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crying baby

On any given day, a newborn may cry for up to two hours. Or even longer. Crying is their way of communicating. They may cry for a variety of reasons. Finding the reason why your baby is crying can sometimes be challenging and often very frustrating as well.


Checklist to Find the Reason

Here are some ­reasons why your baby may cry and what you can try to meet that need. If your baby is:

  • Hungry. Keep track of feeding times and look for early signs of hunger such as lip-smacking or ­moving fists to their mouth.
  • Cold or hot. Dress your baby in about the same ­layers of clothing that you are wearing to be comfortable.
  • Wet or soiled. Check your baby’s diaper. Some babies are very sensitive to a wet or dirty diaper. 
  • Spitting up or vomiting a lot. Some babies have symptoms from gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and the fussiness can be confused with colic. Contact your child's doctor if your baby is fussy after feeding, has excessive spitting or vomiting, and is losing or not gaining weight.
  • Sick (has a fever or other illness). Check your baby's temperature. Call your child's ­doctor right away if your baby is younger than 2 months and has a fever. 
  • Overstimulated. Move your baby to a quiet, dimly lit area.
  • Bored. Quietly sing or hum a song to your baby. Go for a walk.

What’s Next?

You have fed your baby, burped your baby and changed the diaper and they are still crying. Now what? These techniques may help to soothe your fussy or colicky baby:

  • Hold your baby in your arms. Place them on their left side to help digestion or place your arm against their stomach for support. This may be helpful with gas pains and also mimic their position inside your body. If your baby falls asleep, remember to always put them down on their back to sleep in the crib or bassinette. 
  • Swaddle your baby in a swaddle sack or blanket. This helps your baby to feel secure and prevents them from flailing their arms. If using a blanket then make sure to keep it away from the face (not above the shoulders) and that it doesn’t become loose. This can pose a risk for SIDS. Swaddling should be discontinued at 2 months of age when the baby could possibly roll onto their stomach and pose a suffocation risk.
  • Walk your baby in a body carrier or rock them. Being next to you makes your baby feel secure and your movements remind them of the motion inside the womb. Baby swings, a walk in the stroller, a ride in the car or rocking or vibrating infant seats may also be soothing.  
  • Turn on a calming sound such as a fan, vacuum cleaner or sound machine that plays white noise, ocean waves or a heartbeat. This blocks out external noise and reminds baby of the sounds they heard inside the womb. Make sure it isn’t excessively loud or too close to the baby as it can possibly affect their hearing.  
  • Offer a pacifier. If your baby isn’t hungry then a pacifier may be comforting by meeting your baby’s need to suck. It is also recommended to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you are nursing then it is recommended to wait three to four weeks until nursing is well established before introducing a pacifier. Placing your baby to the breast will provide comfort.
  • Avoid overfeeding since this may make your baby uncomfortable. Try to wait at least 2 to 2 ½ hours from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next. Nursing babies may eat a bit more frequently the first few weeks.
  • Keep a diary of when your baby is awake, asleep, eating and crying. Write down how long it takes your baby to eat or if your baby cries the most after eating. Talk with your pediatrician to see if their crying is related to sleeping or eating.
  • Limit each daytime nap to no longer than three hours a day. Keep your baby calm and quiet when you feed or change them during the night by avoiding bright lights and noise. 
  • Other tips. Moving your baby to a quiet area may help if they are overstimulated. Talk to your baby and gently pat their back. They may want to hear your voice. Add or remove clothes or blankets if they may be too hot or cold. For gas, try lying your baby on their back and bringing their knees to their stomach. This may help the gas to be expelled. Infant massage techniques can also be helpful.
  • If food sensitivity is the cause then try changing their diet. For nursing moms try to eliminate one food at a time and wait three days to see if it helps. Foods that may contribute to gas are dairy, caffeine, tomato products or greasy, gassy, spicy foods. For formula-fed babies, talk to your pediatrician about changing your babies formula. This can sometimes be helpful.

Let your pediatrician know if the crying occurs frequently. They can look for other causes of your baby’s discomfort.

Sometimes no matter what you do your baby will cry. This can be extremely frustrating. If you feel yourself becoming stressed, tearful or angry, then put your baby down in a safe place and walk away. It’s ok to take a break.

Place your baby in the crib for 10 or 15 minutes once you have made sure they are fed, burped and changed and everything is ok. Go into another room and take a few deep breaths. Call a friend or family member to come and watch the baby so you can have some time alone. Sometimes just an hour to yourself can help you feel refreshed. Remember to never shake your baby!

It’s hard to listen to your baby cry. Remember, this is temporary! Crying spells often peak around six to eight weeks and then begin to decrease. Take care of yourself during this time. Soon your baby will be smiling, laughing and sleeping through the night.

See the following articles from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for additional information:


Call (866) MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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Pediatric Care

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