All babies do it... but some cry more than others. ‘If you have a very young baby you will want to pick him up straight away,' says Dr Pat Spungin, child psychologist and founder of www.raisingkids.co.uk/. ‘By the time he's 6 months, you will be quite good at distinguishing between different cries, so you can judge whether to leave him for a few minutes.'
A baby under 4 months should be seen to quickly whereas an older baby can be left for a few minutes to see if the crying stops. If you are trying to encourage your baby to sleep longer during the night it's best not to jump in at his every murmur because he is probably just trying to tell you he is awake. Given a few minutes, he might resettle himself. ‘Wait for a bit to see if he stops,' says Pat. ‘If he doesn't, he must need comforting and you should see to him.' A cry of pain should always be responded to urgently.
A new baby makes particular demands. ‘Your aim should be to get your baby to fit gradually into a family routine,' says Pat. ‘However, it's just as important to remember your baby doesn't work like clockwork. A strict routine isn't appropriate for very young children. If he's hungry earlier why make him wait? Some babies will fall into a routine very quickly while others won't.
‘The key is to remember he's just a baby and is crying for a reason, says Pat. ‘But if you are at the end of your tether it's safe to leave him in his cot for 10 minutes ands shut the door.
Older babies get upset for lots of reasons, some emotional and some physical, and often it just takes a bit of thought to prevent it in the first place. ‘Let your baby sit with you wherever you are,' says Pat. ‘This stops them getting lonely and fretting about when you've gone.' Boredom is a common crying trigger, too, so avoid leaving your baby alone in his cot for long periods. ‘If he seems distracted hold him tightly,' says Pat. ‘Sucking is very soothing, so dummies can be a great comfort.' Rocking and singing are also time-honoured solutions that work. A comfort blanket or teddy can also help, but he may get upset if he loses it.
It has been said that mums have a biological response when their baby cries. It triggers the release of the hormone prolactin, or "mothering hormone", which creates the urge to pick up the baby and meet his needs. ‘Babies only have one main way of intruding in your world,' says Pat. ‘Just as it is natural for them to cry for your attention, it is normal for you to feel an urge to comfort your baby.' So when you don't know what else to do, remember that your baby's tears and your reactions are normal.
While most mums expect their baby to cry it still tugs at the heartstrings, especially in those first few sleep-deprived months. Don't be afraid to let somebody help you care for him. Your baby will sense your stress so it's better to take a well-deserved break.
These five soothing techniques should help when your baby won't stop crying.
1. Rub my tum, mum
Colic is a common reason why babies cry and can be very difficult to soothe. There are a lot of over-the-counter remedies but speak to your health visitor first. It should pass by around three months when his digestive system matures.
2. Sucking can help
Many babies suck a thumb in the womb so it's no surprise that sucking is a baby's first instinct. They suck for food and comfort, so a dummy may help calm her down.
3. Soothing sounds
Babies often cry because they're lonely or scared. Singing a little lullaby will reassure him you are close by and settle his fears.
4. Rock-a-bye baby
She was used to being rocked in the womb so gentle rocking should make her feel content and secure. It can also help her breathing, circulation and digestion.
5. Let's snuggle
After nine months tucked up inside you, it's not surprising that your baby finds the outside world a bit daunting. If you can't work out why he's upset, hold him tightly towards you. He may just need a bit of reassurance that he's not alone.
For more advice call Cry-sis on 08451 228669 or visit www.cry-sis.org.uk/.
What's up baby?
Your baby's cry will depend on why he's upset. As he grows you'll soon get to learn what each cry means.
Play with me
It won't take long for your baby to realise you come running when he wails. When he's bored and wants to play he will start to fuss. If you don't respond, this fussing will build up to a crescendo until you do.
Ouch, that hurts
You can't miss the cry of a baby who's in pain. It starts as a sharp scream followed by a brief period where she will gasp for air or stop breathing due to shock. More cries followed by another piercing scream is a sure sign of pain. If nothing has happened to explain it, like a jab, check for things which may have irritated or hurt her.
What a day!
A busy day can make him restless. Cries of letting off steam will start as a whimper and continue to rise. He needs you to help him relax by rubbing his back or singing softly.
If your baby cries more than three hours a day, three days a week, she could have colic. Colicky babies tend to get more distressed in the evenings. Colic is due to gas pressure build-up, but she may seem in pain and thrash around.
Cries of hunger start slowly. At its peak it will be loud, rhythmic and desperate. He may suck his hand as a way of trying to get food. As soon as you pick him up it may lesson, as he thinks he's going to get fed. If you are breastfeeding he may turn his head towards your breast.
What real mums say....
‘I now know I had it easy with Daisy. She was very content and rarely cried. Poppy is so different. She came out screaming, and has hardly paused for breath since. I'm just consoling myself with the fact that things will get easier.'
Georgia Gates, 39, has two daughters, Poppy, 2 months, and Daisy, 2.
‘My husband has this incredible ability not to hear Freya's crying at night, whereas my ears hear even the slightest whimper. Sometimes I can't help feeling resentful that he can sleep through.'
Nicky Doughty, 31, has one daughter, Freya, 4 months.
‘I think my son was born with very discriminating taste. The only music that would really soothe him was Marvin Gaye's Greatest Hits CD. I'd pop it on and rock him in time to the music.'
Loretta McGregor, 37, has one child, Finn, 1.
‘Just looking at Zahra's eczema would sometimes make me want to weep, so she must have felt 10 times worse. Of course, she was a very grizzly baby and night times were awful - the poor mite just couldn't settle. But she is definitely improving.'
Andrea Griffiths, 34, has one daughter, Zahra, 11 months.'
‘I've started to notice a pattern to William's crying. The worst time of day is definitely between 5 and 7 in the evening. It's almost as if he has to let off all this steam before bedtime, and afterwards he's worn out and ready to settle.'
Rachel Keys, 28, has one son, William, 2 months.
Trusted Help for infant colic
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