There’s no sugarcoating it: Parenting a newborn is hard.
The idyllic scenario of a baby snoozing peacefully in their cot all night long is a rarity (it just looks great in movies).
In reality, any new parent will tell you that it’s not all butterflies and rainbows.
Yes, babies are wonderful. And cute. And they smell amazing.
But they can also cry. And cry. And cry and cry. And the really tough thing is when you’ve tried everything, and they still won’t stop.
You’ve rocked them for hours. You’ve driven them around the block more times than you can count. And of course, white noise has been the soundtrack to your life for days.
Add raging hormones and sleep deprivation into the mix and you have the perfect storm of emotion, exasperation, and exhaustion. Not to mention you can’t remember the last time you brushed your hair or took a shower.
It’s easy to start doubting your parenting abilities. But you’re not at fault; it’s just part of the wonder of parenting life.
In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at why babies cry, how you can deal with a crying baby, and how to get a handle on newborn frustration. Plus, how to look after yourself in the process.
Let’s get started.
Why do newborn babies cry?
You’ve tried feeding. Burping. Changing. No fever. No rashes. Are they cold? Too hot? Maybe it’s gas. Or teething? OVERLOAD.
You’ve thought of everything. But they just won’t stop crying. It’s starting to feel like all you can hear is the sound of your infant screaming.
Remember, it’s not your fault. Some babies cry more than others, especially during the early months of life. And it’s often for reasons that we can’t fully understand.
As they can’t talk yet, crying is the way they communicate. When babies hit two weeks of age, the amount of crying generally increases, peaking at around six to eight weeks and then calming down at around four months.
Here are some common reasons why your baby might be crying:
- They’re too cold (or too hot)
Check they’re wearing the right amount of clothing. A good tip to follow is to make sure they’re wearing one or two layers more than you. As for their bedroom, make sure they’re sleeping at a comfortable temperature, ideally between 16° and 20° Celsius (61 - 68 F).
- They’re hungry
Babies get hungry – a lot. So chances are it’s time for a feed. Especially if they’re giving you cues such as putting a hand to their mouth and turning their head.
- They need a diaper change
They might be feeling uncomfortable from a wet or soiled diaper. Make sure you change them frequently, and ensure they’re completely dry before putting another one on – as you don’t want them getting diaper rash.
- They want a cuddle
Sometimes they’re just looking for a bit of affection and human contact. You never know, a little cuddle might be all you need to calm your baby and de-stress yourself.
- They’ve got trapped wind
It’s common when babies are feeding, especially during the early stages, that they swallow little bubbles of air. These tiny bubbles then get trapped in their tummy, bringing them discomfort and sometimes pain. Try winding and burping them after every feed to help get rid of the air bubbles.
- They’re tired
It’s hard work being a baby, especially with all the energy they’re using to grow. If your baby’s yawning or rubbing their eyes, it’s probably naptime. Check out these safe sleeping guidelines for extra peace of mind.
- They’re overstimulated
Sometimes in our ongoing quest for an “easy bedtime” we can go overboard on the rocking and singing. Instead of putting your baby at ease it could have overstimulated them and be keeping them awake.
Feeling stressed when babies cry? It’s normal.
When your baby cries, do you feel like every last nerve has been shot?
It happens to the most patient and calm parent, and there’s nothing we can do about it – our brains are wired that way.
You can liken it to the sound of your morning alarm waking you up at 5 am. Your baby crying will evoke that same feeling of urgency. It’s good old nature piping up, making sure that we do our jobs as parents – responding to our babies’ needs and taking care of them.
But what if that crying doesn’t stop? The effect it can have on a parent is real.
How to calm a stressed baby
Used to the sound of babies crying? It’s their way of communicating with you and the world around them. That’s not to say that it’s not distressing, especially if it happens a lot.
Here’s how to deal with a crying baby.
- Before anything, make sure they don’t have a fever. For babies, a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above is a fever. Make sure to call your doctor if they do.
