Challenging Behaviours: Crying

baby cryingWhy do babies cry?

Healthy babies cry. Some cry little, and some cry a lot. Crying is your baby’s way of communicating and is a normal sign that your baby may need to:

  • be fed
  • sleep
  • be held
  • have a diaper change

Babies cry because:

  • they feel uncomfortable
  • there is too much noise or excitement
  • they are sick

If the baby is constantly crying louder than usual, is hurt, has a fever, is vomiting, or you have concerns that something is wrong, go to the hospital or health clinic.

Sometimes babies cry for no reason, and no matter what you do to comfort them, they cannot be soothed. No matter how much your baby cries, they do not do it to upset you.

Babies usually have fussy periods in the late afternoon or evening. In the first three months of life, 25% of babies cry for more than 3 1/2 hours each day. Around three months old, babies start to cry less. They begin to babble, move more easily, and start to express themselves in ways other than crying. Crying for longer periods is often referred to as colic.

Calming a crying baby

Calming a crying baby may be challenging as every baby is different. You may need to try different things at different times to see what works best for you and your baby. Here are some tips.

Responding (click to expand) »
  • Go to your baby and pick them up. Babies feel safe and secure when you respond to them in caring ways. Picking up a baby does not spoil them. It lets them know they can trust you.
  • Check their diaper.
  • Try to burp them.
  • If they seem hot, try lighter, cooler clothing. Or, if they are too cold, add a layer.
Moving (click to expand) »
Calming and relaxing (click to expand) »
  • Some babies like a warm bath.
  • Try infant massage.
Settling and soothing (click to expand) »
  • Offer the baby your breast or a feeding.
  • Hold them skin to skin.
  • Talk or sing to them in a soft voice.
  • Rub their back.
  • Turn on white noise.
  • Dim the lighting.
  • Safely swaddle your baby.

If you swaddle your baby, be safer by:

  • using a lightweight blanket,
  • making sure the blanket stays far away from the baby’s nose and mouth,
  • wrapping your baby so they can still move their hips and legs,
  • leaving your babies’ hands free so they can show you when they are hungry.

Swaddling, while used at times to calm babies, is a risk. Stop swaddling before your baby can roll. Swaddling is not safe for babies when they are on their tummies. Babies can get tangled or covered in a blanket if it comes loose or can roll onto their tummy while still being swaddled. These are risks for suffocation.

Managing your feelings

Caring for a crying baby can leave you feeling stressed, frustrated and angry. Sometimes it seems that nothing you try will settle your baby, and crying continues. It’s OK to ask for help. Getting support is an important part of looking after yourself. It’s good for you and it’s good for your family. Call a friend or relative you can trust. It’s important to get away from the baby if you think you might lose control.

No matter how upset you get, never shake or hit a baby. this can damage your baby’s brain. If you feel like you are losing control, lay your baby in a safe place like the crib and leave the room. Take a 10 or 15-minute break to give yourself a chance to calm down.

If people offer help, accept it, eat healthy and sleep when you can. Find some time to exercise and visit with a friend. Caring for yourself is an important part of caring for your baby.

As babies get older, this stage of intense crying will pass. Crying is more likely to spread throughout the day as babies learn to communicate in other ways.

Crying is normal newborn behaviour. Check out the video to learn about crying and other normal newborn behaviours.

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Last updated: 2022-07-07