Why is my baby crying?

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crying baby
It's a sound that drives mothers to distraction - and that's exactly what nature intends. Here's how to cope when your baby won't stop crying.

Babies can't talk, so they cry instead. Your baby is crying because they need something, the experts say. Simply work out what your baby is trying to tell you, then act immediately on their 'instructions.' Sounds easy? Try telling that to a sleep-deprived mum who has been pacing the floor with her newborn since 3am.

Her response won't be polite. Instead, try showing her this guide. It may make her life a little easier.

They're hungry

Hunger is one of the most likely reasons why babies cry, particularly when they're newborn.

Babies have very small stomachs, so they can't hold much milk. They get hungry very quickly, so you should try breast or bottle feeding them frequently, even if their last feed wasn't very long ago.

With formula milk, babies tend to need to feed less with up to two hours in between feeds. If your baby doesn't finish her feeds, they may benefit from drinking less milk more often.

They're uncomfortable

If she's definitely not hungry, think practical. Babies often complain because they feel uncomfortable.

Wet or dirty nappies bother some a lot more than others, so it's always worth checking whether she needs to be changed.

Also make sure her sleep suit fits properly (you wouldn't be happy if your clothes felt tight, would you?), her bedding is comfortable and she's not too hot or too cold.

The temperature in her bedroom should be around 18°C (65°F). This may all sound obvious, but it's easy to forget these simple things when you're feeling stressed.

They're tired

If she's tired she should just go to sleep, right?

Well she would if she could, but young babies often need a bit of extra help getting off to sleep. Try cuddling, rocking, stroking and singing to help calm her down, and if non of that works there are some brilliant 'baby sleep tricks' out there which you can try. Don't worry about 'spoiling her'. The vast majority of experts now agree that you can't spoil a newborn baby by cuddling and comforting them.

They're overtired

Young babies can't handle too much stimulation. Lots of visitors, or a very busy day can unsettle her and make her extremely tired. But this doesn't mean she'll recuperate by sleeping for eight hours.

She's more likely to do the opposite and keep you awake all night. Try swaddling her in a sheet or blanket to make her feel safe and secure. (Young babies usually love being swaddled, it reminds them of being in the womb). But if you want a peaceful life, the best solution is to limit visitors and activities in the early days of your baby's life.

They're too cold or too hot

The best way to check your baby's temperature is to feel their tummy, as their hands or feet may be colder than the rest of their body.

You can use sheets or cellular blankets in their cot or Moses basket if their tummy feels cold, or take away a blanket if they feel hot.

The ideal temperature for their room is 18C, although it might be difficult to maintain this temperature all the time so don't worry!

The best position for them to sleep is on their back, with their feet at the foot of the bed so they can't shift downwards to far into the blankets, making them overly hot.

You should also be careful about dressing your baby in too many layers - the general rule is to put only one more layer of clothing on them than how many you're wearing, so two layers on them if you're wearing one.

They have colic

It's the five letter word that sends a shiver up the spine of even the most hardy, fearless parent - which isn't surprising. A baby with colic will cry and cry and cry, and no matter what you do, you can't seem to comfort them.

The crying often starts in the early evening when you're tired and desperate to unwind, and continues for several hours until you're too exhausted to care.

Instead of relaxing with a glass of wine, you will find yourself doing the most bizarre things. From practising the colic 'dance' (a weird series of steps and sways designed to soothe her), to pacing round the garden, feeding her anti-colic drops, switching on the washing machine so she can hear the noise (the spin cycle works best), massaging her tummy - and if all else fails, bundling her into her car seat at 2am and going for a drive.

Nobody really knows what causes colic - an immature digestive system, slow bowel movements, swallowing too much air, or drinking cows milk are all popular theories. But we do know that a lot of babies get it (around one in five) and it does eventually ease, usually at around three months. So get through these difficult weeks as best you can by doing any or all of the above. And remember, thousands of other parents will be doing exactly the same.

She isn't hungry, she isn't tired, she's comfortable and clean and doesn't have colic - so why is she crying?

She's bored or lonely
Even young babies need company or playthings. This doesn't mean spending a fortune on toys. A simple mobile, a rattle or even a wooden spoon could fascinate her for ages. Or sit her in a baby seat and let her watch you and talk to you. Chat to her and let her babble back. Remember you're the best playmate she'll ever have.

She's ill
If your baby is ill, her cry could be more high-pitched than usual. If you're worried, see your GP, midwife or call the NHS non-emergency number (111) to speak to a trained professional.

Act quickly if her cry sounds urgent and is also accompanied by vomiting, runny nappies, a temperature, a rash, or difficulty breathing.

Always remember:

  • All babies cry - no matter what their parents say. Even the most laid back, angelic newborn will exercise her lungs for at least one hour every day, usually a lot, lot more. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
  • Listening to her baby cry can turn even the toughest, hard-nosed woman into a sobbing, demented wreck. A newborn's cry is designed to produce a hormonal 'surge' in her mother, making her feel anxious and compelling her to 'do something.'

If you're close to despair
Put her down in her cot where she's safe and have a ten minute break.

Continued below...

Call a friend or relative, or contact Cry-sis a support group for anyone finding it hard to cope with a crying baby. Helpline number 08451 228 669 or go to

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