crying

Why your baby cries

A baby’s cry can be upsetting and frustrating. It is designed to get your attention and you may be worried that something is wrong with your baby.


Your baby may start to cry more frequently at about 2 weeks of age. The crying may get more frequent and last longer during the next few weeks, hitting a peak at about 6 to 8 weeks.

Every baby is different but, after about 8 weeks, babies start to cry less and less each week.


Some common reasons why your baby may be crying are:

  • I’m hungry – babies need to feed frequently as their small stomachs are not able to hold much food. If it’s been a few hours since they last had a feed, this might be what they need.
  • I’m uncomfortable – your baby might need his/her nappy changed or they might be too hot or too cold; they might have a tummy pain or need to be winded.
  • I’m tired – your baby will need to rest regularly during the day, so try placing them in their cot (etc) for a sleep.
  • I’m unsettled – at times, baby will want company, connection or cuddles and, as they get older, they will want to play.
  • I’m in pain – this is the cry that you will respond to without a second thought. You won’t ever mix up crying in pain with the whimpering of a tired baby.
  • I’m scared – different sounds can be frightening – the vacuum cleaner, for example, can startle your baby. Reassurance and a cuddle may be all that’s needed.
  • I want a cuddle – sometimes, though, there might not be a specific ‘problem’ behind your baby’s crying, and they might simply be letting you know that – like all of us – they want to be loved, held and made to feel secure.

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Caring for a crying baby?

There are lots of things that you can do to help your baby when they are crying:


The basics

Always start by checking baby’s basic needs:

  • Is baby hungry?
  • Is baby tired?
  • Is baby’s nappy wet or dirty?
  • Is baby feeling unwell?


Comforting your baby:

If you’ve checked all these needs, and your baby is still crying, try some simple calming techniques. Comfort methods can sometimes soothe the baby and the crying will stop:

  • Talk calmly to your baby, using a quiet voice – baby likes your voice and will find it soothing.
  • Hum or sing to your baby – try something repetitive, like a nursery rhyme.
  • Let baby hear a repeating or soothing sound.
  • Hold baby close to you, skin-to-skin if possible.
  • Go for a walk outside with your baby, or take them for a drive in the car – sometimes, a change of scenery or the gentle, soothing motion will help your baby calm down.
  • Give baby a warm bath.


These techniques may not always work. It may take a combination or more than one attempt to soothe your baby.


If your baby’s crying seems different in any way – such as being very high-pitched, or a whimper – or you think that there is something wrong with your baby, or the crying won’t stop, then speak to your GP, Midwife or Health Visitor. If you are worried that your baby is unwell, call NHS 111. Trust your instincts – you know your baby best!

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When the crying won’t stop?

Not every baby is easy to calm, but that doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong.


Don’t get angry with your baby or yourself. Instead, put your baby in a safe place and walk away so that you can calm yourself down.


It is normal for parents to get stressed, especially by crying. Put some time aside for yourself and take care of your own needs, as well as baby’s, to help you cope.


Remember – This phase will stop! Be an ICON for your baby and cope with their crying. The ICON website has useful information and videos to support you.


What not to do:

Handling a baby roughly will make them more upset. Shouting or getting angry with your baby will only make things worse.


Sometimes parents and people looking after babies get so angry and frustrated with a baby’s cry that they lose control.


They act on impulse and shake their baby.


NEVER EVER:

  • Shake your baby – this is very dangerous and can cause serious, lasting damage, including blindness, learning disabilities, seizures, physical disabilities, brain damage and even death.
  • Get angry with your baby – if you feel yourself getting angry, put your baby in a safe place and walk away so that you can calm yourself down by doing something that takes your mind off the crying.
  • Shout – this will upset your baby more and make the crying worse. 


Try:

  • Listening to music, doing some exercises or doing something that calms you.
  • Call a relative or friend – they may be able to help you calm down or may be able to watch your baby.


After a few minutes, when you are calm, go back and check on the baby.

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