It’s a funny thing… how people can’t stand to hear a baby cry. Especially in public places – like a bus, or an airplane, or the grocery store. You can see the discomfort, empathy and even irritation on people’s faces as they glance around to find the source.
There’s something innate that makes us want babies to stop crying. It makes us uncomfortable and uneasy because we can’t stand to hear children unhappy. This is beautifully designed need to make crying stop compels adults to insure that babies are safe. Crying stirs something deep within us.
Crying is communication. It’s your baby’s first language.
Every baby is unique and with time we know their various cries. You’ll soon know the difference between a hungry cry, bored cry, pain cry or tired cry. Babies don’t cry to manipulate. They cry to communicate a physical condition or emotion. You won’t spoil your baby when you respond to crying. Rather, your response gives your baby a sense of security, that she knows she’s heard and understood and that you will keep her safe. It doesn’t teach her to cry more.
Reasons babies cry:
- I’m hungry
- I’m tired
- I want my diaper changed
- I want to be picked up and held
- I’m uncomfortable
- I’m overstimulated
- I don’t feel good
When baby cries, take a moment to see what’s going on. Move slowly, speak quietly, let her know you’re there. “I hear you. What are you telling me? You just had a bottle and you have a clean diaper. Are you telling me you’re sleepy?” Take a moment to listen, observe and see if baby can work it out and stop crying on their own. This communicates respect and allows you to practice observing her as a person who is capable, even at a young age, of meaningful interaction.
It’s common to bounce, shush, walk and pace or put her in a something that swings and vibrates, etc. to get a baby to stop crying. When we do this, we habituate baby to need this in order to self-soothe. So think about it — you’re setting the stage for the future in these early months.
Here are some things to consider as you respond:
Be sensitive to your child’s feelings.
How would it feel to you if you were crying and your friend said in a happy, singsongy voice, “You’re okay! It’s not that bad, you’ll get over it soon. It’s really not that important.” Think about how you would like someone to respond to you and do the same with your baby.
Get comfortable with crying as a method of communication.
Babies cry for a variety of reasons and they need to express themselves in the only way they know how. It’s up to us to get comfortable with the method of communication. What is baby saying to you? What do they need? If there’s no obvious reason – they’re full, dry, napped recently, the room is calm, and they seem to feel good – they just may need to cry to release tension.
Pay attention to yourself.
When your baby is still crying after your attempts to comfort, notice your internal response. Take a deep breath. Know that all emotions have a beginning and an end and that this cry will have an end. If you feel tense, remember that it’s natural for babies to cry and trust that she will stop. What feels like an hour of crying may just be 5 minutes. Relax, take a deep breath, and give baby some time to work it out. It’s okay to put her down in a safe spot and give yourself a little distance to take a breath. And by distance, we mean another room — where you can hear her still and get back in a few seconds! It’s never okay to leave a baby alone while you leave the house. If you need help coping, call someone and let them know you need support and preferably, relief!
So what are some ways to stop the crying? Take a look at the list above and simply go through it in your mind.
- Is she hungry? Try a little more nursing or a few more ounces of formula
- Is she sleepy? Likely! Newborns will sleep 14-17 hrs a day. Snuggle her up and see if she can sleep
- Need a diaper change? Likely! Newborns will need about 10 diaper changes a day – with an average of 10 wet and 3-4 bowel movements
- Need some attention? Perhaps! That baby has literally been a part of you for months. She is happiest when she can hear you, smell your smells and feel your skin
- Uncomfortable? Check the temperature of the room, clothing that could be restricted, bright light in her face, placement of her body – and make adjustments. Or she may need to burp again!
- Overstimulated? Could be too much noise, activity, sensations and holding, snuggling or ‘passing around’ the baby
- Not feeling good? Check for claminess, fever, indications of tummy pain, extreme fussiness or too much sleep
She’s still crying??? Oh boy. Try these ideas…
Go outside. In my experience, fussy babies calm very quickly as soon as you walk out the door. There’s just something calming about outdoor sounds.
Sing to your baby. Sway to the music, moving gently to the beat. The rhythm is soothing and she will even begin to follow the rhythm with her actions and sucking – crazy but true!
Go for a drive. If you’ve tried everything else and she’s still crying, you might need to get out. Safely strap her in the car seat, if the weather is nice put down the windows and turn on the music. Drive through your favorite coffee shop and get a yummy drink. Probably by the time you get back home she’ll be calm.
Go for a walk. Again, it always helps to get outside. Strap baby on your chest or bundle up in a stroller and walk a while. And the exercise will be good for you too!
Hang in there – we’re rooting for you and your sweet baby!
YOU are the best parent for your baby. You’ve got this.
Until next time,