop and not join the choir!)
If all else fails and you are convinced that nothing physically is wrong, you can let your baby cry. Your baby may just need to let off some steam. Crying does not harm a baby. Often babies fall asleep after a good cry – so allow the child up to thirty minutes or more on their own. Most babies will stop crying in less than fifteen minutes. If your baby cries for more than two hours without being soothed or distracted, or if you just think something serious might be wrong, call us for help.