Baby Crying Help – The Ultimate Troubleshooting List
When it comes to babies crying – I’ve been to hell and back… You see, my first born (an ivf baby) didn’t stop crying for the first four months of his life. Just imagine what that looks like for a second….. A baby that cried up to 15 hours per day. I remember him being two weeks old, standing over his cot with a pointed finger saying to him,
‘This crying is unacceptable behaviour!‘.
Let’s just say he is lucky he made it to childhood and now he is a beautiful 12 year old boy. A baby crying can be so distressing, especially for new parents who aren’t sure what to do! That’s okay – we’ll go through it together….
But I’m still scarred from that time. There wasn’t a bit of research I didn’t do on crying babies.
If you are there right now, you are doing a great job Mumma Bear! If your baby won’t stop crying, here is the ultimate baby crying troubleshooting list – everything I can think of to help – and all of the Mums on Stay at Home Mum that contribute to our ‘Mummy Knowledge’.
First of All – What is ‘Normal’ Baby Crying
Before we can look at the huge amount of reasons your baby may be crying, we have to understand what is ‘normal’. And normal varies – but an average baby cries between 2 and 4 hours within a 24 hour period.
Babies cry as it is their only form of communication. So no matter what the problem might be, they will cry. And new Mums, it takes a while for you to get to know your new baby, and for your new baby to get to know you. So the beginning is always the most difficult time. It takes time to recognise all of baby’s different cries. But trust yourself, because no one knows your baby as well as you do – even though it is all new.
It is easy for new parents to feel overwhelmed and powerless when you are tired enough already from lack of sleep and recovering from the birth. This is the time you need to look after each other the most – and if you have close family, invite them to help you, particularly during those first six weeks.
More Reading: How to Hold a Virtual Baby Shower 2020
Ways to Soothe and Settle a Baby Crying
Before we get into all the reasons (and feel free to miss this bit if you don’t need it), here are a number of tactics to use to settle a crying baby.
Shooshing and Bouncing a Baby Crying
If you have ever watched a new Mum or Dad out in public, you would of witnessed the ‘Shoosh and Bounce’. Why? It works – most of the time. Hold your baby nice and close (and support his or her neck well) and bounce rhythmically whilst making the noise ‘Shoosh, shoosh, shoosh’ in your baby’s ear (not too loudly).
Swaddle Baby Crying Firmly
Newborn babies have a very sensitive ‘startle reflex’. They can be just about to go to sleep when that reflex kicks in and they are ‘startled awake’. It happens to adults too – ever jolted awake when you are just about to fall into a deep sleep? Well, this startle reflex in babies is very sensitive until they are about three months old. Swaddling is a great way to stop this happening, and it makes them feel safe, warm and secure, just like they were in the womb.
When looking for a swaddle blanket, look for a large muslin cloth – especially here in Australia because it is very breathable and light material.
According to Healthy Children.org – this is how to swaddle a baby correctly:
- Spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
- Lay the baby face-up on the blanket, with her head above the folded corner.
- Straighten her left arm, and wrap the left corner of the blanket over her body and tuck it between her right arm and the right side of her body.
- The tuck the right arm down, and fold the right corner of the blanket over her body and under her left side.
- Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one wide of the baby.
- Make sure her hips cna move and that the blanket is not too tight. You want to be able to get at least two or three fingers between the baby’s chest and the swaddle.
Remember that same babies are little Houdini’s who can wiggle their way out. Some like one arm out – some don’t like being swaddled at all. See what works for you.
When your baby lived in your body, do you think it was quiet in there? Nope – it was really loud and really noisy. And like grown ups, sometimes we need those familiar noises to help us go to sleep. There are a few different noises you can try including:
- A white noise machine
- Womb noises
- A noisy fan
- Run the vacuum cleaner
White noise also blocks out other noises that baby might be interested in so cries to see what is going on! This happens when baby has older siblings. If bubs can hear them playing and shouting, they will want to see what’s going on – and to do that – they cry!
You can pick up White Noise machines pretty cheaply from Catch.
Music Soothes the Savage Beast
Some babies love white noise, others enjoy music! If you don’t want to listen to the Wiggles on repeat for hours on end, there are some pretty damn cool lullaby music options out there. We love this Lullaby Rendition of Nirvana! Rock N Roll!
