All babies cry, and some cry a lot. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you they need comfort and care. Sometimes it’s easy to work out what they want, and sometimes it isn’t.
The most common reasons for crying are:
There may be times of the day when your baby tends to cry a lot and can’t be comforted. Early evening is the most common time for this to happen. This can be hard for you as it’s often the time when you’re most tired and least able to cope.
Try some of the following ways to comfort your baby. Some may be more effective than others:
Some babies cry and seem unsettled around the time of a feed. If you’re breastfeeding, you may find that improving your baby’s attachment helps them settle. You can go to a breastfeeding or drop-in centre and ask for help, or talk to your peer supporter or health visitor.
It may be that something you’re eating or drinking is affecting your baby. Some things will reach your milk within a few hours, while others may take 24 hours. All babies are different, and what affects one won’t necessarily affect yours. You might want to consider avoiding dairy products, chocolate, fruit squashes, diet drinks and drinks containing caffeine.
If this doesn’t work, try keeping a note of when the crying happens to see if there’s a pattern. Sometimes, crying during feeds can be a symptom of reflux (acid indigestion), which is relatively common in babies. Speak to your GP or health visitor for more information and advice.
There are several reasons that can cause a baby to cry excessively. It can be exhausting if you've tried everything and nothing seems to comfort your baby.
Excessive crying could be a sign that your baby has colic. Everyone agrees that colic exists but no one knows what causes it. Some doctors think it’s a kind of stomach cramp. The crying sounds miserable and distressed, and stops for a moment or two, then starts up again, which suggests it could be caused by waves of stomach pain.
The crying can go on for some hours. There may be little you can do except try to comfort your baby and wait for the crying to pass.
Although all babies cry sometimes, there are times when crying may be a sign of illness.
Listen for sudden changes in the pattern or sound of your baby’s crying. Often, there’ll be a simple explanation. For example, if you’ve been going out more than usual your baby might be overtired.
If they seem to have other symptoms, such as a high temperature, they may have an illness. Your baby may have something minor, such as a cold, or something treatable, such as reflux. If this is the case, contact your GP or health visitor.
Get medical attention as soon as you can if your baby:
If you think there’s something wrong, always follow your instincts and contact your GP or health visitor, or phone NHS Direct on 0845 4647. See Spotting the signs of illness for more information.
If you’ve decided to talk to your health visitor or GP it can help if you keep a record of how often and when your baby cries. For example, this might be after every feed or during the evening. This can help your GP or health visitor to work out whether there is a particular cause for the crying.
Keeping a record can also help you identify the times when you need extra support. You could also think about possible changes to your routine. There may be times when you’re so tired and angry you feel like you can’t take any more. This happens to a lot of parents, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
If you don't have anyone who can take care of your baby for a short time and the crying is making you stressed, put your baby in their cot or pram, make sure they’re safe, close the door, go into another room and try to calm yourself down. Set a time limit (for example, 10 minutes) then go back.
No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Shaking moves their head violently, and can cause bleeding and brain damage.
Talk to a friend, your health visitor or GP, or contact Cry-sis on 08451 228 669. They can put you in touch with other parents who’ve been in the same situation.