Why Babies Cry – Calming Your Crying Baby
Calming a crying baby is one skill every parent wants to learn. Babies are little people. Little people that have needs. To get their needs met these little ones cry. Babies cry 7 days a week at any time of day! In the beginning it can feel as though your baby cries a lot. They cry for all the reasons we cry, but they do it more quickly and easily. Every parent wants to know how to stop a crying baby and especially a crying, fussy baby at night. This is a post dedicated to getting a baby to sleep. Here are some useful tips for you to soothe a fussy baby and understand why young babies cry:
Your Baby May Start to Cry When They Are:
- Bored (after about 3 months)
Babies Need Us to Meet their Physical and Emotional Needs
They have few to no other ways to regulate themselves. Babies can’t wait, can’t calm themselves down, and they can’t reason. Everything is based on their emotional state.
Because they have no sense of past or future, what is happening right now is their life. They live very much in the present moment. Babies are unable to moderate their feelings of abandonment with “well, she came back last time” or their digestive discomfort with “it’s just gas, it’s harmless and goes away within an hour.”
Everything that is right now is forever to a baby. The idea that it can change it outside their ability to concentrate on. Babies don’t have object permanence until about 10 months old. That means if they can’t sense your presence, you don’t exist anymore.
For this reason, babies use us to regulate themselves. They need us to be their emotional crutch as much as they need us to help them regulate their body temperature. The younger the child, the more she needs from us.
Babies Like Feeling Like They are Still in The Womb
When babies are very young, they feel most comfortable being in womb-like conditions. The womb is all they’ve ever known, and it means safety and comfort for them.
Babies three months old or younger benefit the most from re-creating the womb. Helping babies feel the sensations reminiscent of the womb helps them stay calm and happy.
What is it Like in the Womb?
- Limited light/stimuli
- Constant movement
- Tight space
- Constant nourishment
- Perfect temperature
- Body tactile sensations (skin, wet)
How Can I Recreate Womb-Like Sensations for My Baby?
Babies are taking in information and learning at a rapid rate, especially after the first month. These babies can become overwhelmed with all the things to look at that are all new. It can help a baby who is worked up to turn down the lights, step into the woods, or in other ways limit the number of things there are to pay attention to.
In utero, there is constant noise. Your baby has never experienced total silence. Baby hears your talking, other people talking and noise in the room, and the sounds you make as you move around. Even when you’re sleeping, there’s the sound of your heartbeat, your breathing, your digestion.
Babies will often calm down when there is white noise, which is how uterine sound is classified. This could be a fan, the ocean, a bunch of people talking at a party, the vacuum, the dishwasher. Some parents get white noise apps or white noise machines to help their baby sleep longer.
Even when you are sleeping, your baby in utero feels some movement. Your breathing and sleep movements, at least. For many babies, the absence of movement is terrifying.
You can create movement in any way. Just holding your baby does it sometimes. Wearing your baby in a carrier, a swing, the car, dancing with baby, and rocking are all ways people often comfort babies who need movement. Also try bouncing on the exercise ball with your baby.
For some babies, the wide open space is the most confusing and scary thing about extra-uterine life. All their lives, they’ve been held tight and able to find the end of the space. To be placed on their backs and have their limbs experience the great space can feel like falling through space.
Recreate the coziness of the womb by holding your baby. Wear him in a wrap, swaddle, or tuck him in a cozy seat.
Crying can be a sign of hunger. Babies in utero are never hungry. They are never overfull. Especially with a new baby, feed on demand. If the baby is comforted by nursing, let her nurse. Newborn stomachs are very small, so they empty fast. Feeding your baby often helps her stay satiated and feel comforted.
The maternal body is a Goldilocks–not too hot or too cold but just right. There are no drafts or fallen off socks or humidity problems.
You can feel a baby’s ears or toes with your lips to see if she feels hot or cold. To help your baby stay comfortable, dress them in one light layer more than we’d want in that situation.
Other Reasons Babies Cry
A baby who cries long and often may have colic. Doctors and parents alike have been baffled by colic forever. No one really knows what causes these babies to be so uncomfortable or upset. Sometimes colic comes with obvious digestive discomfort. Sometimes it’s just an angry baby for hours a day.
Colic is typified by crying lasting hours that isn’t easily alleviated. In the past there wasn’t much scientific evidence to support any treatments for a colicky baby. However, a comprehensive new study, reported in Pediatrics, is showing that a probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri (already sold as a treatment for colic) is an effective treatment for exclusively breastfed babies.
The study, based on a review of four separate, double-blind clinical trials involving 345 infants with colic, found that exclusively breastfed babies who received the probiotic vs. those taking the placebo were twice as likely to reduce their crying by 50% after 3 weeks.
The results for formula-fed babies aren’t as certain because only one of the four clinical trials included formula fed babies in the data. This isn’t to say that the probiotic wouldn’t work to reduce crying, but there isn’t enough evidence to support that recommendation. The full study can be found here.
If you have a colicky baby, it’s important to get some support and a break for yourself whenever you are able to.
A baby who is crying more than he usually does may feel ill. Use your parental intuition and follow your gut. Take the baby’s temperature and if you’re worried, call the doctor.
There are also some specific issues babies can have and things parents have found that can make a difference.
You Can Also Help a Baby Who Needs You by Resolving Their Specific Discomfort
- Attending to diaper rash
- Giving a massage
- Gently rubbing the belly for gas/poops
- Changing their position in your arms
- Changing the diaper Moving to a different space
- Changing bottle nipples or formulas
- Changing clothes
- Checking for hair wrapped around fingers, toes or genitals
- Rubbing gums or addressing teething pain
- Give a warm bath
- Hold your baby and let her cry with your sympathetic attention
A Baby’s Wants are the Same as His Needs
The baby’s job in infancy is to adapt to the new outside world. Your job is to figure out what he needs to do that, and work with him at his pace. You figure out what your baby needs to feel safe and comfortable and give him the best you can.
When trying to stop a baby from crying, especially one that cries often, is exhausting. Remember that you can’t spoil an infant by showing too much care for your baby. Meeting his needs is one of the best ways to calm your baby. Babies love attention.
The tricks to soothe a crying baby are priceless.
If you have some tips that you would like to share please share them below in the comments.
***If you become frustrated or angry by the crying ask for the help of a partner, loved one, friend, neighbor or postpartum doula.***
***If you feel like hurting yourself or your baby call your healthcare provider, doctor, or midwife immediately!***
***If your baby doesn’t ever sleep and cries continually or non-stop please consult a doctor.***
Disclaimer: Pregnancy by Design’s information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always ask your healthcare provider about any health concerns you may have.
Sung V., D’Amico F., Cabana M., Chau K., Koren G., Savino F., Szajewska H., Deshpande G., Dupont C., Indrio F., Mentula S., Partty A., & Tancredi D. Lactobacillus reuteri to Treat Infant Colic: A Meta-analysis.
Free Video Guide on Creating Your Birth Plan! The Complete Guide to Writing Your Birth Plan is a step by step walk-through of the most important aspects of creating an effective birth plan. The guide covers everything you need to know from interviewing a provider, comfort measures and additional 1-page birth plan to talk over with your provider. Get free access today!