It can become very wearing if your baby is constantly crying, especially if you are a new mum recovering from labour or a painful Cesarean. Your body may be feeling alien to you, and you are full of hormones, mix that with the exhaustion and you have a recipe for feeling truly drained.
When I had Jack, I went through a whole day of labour, and then had to be rushed for an emergency cesarean as Jacks heartbeat started to show signs of stress. So when I got home with my new baby, I was tired, numb and had an incredibly painful set of staples across the bottom of my tummy. This was so painful that just to move the slightest sent a piercing pain through me, and there I was with a new born baby to care for, when I could hardly walk!
Jack was a crier and from birth needed a lot of love and attention. He didn’t sleep, and as he was 9lb 6oz born, he was a very hungry baby. I never seemed to be able to stop the crying, no sooner had a solved one problem or cared to one need, he would start crying again. I began to get to breaking point. I was in agony, exhausted, I felt alone and a failure. ‘Why couldn’t I stop him crying?
When you get to the point of the end of your tether, it is very easy to get angry at your baby, and you may worry that the constant crying will push you over the edge, then you feel guilty and a cycle of self-destruction can begin. Be assured that all of these are completely normal feelings, and there is no need to feel guilty.
Every new mum at some point has had negative thoughts or wishes of just having a moment without the crying, at some point. You are not alone, and you are not a bad Mum (or Dad). It is tough (I know) adapting to having this new little human being, that needs you so much. If you teeter on the edge and your baby is crying, put them safely down (they will be safe in a bouncy chair or lying in their Moses basket or cot) and go and calm yourself down, breathe, cry, scream (away from baby). I promise you will feel much better.
If it is possible, go into another room and watch some TV or listen to some music. I actually found holding Jack and putting on music, used to stop him crying, and it calmed me down no end.
The key here is if you are feeling the strain or being a new mum is to talk to someone. This can be your GP, your health visitor, a friend, family member, or your partner. As a new mum, some of us try to be super women and do it all ourselves, we don’t want to admit we can’t do it all. However, it is far stronger to take a step back and admit (and ask) for help when we need it, than to struggle silently alone.
If your partner is around when the crying starts, it may help if you look after the baby on an alternate basis, maybe 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off. Or if you have been with baby all day, get your partner to have your baby for as long as you need a break. It is amazing what a nap, getting clean, or going out somewhere without baby in tow, will do for your sanity and emotional well-being.
Take some time out for self care. Having a new baby can make you feel like you have lost you own identity, and you may feel that all you do is care for the home and your new baby. You may miss the outside world and the freedom you had pre motherhood. This is perfectly normal. It is key for you still to enjoy you time. Find places that offer a creche facility, or enlist a friend, partner or family to baby sit. If that is not possible, grab a relaxing bath as baby sleeps, or watch your favourite movie.
I would try to get out of the house and go for walks in nature. In fact walking around my local park, was how I got through those first few months of having Jack. I wasn’t lucky enough to have friends with babies, so new motherhood was a very lonely time. I went to baby groups and enjoyed my walk to the local library to get a book to read. To be honest even a trip to the supermarket was treasured, as it meant interacting with adults in the real world!
What Causes a baby to cry
Crying is your new baby’s way of communicating with you. Us adults always equate crying with something being wrong, however sometimes it might just be your baby wanting to connect with you. When your new baby cries, you may go on this frantic mission to find out why and solve the problem, however if you can be calm and accept that sometimes your little baby is just expressing emotions, then that will help calm your baby too!
Most mothers hear their baby cry more prominently than other babies cries. It is a natural ability, even to this day I can sense my childs shout of ‘Mum’ in a crowd of children shouting Mum!. It was so strange in the early days, My husband would sleep soundly and never wake, but often I would wake the minute Jack or Jessica did even before they started crying!
As your bond with your new baby grows you will notice and recognise they have many cries, depending on their mood. As you baby gets older he will also use body movements or facial expressions to communicate with you. You will become an expert in your baby’s language and after a short time, you may know by instinct what you baby needs.
Should I leave my baby to cry?
I personally do not believe in leaving a baby to cry. With my first child Jack, I may have over done the running at his every murmur and cry, however I believe it is better for a new baby to feel safe, secure and loved. After all this new baby has been growing inside of you for 9 months, listening to your body noises and voice and heartbeat. Being out in the real world can be quite scary and overwhelming for your new baby, and sometimes just being close to Mum (or Dad) is just what is needed.
I found other peoples opinions difficult. My Mother In Law is a very strong and opinionated woman and she voiced her opinions loud. One of hers was that I ‘pandered and spoilt’ Jack by giving him so much attention and running to his every need. Maybe I did, and maybe that made him not sleep, however I offered the same level of care and attention to my second child Jessica and she slept (like a baby) from day one! I am in the camp that you cannot give your baby too much love. I do believe in tough love when necessary but not for a baby that is under three months old.
There is one exception I make to this rule and that is at bedtime. With Jack, I made the mistake of keep giving love and trying to solve why he was crying, and this created a massive rod for my own back. Firstly because he learned that at night if he cried, I came immediately, and as he got older he would often cry and the minute I got there, he would smile!.
