Babies cry. It is estimated that babies cry on average of two to three hours a day. With some babies who are diagnosed with reflux (or commonly known as colic) it is estimated that they cry three to four hours everyday for no apparent reason. Coping with long crying sessions can be difficult, but it is always important to keep your cool and keep your child safe.
How to Calm a Crying Baby
CARRYING: Studies indicate that babies who are carried by a parent in his or her arms or in a carrier for at least three hours during the day cry less than infants who aren’t carried as much. The warmth and close physical proximity during carrying is calming to your baby and enables you to respond quickly to his cries.
RHYTHMIC MOTION: Many babies stop crying when in motion. Rocking chairs, infant swings, carriage rides, car rides and dancing chest-to-cheek across the floor are all comforting motions. Some experts believe that these repetitive, rhythmic movements satisfy a baby’s need for predictability. Being able to rely on what comes next–that a chair will rock forward after it rocks backward–seems to help a baby feel more secure and safe.
SWADDLING: In the womb, babies grow accustomed to the constant feeling of snugness and something enclosing them, a sensation they lose at birth when they’re thrust into the wide-open air. Swaddling–being wrapped very tightly in a lightweight blanket–can restore this safe feeling, and it also prevents arms and legs from flailing about, which can be startling and upsetting to newborns.
SOOTHING SOUND: Babies are comforted by rhythmic, repetitive sounds that remind them of things they heard in the womb: sounds of the ocean or a waterfall, the hum of a laundry washer or dryer, the sound of a heartbeat or the hum of a vacuum cleaner. Babies also like slow, lilting music and the soft sound of a parent’s voice crooning a lullaby.
COMFORT SUCKING: Babies have a strong sucking urge that is not related to their desire for food. Their crying is often controlled by sucking on their fingers, fist or a pacifier.
MASSAGE: Touch is one of a baby’s most highly developed senses at birth. Stroking your infant’s skin can calm the baby and help her sleep better. A good habit is to massage your baby from head to toe for 15 minutes once daily before bed or at bath time. Simply pour a little baby oil into the palms of your hands, rub them together; then using your fingertips, draw circles in a rhythmic motion over your baby’s body. Don’t forget his hands, feet, face and head. Next, hold an arm or leg, and gripping softly with your open hand, gently move it back and forth using long, slow strokes.
CUDDLIES: Many babies love nestling with something soft like Mom’s nightgown, a soft blanket or a plush toy. Typically, they don’t begin to grow attached to an object like this and actively seek it out until around eight months. Prior to this age, keep a soft object next your baby when you cuddle with her, so she’ll associate the object with your loving touch.
ROUTINES: A repetitive, predictable pattern of care may be more comforting to your baby than any single soothing technique. As soon as you bring your baby home, establish a few simple routines, like bathing at the same time each day or hearing the same lullaby before bedtime each night. Being able to count on some things day in and day out is consoling to an infant who is exposed to so many new things the first year.
RELIEF HELP: Constant crying is bound to make you feel tense and upset. These negative feelings are likely to be picked up by your baby who will cry all the more. You may be surprised when your spouse, a friend or a grandmother cradles your “inconsolable” baby and magically calms the screams. After a break you’ll feel calmer, more refreshed and better able to respond to your baby.
CRY IT OUT: Babies sometimes need to cry out inner feelings of fatigue or tension at sleep time. This can be a self-soothing activity for the infant. So, if external soothing techniques prove ineffective or overly stimulating, consider whether your baby just needs to cry for a brief spell by herself to release tension and settle down.
Types of Cries
Hunger is the most common cause of crying. Babies say “I’m hungry” with a low-pitched, rhythmic cry that repeats a pattern of short cry, brief pause, short cry and pause. The sound is less shrill than other cries, and sounds demanding rather than desperate. This cry is often preceded by finger sucking, lip smacking or nudging.
The fatigue cry is a wailing sound with a definite vibrato. This cry gradually builds up in intensity and often has a continuous and nasal quality.
Babies say “I’m lonely and bored” with a cry that is whiny and whimpering; sometimes it almost sounds like a moan. This cry stops abruptly when the infant is picked up.
This cry begins suddenly and is high-pitched and shrill. The cry is loud and long (as long as four seconds), which leaves the infant breathless. This cry is followed by a dramatic, lengthy pause (as long as seven seconds) as the baby catches her breath again. The baby’s arms and legs may flail and then jerk tensely back into the body. This cry is nonstop and uncontrollable.
Sick babies signal their discomfort with a prolonged cry. The cry sounds weak, whiny and nasal. It is generally lower in pitch than a pain cry. The cry can more readily be identified as a signal of illness when it is considered together with changes in the baby’s appearance and behavior. The baby may have a flushed face, appear listless, refuse to eat, have diarrhea and avoid cuddling.
Colic crying is readily identifiable because it generally occurs like clockwork every afternoon or evening, lasts for several hours each time, and the baby is not readily consolable.
Irritable babies cry on and off all day long and often wake crying during the night, as well. Soothing techniques work better with these babies than with colicky infants.
All babies cry and it is the parents responsibility to soothe their child to the best of their ability. Please remember that it is never ok to shake a baby. Abusively shaking a baby can cause blindness, hearing loss, seizures, developmental delays, speech difficulties, mental retardation, and even death. If you find yourself getting stressed by your baby’s crying, immediately put the baby down and take a break to calm yourself. Also, it is always ok to call and ask for help to calm your baby.
For more information, please visit www.calmacryingbaby.com.