Every new parent has been there. It’s the middle of the night and your baby won’t stop crying. You’ve tried feeding her and changing her and burping her. You’ve been up for hours and now you’re both crying.
You don’t know what to do. Could it be gas? Is he too hot or too cold? Maybe he’s teething. Maybe he’s sick. You’ve tried everything you can think of and now you’re starting to get stressed. He. Just. Keeps. Crying.
You feel scared and desperate and if we’re being honest a little bit angry and annoyed.
What should you do?
First, know that sometimes babies cry for reasons we don’t really understand. This does not mean you are doing anything wrong!
Also, it’s completely normal to feel stressed when babies cry. If their crying upsets you, this doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. Babies cry to give us information. Our brains hear that cry and release stress chemicals to get us to act and help. This is all perfectly normal. This is nature’s way of making sure we do our jobs. You will feel stressed and it doesn’t mean that anything has gone wrong!
But, what if you’ve tried to help your baby and checked all the things that they may be trying to tell you and your baby is still crying? Here are some things to remember when you start to feel desperate or even out of control.
1. Remember Babies Sense Our Emotions – Babies tune in to their caregivers’ emotions. This means when we are stressed the baby can feel it and he can react to it, actually making his fussiness worse. Babies can feel your tense muscles and see your frustrated expressions and hear the tone in your voice.
Stop and recognize how you are feeling inside. Try to name the emotion you are feeling as precisely as you can. This will give you some power over it.
2. Calm Yourself First – Before you can calm your baby, you have to calm yourself. Put your baby down in a safe place like a crib and take a break. Close the door and go into another room and take some deep breaths. Deep breaths send messages to your brain that there is no danger and it can relax. Breathe in through your nose and then out your mouth and you can count to 10 slowly as you do so. You can also put your hand on your stomach and breathe in so deeply that it lifts your hand. This will send the message to your brain that everything is fine. Give yourself a time out until you can relax before you go back in to check on your baby.
NEVER NEVER shake a baby
Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a baby is shaken. The blood vessels in a baby’s head cannot tolerate the impact of shaking and can break.
• Each year about 1,000 children die from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
• Death, brain damage, mental retardation, seizures, or blindness may result from shaking a baby.
• Shaking usually happens when parents or caregivers become frustrated or angry when they are not able to stop the baby from crying.
• Shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Take Care of Yourself – In general, remember that you cannot take care of your baby if you don’t take care of yourself first. If you have ever been on an airplane, the flight attendant always tells you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting your child. It’s important to take care of yourself as well as you take care of your baby.
You take care of yourself by drinking enough water, getting a shower and some exercise, eating good food, and having regular social interaction with friends and family. If you practice good self-care throughout your day and week, then you will be better able to help you baby in any situation.
4. Sleep – Many new parents are exhausted. Your newborn takes constant, around-the-clock care. Often when the baby won’t stop crying you are both completely worn out. Talk to friends and family about coming to watch your baby while you get a nap or sleep through the night. Not getting enough sleep can affect your decision-making abilities and it creates stress. Use the resources around you and ask for help!
5. Remember Your Baby Loves You – Your baby loves you. She is depending on you. She is having a hard time right now, but her fussiness is not a reflection of her feelings for you. You are both doing the best you can and you love each other.
6. In the box below there are some practical tips you can try when you baby won’t stop crying. These may work in some cases and not in others. We don’t always know why babies cry, but remember that you don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to do any of this alone. Ask for help when you are tired or frustrated. Talk to the pediatrician if it seems like your baby cries incessantly. And reach out to friends and family and be honest about how you are feeling emotionally and physically.
Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for soothing a crying baby
If your baby seems to be crying for “no reason,” pediatrician Harvey Karp advises parents to use the Five S’s, which recreate the womb environment and activate your baby’s calming reflex.
• Swaddling. Wrap your baby in a blanket so he feels secure.
• Side or stomach position. Hold your baby so they’re lying on their side or stomach. But always put them on their back when going to sleep.
• Shushing. Create “white noise” that drowns out other noises: run the vacuum cleaner, hair drier, fan or clothes drier.
• Swinging. Create a rhythmic motion of any kind. For example, take your baby for a ride in a stroller or car.
• Sucking. Let the baby suck on something, such as a pacifier.
Adapted from: The Happiest Baby on the Block
It may not seem possible, but eventually your baby will stop crying. They will grow older and their needs will change and they will be able to communicate with you in easier ways to understand. Be patient with yourself and your baby in the meantime. And always ask for help so that you can take good care of yourself and your baby.