You may have already noticed this, but having a crying baby is normal. Babies cry. Imagine being trapped in a wordless world where crying was your only mode of self-expression? Well, that’s pretty much where you’re little one is at. As a result, the language of cries is a complex one.
And in all of this, there’s you: trying to do the detective work.
Mamahood is a pretty weird thing. This tiny being bursts into the world, complete with their own set of needs, desires, and emotions, and there you are in the middle, doing your best to navigate all of that.
But how are you just supposed to know what to do if a baby is crying for no reason? Where were the classes at school that taught you how to make a baby stop crying?
Urgh. It’s all so frustrating. If only your little one could just tell you what’s wrong so that you could fix it for them.
The funny thing is, they’re trying to. In their very weird way. Your job (yes, on top of eeeeverything else) is to try and translate from “crying baby” into your language.
We’re going to help you with that.
What to do when your baby won’t stop crying
The sound of your crying baby can be seriously unsettling. What does it mean when a baby is constantly crying? All you want is for them to feel loved and nurtured and comforted, and the cries seem to be telling you that this is not exactly the case.
Take a deep breath, Mama. You’ve got this.
And now let’s try and get to the bottom of what that crying baby is trying to tell you.
Firstly, let’s break down the most common reasons babies cry. Knowing the why will help you figure out the what next.
Why is my baby crying?
What are the 3 types of baby cries?
In their rather histrionic way, your baby might be trying to tell you that they’re:
Hangry. You know the feeling. You haven’t eaten in a while and suddenly it all feels rather apocalyptic? Your crying baby might be feeling the same way. Newborns loooove to eat—and they’ll generally be quite vocal about when they’re ready for their next snack. While all babies are different, an “I’m hungry” cry might sound low-pitched. It also thankfully stops when your baby is presented with a yummy bit of newborn nosh.
Sleepy. If your baby has difficulties sleeping, missed a nap, or been awoken by some outside intrusion (Grrrrrrrr), they’ll likely turn on the waterworks. Getting into some sort of semblance of a sleep schedule can help with this—knowing of course that perfection is a pipe dream.
Colicky. You know that newborn high pitched cry that sends shock waves through every part of your body? That may be a colicky cry. Although it can be incredibly distressing, colic is more common than you might think. Up to 1 in 4 babies have it. If your baby cries for over three hours at a time and does so more than three times a week, they might have colic.
Although the crying baby has existed for millennia, the jury is still out on specific causes of this drama. Some possibilities are indigestion, milk intolerances, or simply that they are having trouble adjusting to the outside world. You’ll be happy to know that colic has a time limit. It usually starts at around 2 weeks old and ends by the time your baby is about 4 months old.
And then there are other possibilities:
Diaper distress. Yes, you are essentially a baby servant and they are telling you to clean their poop and pee—or else.
There’s too much going on! If your little one is overstimulated, that overwhelm can quickly turn to tears. From the safety of your uterus, they were thrown without warning into the chaos of the outside world. It’s no wonder it can sometimes feel a little too much.
If you are in a noisy place, have had a long day, or have had loads of visitors, your crying baby might be telling you that enough is enough. Exit the extravaganza. Silence the stimulants. Delete the distractions.
- Temperature troubles. The temperature inside your belly is regular. The temperature on the outside? Not so much. Sometimes, calming your crying baby can be as simple as adding or removing a layer of clothing or a blanket.
How to make a baby stop crying
Honestly, calming a crying baby is often easier said than done, and totally individual to each specific situation. What works for one crying baby might not work for another. Ultimately, this is a process of trial and error.
Here is our rough (very adaptable) guide:
Suggestions for calming your crying baby
STEP 1: Check for any worrying symptoms. Does your baby have a temperature? Vomiting? Diarrhea? Trouble breathing? Not feeding? If so, check in with your healthcare provider as soon as you can to rule out any health issues.
If your baby is otherwise healthy, move to step 2.
STEP 2: Rule out the basics: hunger, sleepiness, diaper drama?
STEP 3: Is there a belch coming on? Gently burp your baby. Here’s how.
STEP 4: Time to turn up the soothe-o-meter. Cradle them. Sing to them. Rock them. Pat them gently.
STEP 5: Go for a walk or drive. Get your baby moving. You’ll find which one works best for you.
STEP 6: Pamper them. Warm baths. Soothing music. Think Spa Day.
Finally, being a new mama can be an isolating experience. So much is new and confusing—and you’re navigating it all through sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuations, and pregnancy recovery.
Practicing self-care may sound like a bit of a fantasy right now but, seriously, Mama, do what you can. This may be as simple as having a phone chat with your friend, eating a delicious meal, or taking a few moments to do a breathing exercise.
A crying mama is just as important as a crying baby—and should be given suitable care.