Why Your Baby is Crying A Lot: A Helpful Guide
Crying is normal. So normal it's even natural.
When infants are born their sole form of communication is through crying. This occurs not just with humans but across species, as there's an evolutionary primal impulse to react and respond to a crying infant. The crying is such a necessity it helps ensure the baby’s survival. Crying as a form of communication can clue in parents that something might be wrong and conditions them to make the crying stop by trying to meet their crying offspring’s needs. Unfortunately, since the crying can mean many things, it’s usually a process of elimination until you find out what was bothering your little one. This can be various things like hunger, dirty uncomfortable diapers or itchy clothes tags!
Newborn babies, on average, can cry around 2 to 3 hours a day. This amount of crying will commonly increase and peak around the 6-8 week mark and ‘somewhat’ subside by the time your baby is 3-4 months of age. Either way, that’s a LOT of crying. While the crying will be spread out, it is usually more than what it seems or what we typically expect. Especially as new parents. In addition to the responsibility of buying all the baby products for your infant, we know the crying can add to the overall lack of sleep and stress of caring for your newborn- and yourself.
Unless there’s something unusually wrong with your baby, a crying, fussy baby is completely normal and to be expected. If the crying is inconsolable, however, and has been going on for more than two hours straight, contact your doctor right away. Usually, the crying will be spread out throughout the day and night but it doesn’t last that long unless your baby is feeling unwell. Inconsolable crying is a symptom of an ill infant. Other symptoms to keep a lookout for are: unresponsiveness, a high temperature, vomiting more than usual, constant refusal to eat or drink, lack of weight gain, bloody stools/urine, persistent constipation or diarrhea, irritability, or a shrill type of cry that’s higher pitched and sharper than your baby’s usual cry. If any of these symptoms apply to your baby, talk to your pediatrician.
Babies cry for any reason. They’ll cry if they’re sick, sometimes they will cry for no reason at all! But for all the other times your baby’s cries are actually trying to tell you something easily amendable, we have compiled this guide that can hopefully help you pinpoint what the reason could be so you can learn how to calm a crying baby.
When was the last time your baby was fed? (Note: Depending on their age, the frequency of the feeding will vary). Ask your doctor how often you should feed your baby. When your baby is hungry they will most likely cry until they are fed.
Sleepiness or fatigue / Overstimulation
It sounds counter-productive but sometimes babies cry out of tiredness or when they’re suffering from lack of sleep. Sometimes overstimulation will really tire them out so take note of the last time they napped or how much activity, noise, and light they have recently been exposed to.
Your little one will also cry when they need attention. Sometimes they will just want you to hold, swaddle, or cuddle them. If you feel your baby is being under stimulated try some white noise, sing, or play some gentle music. Bouncing them up and down or going for a walk to take in some fresh air also helps.
Colic / Stomach issues
Newborn babies are very sensitive and can suffer from diverse stomach problems. Gas, acid reflux, and food allergies are common troubles that will make your baby feel unwell. Gas pain will make your baby hurt for a while until it passes. You can try to speed up the process by laying your baby on their back and moving their feet in circular motions (like riding a bike). Other times, burping is all your baby needs to feel better. Gently pat their backs to help them burp. If your baby seems to be having mild allergic reactions every time they feed then maybe they’re allergic to a specific food mom might be eating or a component in their formula (if not breastfed). Talk to your pediatrician to run some tests and see your options. Mild allergic reaction symptoms include reddish flushed skin, little hives pimples or welts. For anything more serious than that like wheezing, bouts of coughing, difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness consult with a doctor immediately.
Temperature. Being too hot or too cold
You’ll find your baby is fussy if the temperature reaches an uncomfortable level for them. If it’s too hot your baby’s cheeks might flush or they might get restless. If it’s too cold your baby might start shivering. A good rule of thumb when dealing with cold weather is to dress your baby with one more layer of clothing than what an adult would be wearing. (Also remember a warm hat or beanie to cover their head). To help you determine if your baby is feeling too hot or too cold, touch the back of their neck. The nape of the neck will give you a close representation of how the rest of the body temperature is. You’ll be able to determine if it’s cold or sweaty and hopefully prevent a bout of crying!
Excessive drool, irritability, sometimes a mild fever and increasing biting are signs your child might be teething. If your kid is constantly chewing on toys or anything they can get their hands on, they’re probably trying to soothe their swollen gums. You can help ease some of the symptoms by gently massaging the gums in circular motions with clean hands or a clean damp washcloth. Giving your baby chilled fruit or a chilled teething ring to chew on can also help. (Note: the idea is to have it cold- never frozen!). Also, remember to dry the drool that will ensue. Too much drool can cause rashes and irritate the skin. To prevent this, try to keep a clean drying cloth handy and dry as often as you can. It’s also a good idea to apply baby lotion to prevent further irritation that could happen from all the wiping. If none of this works and your baby is still crying, consider asking your doctor about recommended child-safe pain medication.
Undetected / Subtle hard to spot problems
Something not very obvious or difficult to notice could be causing your little one discomfort. Scratchy clothes, itchy tags, stiff uncomfortable diapers, or even a strand of your own hair! Take extra notice on the little things. What materials are their clothes, blankets, and diapers made out of? Opt for soft fabrics and diapers as these will be gentler on your little one’s skin. Always inspect the clothes and make sure to cut and remove tags if there are any. Regularly check your baby’s fingers and toes and make sure there aren’t any strings, threads, or strands of hair tangled between them. A single strand of hair can potentially get wrapped around their toes and cut off their circulation causing the ‘toe tourniquet syndrome.’ To avoid this, constantly check their toes (especially before putting their socks on). It’s also a good idea to turn the socks over before clothing your child so that the seams that can sometimes have loose threads are safely on the outside.
Change of diaper
A dirty, wet diaper will make your baby feel uncomfortable to say the least. Babies like to feel dry and clean. Change their diapers often to ensure they’re as comfy as they should be. A regular diaper change will also help avoid rashes. Opting for a good absorbent diaper will also help your baby stay dry and happy for longer too!
The various cries initially all sound the same but with time you might even start to differentiate their cries and grunts. After some trial and error, you will be able to discern between “I need a diaper change” cry or the “I just wanna sleep” cry. As you learn your child’s antics it will definitely get much easier.