- Rock your baby. The rhythmic motion will really help to comfort them. You could even try putting them in a swing or vibrating seat.
- Sing or talk to your baby. We’re talking lullabies, cartoon theme tunes, or just simply talking to them in a hushed tone. You can even add a little gentle swaying dance into the mix.
- Offer your baby a pacifier. They might not be hungry but the sucking motion will bring them comfort and they’ll fall off to sleep.
- Take your baby for a walk in the stroller. The truth is that babies often sleep well on the move, as the bumpiness of the ground mimics that of you walking during pregnancy.
- Hold your baby close. This can be as simple as cuddling them close to you or using a swaddler, and letting them feel you take slow, calm, and deep breaths.
- Give your baby a warm bath. If they have any stomach pain the warm water will help, or they might just like the distraction.
- Rub their back. They might have some trapped wind somewhere, so you can pat and rub their back gently to see if that helps ease the discomfort. Place them across your lap on their belly and give their back a rub, as some parents find this more effective for relieving discomfort from air bubbles.
- Play music or white noise. Some babies respond to sound as well as movement. You could even try using the vacuum cleaner or the noise from the washing machine.
If they’re still crying, then there may be an underlying cause that a visit to the doctor should be able to help with, such as reflux or colic.
You need looking after too
It’s easy to forget that there’s another important person in this scenario: you.
Coupled with all the other things that parenthood brings – financial stress, feelings of isolation, exhaustion, etc. – it’s easy for your mental state to suffer.
Here are some tips on how to stay calm when baby is crying and become a calmer parent.
- Take a break
Put your baby in a safe place and give yourself a few minutes. Have something to eat, have a shower, or do something creative you enjoy. A brain break really does work wonders for regulating your emotions.
- Try some noise-reducing earplugs
The sound of a baby crying can reach 120 dB (close to the noise intensity of a departing plane).
Noise-reducing earplugs can help to offer protection for your ears (and your sanity). They limit the volume of parenting while allowing you to hear everything that you need to.
Loop Engage Plus offer up to 21 dB of noise reduction with complete sound clarity, allowing you to focus on remaining present and calm.
Loop Quiet take the edge off parenting life by reducing noise levels by up to 27 dB. They’re perfect for that much-needed sleep, but don’t worry, you’ll be sure you hear them when you need to.
- Practice breathing techniques
Do you get anxiety when your baby cries? You probably don’t realize, but when we’re panicked or stressed our breathing is often shallow. So try taking deep, even breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. It sends a message to your nervous system that you’re safe.
- Take a nap
It may sound obvious (and maybe impossible), but chances are you’re simply strung out. Speak with your partner and try to get a good night’s sleep. You’ll find that just one good night’s sleep can be a game changer.
- Lean on friends or family
Try calling a friend or family member for a bit of support. Sometimes letting off steam is the ticket to resetting your brain and getting back some feeling of calm. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Reach out to a midwife or health visitor
They’ll be able to suggest a more personalized strategy for coping and put you in touch with support groups in your area.
- Try positive talk
“It’s nothing I’m doing wrong.” “I’m a good parent.” “Everyone goes through this.”
The thing is, your baby loves you; this is totally normal. They’re just busy working through the early few months of their lives. So try and keep perspective, and remember that it’s all a normal part of parenting.
If you are experiencing feelings of sadness, depression, or loneliness or feel unable to care for your baby, make sure you reach out and speak to someone. It’s easy for parents to become overstimulated. You’re not alone. New parents need and deserve support.
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- It’s very common for newborn babies to cry a lot. It’s their only way of communicating with you and the world around them.
- There are typical reasons to look out for such as they’re tired, hungry, or in pain.
- You can try and soothe your baby with techniques such as singing, rocking, or taking them for a walk in the pram.
- Amidst it all, you have to remember to look after yourself. It’s easy to feel like the bottom of the ladder, but the way you feel is important too.
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