Make the Nursery Dark and Peaceful
Again like adults, it is hard to sleep in a bright room. Babies are very easily overstimulated. Their nursery or wherever they sleep should be dark, comfortable and peaceful. Put blockout curtains in the room. Make sure the room is nice and cool (not cold).
More Reading on Nurseries: Decorating the Nursery on a Budget
Use Water to Soothe a Baby Crying
If baby has gas and is very upset, water can be a great way to ease any tummy pain and it is soothing and calming. Run a nice warm bath and allow baby to relax and kick in the water (only if they like water – some baby’s hate it!) If your baby isn’t into baths – try running a large bath and you hop in and place baby on your chest, when you relax, hopefully bub will relax too. Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to the water is a nice relaxing way to entice calm.
Swinging or Rocking Motion
There is a great reason why baby rockers are so popular! They are a fantastic way to save your arms and will swing baby hopefully straight to calmness. If you don’t own a baby swing or a cot rocker (yes there is such thing as a cot rocker!) – then you can take baby for a ride in the pram or a last resort is to take baby for a drive in the car.
Use a Tissue!
So I’ve heard mixed reviews whether this method works or not – but the videos online are very impressive! If baby has been fed, changed and is otherwise happy (apart from screaming like a banshee) grab a tissue and gently sweep it over your baby’s face over and over again. Apparently it is meant to make baby just nod off to sleep! Worth a try!
Ways to Soothe the Parents
Before we get into the reasons for a baby crying, let’s take a minute to talk about the sheer stress of parents – and what to do when you are at your wit’s end. It wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I understood just how people that hurt a child can ever think that. It isn’t criminal to think about that – but it is to do it. But when it gets to that stage, please ask for help. Here’s some things you can do.
- Ask for friends or family to give you a break – even for an hour
- Ensure baby is safe in their cot and walk around the house a few times, just take a bit of a break without leaving baby.
- Call 13Health (if you are in Australia) – after a particularly bad 13 hour crying spree, I called them in desperation and talked to a lovely male nurse who just talked about how hard it was, and it made me feel so much better!
- Ensure your partner is hands-on right from the start and you can share the burden.
- Call the Tresillian Parent Helpline (1300 272 736) 7am – 11pm, 7 days per week
- Call your local hospital
Reasons for a Baby Crying
Baby Crying Reason 1: Hungry
When babies cry, it’s easy to think ‘they are just hungry’, and stick them on the boob. And yes sometimes that is the case. But new Mums know that it isn’t always that simple. Learning bub’s signs of hunger and feeding either before they get to the hysterical stage can help the matter before it gets out of control. A new baby’s signs they are hungry include:
- Rooting (a reflex that makes baby open their mouth if they think a boob is nearby)
- Fussiness (whimpering, crying, sighing)
- Lip Smacking
- Putting their fist in their mouth
- Moving their head from side to side (another rooting reflex)
Crying is the ‘last resort’ that baby is hungry, and by this stage, they are very very hungry indeed. On top of that they are frustrated and irritable. This irritability can make it hard for baby to latch onto the breast correctly because they are simply frantic by that stage.
When your baby is going through a growth spurt, they will want to feed a lot more often. This can be a really tense time for parents as your baby can seemingly both cry and feed constantly. If you are at your wit’s end or exhausted, get help or grab a bottle of formula to top baby up. The constantly feeding signals your body to produce more milk, but this can take a few days to kick in.
Natural Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply
- Drink lots of water – at least two litres per day – and always have a glass of water next to you when breastfeeding
- Lactation Biscuits are a fantastic, natural way to increase breast milk supply
- Boobie Smoothies are a delicious way to get nutrients into your body to assist with milk supply
When to seek help:
If your baby seems hungry all the time – more so than usual and you suspect something isn’t quite right, there could be a problem with your milk supply. Ask yourself if your baby is wetting as many nappies as usual – if not this could be an early sign of dehydration. Ensure you go to your local clinic or GP to ensure your baby is still putting on weight. This is absolutely no reflection on you as a Mum if something happens to your milk supply – there are many reasons why. But seek help early!
Where to Seek Help?
