What’s the Doc say?
Dr. Yazdaan Juma and his wife Ramsha have two small children. They know first-hand what it’s like to have a lot of crying in the house and how to work together to soothe their upset babies.
"When we had our first, as brand-new parents, the crying, at times, was a lot, especially overnight. Initially, my wife and I would both be awake taking care of him and trying to figure out why he was crying so much. We would run a mental checklist in our heads: Is he hungry? Does his diaper need to be changed? Does he need an extra burp? Is it too hot or cold for him? Is he having gas? Most often it would be one or two of these, and he would settle down. Sometimes gas would not abate. We would reach for simethicone drops which often did the trick very quickly, along with a gentle belly massage. If he did not want those, many times he would want to be swaddled or be held skin-to-skin. It was hard those first few months between working 80-hour weeks in medical training and my spouse in college, but we took turns, let the other sleep in, and asked for help when we needed it. The newborn period is a rollercoaster, but it’s the small moments when your kiddo falls asleep in your arms, the occasional brief smiles, and wanting to explore their world at 2am - that makes it worth it."
Dr. Yazdaan Juma, MD
Northwest Family Clinics
So many of us know the feeling….Your new baby won’t stop crying, leaving you exhausted and likely crying alongside Baby. You are not alone. There are many reasons that babies may cry more than expected. This does not mean you are a terrible parent or doing a lousy job. This means you may need to talk to your doctor about what’s going on with you and your baby. It is also essential to run through a quick checklist to help determine what Baby needs. Remember, crying is their only form of communication at their age, so babies cry to tell us what they need. There are often different sounding cries for different needs. The sound of crying often emotionally touches the caregiver, so we quickly (and instinctually) respond to fulfill the baby’s needs.
Why Baby is Crying
Babies cry. Some babies may cry more than others, which can make new parents feel incredibly frustrated and frankly exhausted. While babies need to cry, there may be reasons why your baby is crying.
During the first three months of life, babies usually eat every couple of hours. If they are crying, check this off the list first. Be sure your baby has eaten enough, but also not too much.
Remember, not every cry means food.
If they are crying and they have eaten within the past 2-3 hours, it’s probably something else. If your baby loses interest in eating or is not eating enough, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Dirty Diaper or Rash
If your baby is uncomfortable, they will cry. Sitting in a cold, wet diaper isn’t comfortable for anyone, and your baby is letting you know that. Additionally, if the baby has developed a rash on their bottom, this may also cause them to be uncomfortable. Check your baby often and do your best to change them as soon as possible after they have soiled their diaper. If your baby does develop a rash, be sure to treat the area as quickly as possible.
Like adults, babies get agitated when they are tired. For many reasons, they may cry instead of simply falling asleep. Do your best to ensure your baby is getting enough sleep and help to soothe them to sleep by rocking and holding them close to your body.
This is also when a lullaby and kisses can help, too.
Just like adults, babies can startle with unexpected sounds or movements. Babies may reflexively cry when they are startled. Older babies may also hear sounds that scare them or be placed in an unfamiliar room that frightens them. The “fear” cry often has its own unique sound.
Most often, this is simply because the baby was not burped long enough. If you notice the baby is very gassy, consider changing burping positions a couple of times after each feeding and sticking with burping it a bit longer.
Sometimes, whether breast or formula feeding your baby, they may develop an allergy or sensitivity to the milk they are receiving. This can cause an upset stomach leading them to cry since they don’t feel good. Additionally, your baby can have reflux, also known as heartburn, that is above and beyond normal newborn spit-up. Your doctor can help you determine if your baby’s stomach is upset and what is causing it.
Your baby may be experiencing colic if they follow the rule of 3. They are three weeks or older and crying excessively, at least three hours a day or more, for at least three days a week, for three or more weeks in a row. Colic can leave parents feeling helpless because it can be hard to calm your baby. Again, your doctor is here to help. Not only can your physician help determine if your baby is experiencing colic, but they can help you cope.
When is Crying Abnormal?
As we said, crying is perfectly normal; however, there are signs that suggest the crying is not normal and must be taken seriously. These include:
- Baby has been inconsolable for two hours straight
- Weak and fatigued or trouble breathing
- Not eating enough or shows no interest in eating
- Have a fever of 100.4 or greater
- Are not peeing or pooping
- Blood in their stool
- Unresponsive – call 911 immediately
You should call your doctor or 911 immediately if Baby begins to show signs of a potentially more serious condition causing them to cry abnormally.