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Why is my baby crying so much? What can I do to help them?

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By Ann Bacon, Registered Nurse, Chair of WGH Advisory Board

It’s very normal for babies to cry. Crying is your baby’s way of expressing themselves and their way of telling you they need something. Some babies may cry a little more, some a little less. Each baby is unique with their own personality and preferences, and this can reflect in every aspect of their behavior. But, on average, you can expect your baby to cry about 1 hour per day and up to 2 hours per day at ages 6 - 8 weeks.

Hunger is often the cause of a baby’s cry and just feeding your baby can be an easy fix. However, if they have been fed within the last hour, it may be something else that is upsetting them. Here is where your parenting detective skills can come in handy. It could be that your baby is needing a burp, a diaper change, or just that they are feeling overwhelmed from all the different stimuli they have taken in from their environment and are feeling tired.

Your baby’s crying patterns will evolve and change as they grow. Some babies may have a relatively quiet period during the few weeks of their life and others may be more vocal. Between 2 weeks and 3-4 months, most babies often go through a normal developmental period where they have fussy periods in the early evening, just as they (and their parents!) are winding down their day. It can be a particularly challenging period for all. Check out the Period of Purple crying to learn more about the normal developmental period.

Hearing your baby cry can be very stressful and their cry can trigger your own emotional response. In fact, scientists have found that your baby’s cry has the ability to stimulate the special part of your brain, the amygdala, that generates a fear response. It can cause your blood pressure to rise, heart rate to speed up, and, most importantly, motivate you to respond to your baby. Sometimes this can feel overwhelming. This is when sharing the caring responsibility with a partner or another trusted adult can be very helpful. Their loving arms can offer a new soothing place for your baby and provide a safe place for your baby so that you can catch your breath. However, this can obviously be a challenge for those times when you are on your own. Responding to your baby’s needs is always paramount, but there may be times when it can feel particularly overwhelming. At those moments, take a “breather.” Gently place your crying baby on their back in a safe sleeping environment and allow yourself a few minutes to take a few breaths, have a glass of water, and give yourself a few moments to re-center and re-charge so you feel stronger to return to your baby to attend to their needs.

Crying is an important and normal part of a baby’s growth and development. Comforting your baby when they cry helps them develop secure attachments and feelings of trust. They learn that they are safe and being cared for. Your baby’s crying also provides opportunities for close contact, and the bonding and connection with your baby that will last a lifetime. It can teach you about your baby’s likes, dislikes, and unique needs. It takes time and patience to get through this period with your baby and it can also provide the opportunity for you to learn so much about your baby.

Tip: An Australian researcher discovered that babies of every race, color, and culture make one of five sounds before they start crying. See if you can hear your baby make these sounds. See if it can help you understand their needs:

  • Neh – hunger
  • Eh – upper gas/wind (burp)
  • Eairh – lower gas/wind (fart)
  • Heh – discomfort (hot, cold, wet)
  • Owh – sleepiness

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by Lola&Lykke Team