You think you know. You think you know how much a baby cries. You think you know, but until it’s 3 AM, it’s the third time you’ve been woken since putting her down to sleep at 9, and she’s been crying for forty-five solid minutes, you really don’t know. It’s frustrating, it’s stressful, and frankly, it makes you want to pull your hair out. So what do you do?
There are many reasons that babies cry, and it’s okay! It’s how he communicates with you that he needs something. Start with a basic checklist to help you figure out what the need is. Is your baby:
- Wet/dirty? A wet or dirty diaper can make her uncomfortable. Change her into a dry diaper to see if she calms down.
- Hungry? It may seem like babies are hungry all the time, but their tiny stomachs can’t hold that much, so they will need to eat frequently for the first several months. Breastfeed or give him a bottle.
- Tired? Being a baby is exhausting! If babies get overtired, it becomes hard for them to relax. Hold or cuddle your baby to help him settle down.
- Gassy? Your baby may need to burp to help her feel better. Gently pat or rub her back to encourage a burp.
- Sick? A fever may cause your baby discomfort. Check her temperature, and if needed, contact your pediatrician.
- Bored? No one likes to sit or lay in the same place, looking at the same thing all the time, including your baby! Give him a change of scenery by rocking, going for a walk, or even a car ride.
- Too much activity? Loud noises, toys with bright lights and music, and being passed from one person to the next – everyone wants to see that beautiful baby – are just a few ways that your baby can become overstimulated. Move her to a quiet room free of distractions to help her settle down.
- Just needs to cry? Before they can move around much, crying is one of the only ways that babies can expend energy, so sometimes they just need to let it out. It’s hard for parents to listen to their little one cry, but sometimes you just need to let it happen.
It’s normal for babies to cry anywhere from 2 to 4 hours per day, but the good news is, crying usually peaks around 2 months of age. After this, you should see it begin to decrease. Establishing a daily routine is one great way to manage your baby’s crying. When they do cry, it will be easier for you to determine their need. For example, if your baby eats every 3 hours, and he just drank a full bottle 45 minutes ago, chances are he’s not hungry, so you can check that off the list. If she usually takes a nap about an hour after she’s finished eating, and she’s been up for two hours, she’s likely overtired. Daily routines help babies feel safe because they know what to expect.
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your baby will cry. You will get frustrated. It’s normal. Having a plan will help you stay calm if you have tried everything and he still can’t settle down. Here are some calming activities that can be part of your plan:
- Breathe. A few deep breaths can help ease feelings of anger and tension.
- Walk away. Put your baby down gently in a safe place, and walk 10 feet away until you have calmed down.
- Talk to someone. Call a friend or relative who will listen and be caring.
- Go for a walk with your baby. A walk around the block can be a calming exercise for both you AND your baby.
- Talk with your pediatrician. If you think your baby’s crying is excessive and won’t stop no matter what you do, you may need extra support.
No matter what, never, ever shake your baby. Doing so can cause lasting injuries and even death. If you are at a breaking point, the Tennessee Parent Helpline is available 24/7 for you to call and get caring support. Call 1-800-356-6767 day or night to talk to someone who will listen and can guide you through a stressful time.
And remember – you are doing the best you can. You can’t make a baby stop crying. When you’ve tried everything and you don’t know what else to do, give yourself credit for trying, and remind yourself that sometimes babies just cry. It’s not your fault, you’re not a “bad” parent, and they won’t be scarred for l life. Hang in there. Don’t pull your hair out just yet. Save that for the teenage years.