With Jessica, I adopted the lots of love in the day, but tough love at night stance, and it worked. She slept brilliantly and was much more content about crying and then falling asleep in a very short time. Jack who was now two, was still not sleeping well! Maybe I had made a rod for my own back (the mother-in-law was right) OK I will concede in this one area. At night my advice is tough love, your baby needs to understand that after they have been put down to sleep the party is over.
I used to have a checklist in my mind of reasons my two would cry, so that once I had ticked off each of these, I could be rest assured that it was OK to leave them to settle themselves at night. During the day this became my cycle of activity with my new baby.
Why is my baby crying?
A new baby life a very simple life however when it comes to crying things get far more complicated, as there can be many reasons why.
- Nappy needs changing (or sore bottom)
- Loneliness or boredom
- The need to suck
- Too hot or cold
- Wants to be held and loved
- Your baby is unwell
- For no reason at all
This is the cry you get to know first, the hunger cry. Your little baby’s tummy cannot hold a great deal of milk yet and as such, he gets hungry very quickly. The hunger cry is a fretful one, that will get louder, this is coupled with a sucking and head movements. This is solved by feeding
To begin with let your baby decide when he needs to be fed and when he has had enough. In the early weeks your new baby only has a very small tummy so your feeds are going to be little and often, but as your baby grows, he will be able to take a larger feed and go a longer time.
Be aware that if your baby is having a growth spurt she may need more milk, with my two (as they were big babies), they would often cry even when they had taken a full bottle. Your baby will be hungrier at times of growth and therefore may be why your baby is crying even after being given a full feed.
DISCOMFORT/ NAPPY NEEDS CHANGING
This is a cry that you will hear regularly and therefore will learn to understand very quickly. Jack used to feel very uncomfortable if his nappy was in any way wet or soiled, he would cry instantly. Whereas Jessica was quite happy to sit in her dirty nappy and never dried over it. Every baby is different. Some babies even cry when they are doing a poo.
You can often smell if you need to change your baby’s nappy and it may feel full to the touch. But if they have a sore bottom, that may be more difficult. I remember one night, Jack was crying, and I had gone through everything on the list, apart from sore bottom. His nappy seemed clean and dry, but when I finally took it off his poor bottom was so red and painful. A good organic barrier cream solved this and he was asleep within five minutes, after an hour of trying different solutions.
You will become a nappy changing expert, and during the day this will become a wonderful bonding time. During the night you will learn the art of changing a nappy like a ninja in stealth mode, and will eventually perfect the art of doing a nappy change without even waking your baby! I promise.
It can be quite a busy time for a new baby in the early days. Often you want to show him off to everyone, and lots of friends and relatives might visit and want a look, or a cuddle/hold. This can become incredibly tiring for your baby, and even your constant attention may tire him out.
There is a childrens story about a little baby prince who just keeps crying, and his parents bring him food, toys, entertainment and the cries get louder and more urgent, in the end all the little price wants is to go to sleep. I know I spent many times going frantically through the list, to find out what was wrong, and why Jack was crying, only to find when I put him down, he went straight to sleep!
If you imagine how you feel when you are tired and overstimulated, you feel irritated and frustrated and need to just go somewhere quiet to relax. This is the same for your baby, lie them down in their quiet nursery (or Moses basket) . Keep to a sleep routine and keep outings and visitors to a minimum at your babies sleep time. Our article How to help a baby sleep through the night, might give you some ideas for the day too, so that you can avoid having an over tired, over stimulated baby.
LONELINESS AND BOREDOM/ WANTING SOME LOVE
Your baby will often cry, just because she wants your company, or just wants some love. Quite often it can be comforting enough just to know you are close and in the room. It can be quite a lonely existence for a baby if they are left in a crib or Moses basket most of the time.
Your baby has been used to hearing you and being inside of you. Just hearing your hear beat of voice can quite often soothe your baby. Holding your baby in your arms, or carrying in a sling can be a lovely way to keep them close whilst still allowing you to move around.
Jack and Jessica were both happiest in the early days, laying on either mine or my husbands chest, positioned so they could hear our hear beat, often just assuming that position, calmed them down immediately.
TOO HOT OR COLD
Sometimes you baby cry can be as simple as they are too hot or too cold. As being to hot is one of the risk factors of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) it is essential to keep your baby’s temperature in between 16 to 20 degrees Celsius.
It is quite simple to see if your baby is too hot or cold, just touch their skin (not their face or hands as these are usually colder anyway) the chest is a good place. If the feel hot, remove some clothes or blankets, if they feel cold, add some clothes or blankets. One way to keep your baby warm is to either swaddle or to use a baby sleeping bag. These prevent your baby kicking or wriggling out of blankets and getting cold.
I would recommend have a thermometer around the house but especially where you baby is sleeping, to ensure that your precious baby is not getting too hot or too cold.
