Understanding and Coping with Your Crying Baby


Colic by: Matthew Efseaff

The desperate cry for help from a newborn baby is one of the most disturbing sounds for most people. Despite how much we want to help them, unfortunately, it’s hard to know what they are asking for. With time, parents will learn how to interpret the cries of their newborn and will discover the comforting techniques that work best for their baby.

All babies need to cry. It is a developmental function for an infant. Crying enables them to release tension and is their way of communicating sensations such as hunger, fear, cold and discomfort. It is also a way for them to express their desire for physical contact.

Many parents believe that their baby has “colic”. It is an overused term and is incorrectly used as a diagnosis rather than behavior. All babies cry to varying degrees from insignificant fussiness to persistent screaming. All babies have fussy times or even fussy days. This does not mean that they are colicky.

Doctors will consider a baby colicky when they cry continuously for three or more hours every day. They will usually cry at the same time every day. They are often very rigid and they pass a lot of gas. While most newborns can be calmed by holding or rocking but nothing seems to calm a colicky baby for more than a few minutes at a time.

Colic has been reported for generations and there is no relation to gender, culture, social class or whether there were complications during the pregnancy.

It is comforting to know that colicky infants are otherwise healthy. They are often very alert and active, they have no issue with weight gain and colic shows no long term effects.

It is the parents of the fussy baby that suffers the most from colic. It is important to remember that the parent has not done anything to cause this and it will get better as the baby gets older. It is not uncommon for parents to doubt their abilities. Other common feelings are tension, exhaustion, frustration, guilt, overwhelmed, desire to hurt the baby, desire to run away and isolation.

Here are some tips to help keep parents maintain control during this difficult time:

  • – Put in earplugs and and take a shower for 15 minutes.
  • – Exercise or yoga helps relieve tension and frustration.
  • – Go outside on a daily basis. Fresh air will be good for both of you and most babies like the movement in the stroller.
  • – Ask for help from friends and family. Have someone watch the baby while you nap or do something for yourself. Ask someone to help you with your housework. People will be happy to help in whatever way they can.
  • – Do one thing for yourself every day.
  • – Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.

Here are some tips on ways to soothe your baby.

  • – Hold the baby close while walking or rocking.
  • – Turn on something noisy with a constant sound (vacuum, hairdryer, fan)
  • – Try talking or singing
  • – Play music – repeating tunes is said to have a calming effect.
  • – Babies like to suck – offer a nipple, finger or pacifier.
  • – Lay baby on their tummy across your lap and gently massage their back.
  • – Gently massage their abdomen or feet.
  • – Lay them on their back and pump their legs upward toward their abdomen. This will help with gassy pains.
  • – Rock the baby in a swing or rocking chair.
  • – Give the baby a warm bath
  • – Put a ticking clock close to the baby
  • – Wrap the baby tightly in a blanket.
  • – Give the baby the recommended amount of Gripe Water (available at the drugstore). Put their pacifier in immediately after they swallow.

Dr. Harvey Karp is the author of The Happiest Baby on the Block.

He suggests the 5 S’s to calm a crying baby.

1 – Swaddle: Wrap the baby snugly with their arms tucked inside.

2 – Side/Stomach: Lay baby on their left side or on their stomach either in your arms or under close supervision. The back is the safest position for sleeping.

3 – Shushing: Say sh-sh-sh loudly near the baby’s ear. It mimics the sound that baby hears in the womb.

4 – Swinging: Start with a fast and gentle bounce and gradually move into a swinging motion as the baby calms down.

5 – Sucking: Offer a nipple, finger or pacifier.

Dealing with a fussy baby is very tiring and draining. Remember that it will get better with time. As your baby gets older, both you and baby will learn how to communicate and this will ease the frustration.

You have a lot of smiles and cuddles to look forward to. This difficult time is only for a matter of months. You have a lifetime to enjoy being a parent.

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About The Author

We are a young couple with an 18 month old boy. We have loved every minute of parenting and it seems to get better and better. The beginning was tough as we adapted to all the changes but the memories that are most vivid are the awe and fascination of our precious little gift. Best wishes to all everyone who takes on the enormous task of parenting.

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