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Coping with crying babies

Advice for parents on coping with crying babies

Babies cry to communicate that they need something. It’s normal for babies to cry, but some babies cry a lot and this can be stressful for parents.

Babies cry particularly during the first few weeks after birth. In time, a baby can settle into a routine and parents can start to understand their baby’s normal routine and what their crying means. It’s not unusual for a baby to spend two to three hours in a day crying.

Crying which goes on for hours and hours, over many days, is excessive. Also, if the crying sounds unusual, or is outside the baby’s usual routine, it may be cause for concern.

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Why do babies cry?

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out why your baby is crying. The most common reasons are: tiredness, trapped wind, wet/soiled nappy, being too hot/cold, hunger, thirst, loneliness (wanting contact or attention), boredom, being uncomfortable, being over-stimulated or frightened and colic.

If you have ruled out all of these common causes, but your baby continues to cry, you may want to try:

  • swaying or talking softly to your baby
  • holding your baby close to you so that they have contact with your body, and perhaps gently playing some music or singing a song to your baby
  • attracting your baby’s attention with something like a toy or a rattle
  • giving your baby a sterilised (clean) dummy or letting them suck their thumb
  • giving your baby a warm bath
  • getting some fresh air – like taking your baby out in the car or in their pram.

If none of the above work, the cause is not obvious, and the crying is excessive you may want to consider if your baby is teething or has a health problem. You can find out more information about when to seek medical advice on NHS choices. Alternatively, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647, or speak with your doctor.

How to cope with a crying baby

A crying baby can be exhausting and stressful. However, the last thing you should do is lose your temper. Shouting at or getting rough with your baby, who won't stop crying, will only make matters worse. Whatever your feelings or thoughts, never shake your baby. Shaking moves a baby’s head violently, which can cause bleeding and brain damage.

Remember, this difficult time won't last forever. If you feel you can't cope and need a break it's important not to overreact from frustration.

  • Give yourself time to think through the options above to stop your baby crying.
  • Put your baby down safely and comfortably in the cot or pram and leave the room for a few minutes.
  • Ask someone you trust to look after your baby for an hour or so.
  • Call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 and talk to one of our counsellors.

Where to find more advice

NSPCC: Advice and support for adults concerned about a child.

NHS Choices: Information on conditions, treatments, local services and healthy living.

NHS Direct: Health advice and information service.

Cry-sis: Support for crying, sleepless and demanding babies.

National Childbirth Trust: Information and support for parents.

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