THE NEED TO SUCK (SHOULD MY BABY HAVE A DUMMY?)
whilst most babies are perfectly happy not to have a dummy, there are some babies that just need to suck on something, whether it be a dummy, their fingers or thumb, or a blanket or toy. If you see this in your baby, and they just won’t stop crying, then a dummy may be the only way to soothe them.
I came under some criticism for giving my two Dummies (again from the Mother-in law). Both of mine showed signs of sucking early on, so I allowed both to have a dummy. It is however wise to restrict use, and to try to only use when crying consistently and all other reasons for crying have been checked. Sometimes as a busy Mum (I was guilty of this) , it is easier just to put the dummy in the minute a cry comes, but be strong, you will be pleased you did, when it comes time to wean them off it.
There are pros and cons to using a dummy and they are :
- It soothes your baby if they have the need to suck
- Your newborn can’t get their fingers or hands to their mouth, so if your baby is one that needs to suck, this would be a frustration and a dummy would help.
- Your baby may be able to settle herself. Jack quite would often wake crying and when he was slightly older would just reach for his dummy and happily go back off to sleep. Jessica did this also from an early age.
- A dummy can help to calm your baby if they cry excessively
- It can also give you some quality time without your baby constantly crying, sometimes just a five-minute break can allow you to calm down and have a break.
- Your baby might come to rely on the dummy to be settled, so that no other method will work.
- Your Dummy will need to be streilised and if it falls out or on the floor, will need to be replaced with a sterile one.
- If you use a dummy regularly during the day, it may restrict you baby making and learning new sounds, as they are contentedly sucking all day, like Maggie from the Simpsons.
- If your baby drops their dummy, you are going to have to put it back in. so you can end up with an exhausting game of pick up the dummy.
- If your baby need their dummy to sleep and it falls out in the night, you play the pick the dummy up game through the night.
It is important before giving your new baby a dummy to assess whether it is really necessary. My two just would not settle unless they were sucking on something, especially Jack, so I decided to give them both a dummy (against the advice of the critics). You know your own baby and what is the best so, if you do decide to use one, I would recommend purchasing quite a few, as you will need spare sterile ones should they drop. They will need to be sterlised and try to restrict use during the day, to allow your wonderful baby to develop and make sounds naturally.
CRYING BECAUSE YOUR BABY IS UNWELL
There can be many illnesses that cause your baby to cry. Could be due to a fever, or blocked nose, or your baby may have earache. Another cause can be abdominal pain caused by wind or colic.
If your baby is crying and feels hot, it is the best to take your baby’s temperature, if it is high then I would recommend consulting with your GP or Health Visitor immediately. It is very difficult for a baby to tell you they have tummy ache or ear ache, but as a parent you just know when something is just not right. Quite often the tone of their cry is one of pain and is distinctive from all the other cries, more continuous and urgent. Again if this is the case contact your GP.
Your baby may also start to cry after being fed, this can be caused by wind. It is essential after every feed that you wind your baby, otherwise this wind can get trapped and become very painful. If this is the case your baby may bring their legs up as they are crying. Just hold your baby and gently rub and pat their back. Sometimes just the movement can get their wind up.
If your baby is continuously crying in the evening and looks, very uncomfortable after feeding, your baby may be suffering with a condition called colic. The causes of colic are still after over fifty years of research, unproven, however, most believe it is a spasm in your babies tummy.
If your baby’s crying is for long periods of time, usually far worse in the evening, and your baby does not only cry, but screams and pulls his legs up. Then It may be that he is suffering with colic. . To get further advice and help on how to help your baby:
Finally, the most frustrating thing about your baby crying, may be that they are crying for no particular reason at all, so no matter what you do, they just want to have a good old cry! When this is the case it will often stop as quick as the crying started. After you have checked everything else is ok, it might just be a case of leaving them to cry it out.
It can be incredibly hard and demanding, coping with a crying baby and tending to all of your new baby’s needs. Throughout the process you are still trying to adapt and recover from giving birth, whilst having this new human being to look after twenty-four hours of the day. Make sure that you are being honest with how you feel and ensure that you ask for help or a break if you need it. Remember you can’t look after baby, if you don’t look after yourself.
Self care is essential for every new parent, especially Mums. So take time out to still enjoy adult things and being you. Carve out time to relax and enjoy grown up conversation or TV, or a bath and an early night with a good book. Sound impossible? Not if you ask for help, and share the load.
When I had Jack I wanted to be super Mum do it all, I barely had time to wash, let alone practice self care. However, when I had Jessica, I learned a healthy me, is much better equip to care for a new baby.
A baby that cries can be incredibly hard and stressful to deal with. If you feel that it is all getting equipped do not feel guilty, it is perfectly normal to get stressed if your baby is crying constant. Talk to family and relatives, or your partner and get help. Talk to medical professionals or follow the links above. Remember when you look in the mirror, how truly wonderful you are and what a great job you are doing, no matter how tired you look.
I hope this article has given you some reasons why your baby may be crying, and how to solve these issues, so you can be calm and happy and have a calm and happy baby.
Please feel free to ask questions and leave your comments below. Are you a new Mum? How are you finding coping with your baby’s crying? Do you have any tips or experiences that will help other readers?