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Baby Care

How to soothe a crying baby

Although your new baby’s crying may seem loud to you, it’s really only a tiny sound. Also it will hardly ever be a sign of great distress but actually your child’s way of communicating with you.

Understanding your baby’s cries

All babies cry several times a day when they are small. Indeed, even as a toddler your child will probably shed a few tears most days. But these are mostly forms of release before other methods of communication develop. Still, when you are a new parent, your crying baby can seem like it’s the end of the world. Don’t worry, in a few weeks your instincts will guide you through what each crying phase means.

Different crying signals and how to sooth your baby

  • Hunger. Even if you choose to watch the clock and feed your baby to a strict routine, your child will want to let you know it’s time for another feed. If your baby is soothed by a feed but seems to be crying for food more regularly, consider the possibility that he is not getting enough milk. Is he putting on weight at a good rate? If not, talk to your health visitor about changing your diet to help produce more breastmilk, or have a think about when and where you feed your baby – if you tend to feed in front of the television or at busy times when you and your baby are distracted, perhaps you are just not doing long enough stints for him to take in all the hindmilk he should be drinking.
  • Discomfort. Your baby will probably cry if he is too hot or too cold (though not always). Lay the back of your hand on the back of his neck or chest – does he feel too hot or cold? If so adjust his clothing accordingly. More commonly, your baby might cry if a filled or wet nappy needs changing. Have a quick look down the back of his nappy if it doesn’t feel obviously heavy with urine or smell as if he has a bowel movement.
  • Tiredness. Like grown-ups, sometimes your baby will want to sleep but just can’t drift off. Walking your baby round or rocking him in his pram or a chair can help. If it’s daytime, go out for a walk – even a walk round the block should help and the fresh air will make you feel better too. If it’s at night you will probably feel worse about the crying. If you don’t want to attempt the ‘bleary-eyed dad going on a night drive’ idea, try running a little warm bath or doing some baby massage just to change the scenery for ten minutes with something restful but distracting. Or lay your baby next to you in bed and feed sideways. When your baby is asleep, place him back in his own cot before going to sleep yourself.
  • Pain. If your baby cries for prolonged periods most nights, he may be suffering from colic.  Or, when your baby gets to about four months he may be suffering the first bouts of teething, especially if the crying is accompanied by red cheeks and a runny nose. Try teething granules or other remedies recommended by your GP or pharmacist.

If the crying is new and is more shrill or distressed sounding, call your GP or NHS Direct on 0845 4647, especially if it is accompanied by a temperature over 38°C, limpness or drowsiness, a lack of interest in feeding or a rash.


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