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The Crying Guide

“Adults have all sorts of ways of discharging inner tension when we are frustrated...  For a baby the only way of discharging this intolerable build-up of tension is to cry.  Crying enables tension to be released.” - Sheila Kitzinger, The Crying Baby, 1989

Babies and crying go hand-in-hand.  This isn’t surprising – remember, your baby is getting used to a lot of new things during his first year; he’s feeling things both physically and mentally that he’s never experienced before, and the only way he can communicate his/her discomfort and distress is by crying.

Crying Checklist
Until you learn to recognise your baby’s cries, perhaps this checklist will be helpful to you in figuring out what might be wrong.

Have you missed a feed?  Remember to keep up with his/her feeding routine.

Gas Build Up?
During or shortly after feeding, gas can build up, making your baby uncomfortable.  Burp him/her for a short time but do not become over-concerned about winds that are not easily brought up.  If you try too hard to wind your baby, you are likely to push him//her into sensory overload and make him more uncomfortable.  Five minutes is enough.

Has he been sleeping?  Babies can tire easily and take a while to settle into a sleeping pattern.  Try comforting him and laying him down to sleep.

Hot or cold?
Place your hand on the skin of his/her chest or back to see if your baby feels hot and clammy or cool.

Constant attention can get a bit much – your baby might just need some quiet time.

Bored or lonely?
Infrequent attention can be just as bad – when was the last time you played with your baby or moved him/her?

Dirty nappy?
It might have been fresh on half an hour ago but things may have changed since then!

Check if your baby has a fever, a poor appetite and is restless.  Call your doctor if you are concerned.

This extreme form of crying can be upsetting for you and your baby, although it is thought to be harmless.  There’s no specific known cause but if you’re worried ask your midwife about colic remedies.

By implementing a daytime routine, this will make your baby’s cries more predictable.  Understanding his/her needs at the outset is often the secret to calming a fussy baby.

Soothing a Crying Baby
There are plenty of ways to try and soothe a crying baby; making noises similar to those he/she once heard in the womb is just one of them.  Here are some of the noises he/she might like and other things you could try:

  • Noise of a washing machine, vacuum cleaner or loud ‘shhhs’
  • Warm bath
  • Going for a drive
  • Baby massage
  • Going out for a walk
  • Gentle rocking
  • Cuddling
  • Soothing music (classical or baroque) or just soft singing gentle lullabies
  • Establish whether there is anything in the environment that could be over-stimulating your babe such as a strong perfume, a high-pitched voice or bright fluorescent lights in a supermarket.
  • Put baby in a sling or pouch
  • Look at the trees and their leaves (nature’s mobiles)

It is important to choose only one calming strategy, and stick to it for a while (at least 5 minutes) before trying another, as your baby’s system will take a while to adjust and calm down with each change.

Make understanding your baby’s cry, as opposed to stopping it, your number one priority.  That way you can respond appropriately and reduce the fussing instead of resorting to emergency measures that make your baby dependent on you for calming.

Courtesy of Calpol MiniGuides and ‘Baby Sense’ by Megan Faure and Ann Richardson