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Baby Matters

Coping with Crying

January 1st, 2016

By Celeste Denney

Being a new parent is both wonderful and exciting but it can also be challenging. One of the most frustrating things for parents to deal with is a crying baby. Here is some information to help parents understand more about crying.

Why do babies cry?

Crying is the main way babies communicate their needs. They may cry because they are:

  •         hungry or thirsty
  •         wet or dirty
  •         sick
  •         bored
  •         lonely

Sometimes babies cry for no reason at all.  Even healthy babies who get excellent care cry a lot.

What is normal crying?

Typically crying increases at two weeks, peaks at 2 months and then starts to subside by 4 to 5 months of age.  There may be times when your baby is crying that they may not be easy to console, and resist soothing efforts.  They may have crying bouts that last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours!  Sometimes they may cry at the same time every day, or crying bouts may be unpredictable.

What is colic?

We now know that most infants who are labeled as “colicky” are not suffering a medical problem. They are normal healthy infants who cry more than average.

The most common sign that a baby might be colicky is crying for more than three hours per day, at least three days a week for three weeks in a row.

Strategies for successful soothing of a crying baby:

  • Pick your baby up, give them a different view of the world, make eye contact and body contact.
  • Repeat sounds, touches, and smells. For example patting baby's back repeatedly or singing lullabies that have repeating words.
  • Create a repeated sound, things such as a vacuum, clothing dryer, or a fan create white noise, however;
  • Human interaction is more effective than a machine.

Once you are successful in soothing your baby, continuing with the soothing behavior for some time after the crying stops helps babies to remain calm longer.

What to do if you feel overwhelmed when your baby cries

It is common for parents to feel feelings of frustration and anger when dealing with a crying baby. It is important for parents to be able to recognize the signs of anger and to be able to identify when they need to put some distance between themselves and their baby so they can calm down.

Some thoughts that might be going through your mind could be:

Why won’t the crying stop? I don’t know what else to do. I never get a moment’s rest. Nothing I do makes a difference. I can’t handle this anymore.

When caring for your crying baby begins frustrating or angering you it’s time for a break. Ask for help. If help is not available to you, place your baby in a safe environment such as the crib and walk away. This does not mean you are a bad parent, it only means you are normal.  Your baby will be fine to cry while you take a break.

It is important that you take care of yourself when crying becomes overwhelming because crying can be a trigger for shaking your baby. Shaking has serious consequences for your baby’s health and can lead to significant brain injury and even death. So take a break, don’t shake.

For more information visit Call Child Abuse Hotline Alberta at1-800-387-5437 or Alberta Health Link at 811 for support.

Celeste Denney is originally from Saskatchewan where she completed her BScN and Masters of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan.  Celeste has worked in the area of pediatric nursing for 11 years. Her experience extends from pediatric acute care nursing to clinical education with the faculty of nursing at the University of Saskatchewan.  She joined the Child and Adolescent Protection Centre at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in January of 2008 where she is currently a Clinical Nurse Specialist with training as a pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner.

Tags: advice, Babies

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