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Crying

A lot of people seem to think that babies shouldn’t cry. They think that, if babies do cry, there must be a reason and you, the parent, should be able to do something about it. But all babies cry, and some cry a lot. Sometimes you’ll know the reason. Often you’ll try everything to stop it – change nappies, feed, rock, play – and yet nothing seems to work.

Here are some things you can try:

  • Let your baby suckle at your breast.
  • Hold your baby close, rocking, swaying, talking, singing. Or put your baby in a sling, held close against you. Move gently about, sway, and dance.
  • Rock your baby backwards and forwards in the pram, or go out for a walk or a drive. Quite a lot of babies sleep in cars and even if your baby wakes up again the minute you stop, you’ve at least had a break.

  • Find things to look at or listen to – music on the radio or a tape, a rattle, a mobile above the cot.

  • If your baby is bottle fed you can give him or her a dummy, sterilised for small babies, never sweetened. Some babies find their thumb instead. Later, some will use a bit of cloth as a comforter; you can wash this as often as you need.

  • Stroke your baby firmly and rhythmically holding him or her against you or lying face downwards on your lap. Or undress your baby and massage with baby oil, gently and firmly. Talk soothingly as you do it. Make sure the room is warm enough. Some clinics run courses to teach mothers baby massage – ask your midwife or health visitor about this.
  • Give your baby a warm bath. This calms some babies instantly, but makes others cry even more. Like everything else, it might be worth a try.
  • Quietly put your baby down after a feed and leave the room for a few minutes. Sometimes all the rocking and singing succeeds only in keeping your baby awake.

Remember

This difficult time won’t last forever. Your baby will gradually start to take more interest in the things around him or her and the miserable, frustrated crying will almost certainly stop.

Never shake your baby. Shaking makes a baby’s or infant’s head move violently. It causes bleeding and can damage the brain. Sometimes you will feel very tired and even desperate. You might feel that you are losing control and have an urge to shake your baby. But don’t, this is dangerous. Put your baby down safely in the cot or pram and calm yourself; don’t be angry with your baby.

Colic

Many babies have particular times in the day when they cry and cry and are difficult to comfort. Early evening is the usual bad patch. This is hard on you since it’s probably the time when you are most tired and least able to cope.

Crying like this can be due to colic. Everybody agrees that colic exists, but there’s disagreement about what causes it or even if there is always a cause. Some doctors say that it’s a kind of stomach cramp, and it does seem to cause the kind of crying that might go with waves of stomach pain – very miserable and distressed, stopping for a moment or two, then starting up again.

The crying can go on for some hours, and there may be little you can do except try to comfort your baby and wait for the crying to pass. However, the following tips may help.

  • Avoid over-stimulating your baby. Research has found that gentle soothing is more effective than holding or carrying.
  • If you bottle feed your baby talk to your doctor or health visitor about changing your usual milk formula to a hypoallergenic formula milk for a week, to see if this helps.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, it may be that something in your diet is upsetting your baby. When your baby seems colicky and uncomfortable, it may be worth looking back over what you’ve eaten in the last 24 hours. Make a note and discuss it with your health visitor, who may advise cutting out some foods for a while. Sometimes colic can also be a sign of too much fore milk. If your baby wakes up and cries up to half an hour following a breastfeed, try putting him or her back on to the breast he or she last fed from.

Coping with a colicky baby is extremely stressful. It may be best to tell yourself that there’s nothing very much you can do. You just need to hang on as best you can until this part of your baby’s life is over, which will certainly be only a few weeks. Just knowing that you’re not causing the crying, and you can’t do much to prevent it, may make it easier for you to bear.

Try to take some time out for yourself whenever you can – maybe just handing over to someone else so that you can have a long, hot soak in the bath in the evening. Make sure that you get a decent meal every day to keep up your energy. If a crying baby occupies all your evening, then make lunch your main meal.

If the strain gets too much

  • There may well be times when you’re so tired you feel desperate, angry and can’t take any more. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

  • Try to share the crying times. Think about handing your baby over to someone else for an hour. Nobody can cope alone with a constantly crying baby. You need someone who’ll give you a break, at least occasionally, to calm down and get some rest.
  • Think about putting your baby down in the cot or pram and going away for a while. Make sure your baby is safe, close the door, go into another room, and do what you can to calm yourself down. Set a time limit – say, ten minutes – then go back.
  • Ask your health visitor if there is any local support for parents of crying babies. Some areas run a telephone helpline. An organisation called CRY-SIS has branches in many areas and offers support through mothers who have had crying babies themselves.

Other remedies

  • Some parents find giving their baby colic drops or gripe water helps. Others find these remedies are ineffective.

  • Try massaging your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction with 
  • one drop of pure lavender oil to 10 mls of oil such as baby, soya or olive oil. 
  • A drop of lavender oil placed on a cotton wool ball on a warm radiator or in a vaporiser may also soothe your baby.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.