- Contact your local hospital baby clinic
- Your General Practitioner
- Breast Feeding Association
- Lactation Consultant
More Reading: 15 Delicious New Mum Recipes to Boost Your Milk Supply
Baby Crying Reason 2: Baby is Too Hot or Too Cold
The easiest way to tell if your baby is too hot or cold is to feel the back of baby’s neck or baby’s chest. A hot, sweaty neck or chest means that bubs is too hot, and a cool neck or chest means you may need to add another layer. Dress baby in the same amount of layers that you are wearing, plus perhaps another light layer. But ensure not to overheat baby – this is thought to be a contributing factor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
At night, especially during the cooler months, invest in one of those baby sleepsuits. Not only do they prevent baby from kicking off any covers, they also make night-time nappy changing a whole lot easier (make sure they have a zip – not buttons!) Also dress baby in natural fabrics that breathe. Cotton and wool are great choices. Polyester or polar fleece can easily overheat baby.
A clock in the nursery that also tells the temperature is a great investment as it really does help parents to keep baby appropriately warm or cool!
How to Tell Baby is Too Hot?:
- Baby is sweaty
- Baby has a hot neck or hot chest
- Baby is red in the face
- Baby has rapid breathing
How to Tell Baby is Too Cold?:
- Baby has a cool or cold chest
- Baby has blue lips
- Baby is pale
Baby Crying Reason 3: Soiled or Wet Nappy
Baby gets uncomfortable in a wet or soiled nappy – the average newborn baby goes through up to 12 nappies per day! Plenty of wet nappies means that baby is getting plenty of milk and is sufficiently hydrated.
Soiled nappies can tell a lot about a baby’s health too. The colour, consistency and amount can tell so much. Read more about baby poo in our article, What Should My Baby’s Poo Look Like?
Remember that there is a difference between newborns, breastfed and bottle fed baby’s poos!
More Reading: List of Environmentally Friendly Disposable Nappies
Baby Crying Reason 4: Over-stimulated
The whole world is new to a baby, and the whole family will want cuddles and kisses and give love to the new baby. But all this attention can be extremely over-stimulating to a baby. But baby’s don’t really have a way of telling you that they just need a bit of a break! The signs baby is overstimulated include:
- Baby yawns and stretches
- Unsettled crying
- They are cranky
- They deliberately avoid eye contact
- Their eyes get heavy and may roll back
It can be very hard to settle an overstimulated crying baby. But here are some of our tips:
- Take baby to a quiet, darkened room
- Ensure baby is fed, changed and otherwise comfortable.
- Gently pat or stroke baby
- Give baby a relaxing, quiet bath
- Relax somewhere quiet with baby on your chest
The trick to avoiding baby becoming overtired in the first place is to limit the time that you have visitors, limit handing baby from person to person and watch for baby’s cues that they have had enough.
Baby Crying Reason 5: Overfed
Just like grown ups, babies can take on more milk than they need. And you know how uncomfortable that feeling can be! Overfeeding is usually only a problem in bottle-fed babies and the symptoms that baby is overfed include:
- Increased farting
- Sloppy poos that smell terribly
- High-pitched cries
- Distended belly
- Bringing up milk
- Baby is irritable
Babies can overeat when they get a lack of sleep, have an overactive sucking reflex, they feed too quickly, or babies that fall asleep whilst drinking a bottle (and continue to suck).
What to Do When Baby is Overfed
This is a situation where prevention is better than cure. Keep a close eye on the amount baby is consuming (when bottle fed) and how baby acts after they have fed. Get baby’s weight checked regularly to ensure they are growing within their recommended age group.
If your baby has been overfed and is now very uncomfortable, all you can do is try and make them as calm as possible until they pass the excess food. Again a nice warm bath or laying baby on their belly over your knees and gently patting their back can be soothing.
Other Reasons Parents Have Found for Baby Crying
Cotton Wrapped Around Toes, Fingers or Penis
Regularly check your baby’s extremities to ensure a piece of cotton hasn’t wrapped itself around a part of your baby’s body. This can cause extreme pain, but can be tricky to pick up if you aren’t looking for it.
- Pain (Nappy Rash is common)
- Itchy (materials, soaps, etc)
Got any other things to add to The Ultimate Baby Crying Troubleshooting List?