It’s tough when your baby won’t stop crying. You may be worried that something is wrong with your child, that you’ll lose your cool, that your parenting skills aren’t up to the job, or that you’ll never connect with your baby. But you can handle it! Learning the right techniques can help soothe an upset, unresponsive, or colicky baby while keeping you calm and in control. When baby won’t stop crying.
Why do babies cry?
Babies cry for many reasons, and crying is the main way babies communicate. It’s the way they capture your attention and express their needs. At first, it may be difficult to understand your baby’s different cries, but as you spend more time listening, you will become better at recognizing and meeting your child’s specific needs.
Common reasons babies cry
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Wet or dirty diaper
- Overstimulation from noise or activity
- Colic, acid reflux, or food allergies
- Pain or illness
- Stranger anxiety or fear
Is your baby unresponsive or indifferent?
Most babies use crying to communicate and they will continue to cry or show that they are upset until a parent or caregiver responds to their needs. Other babies, instead of crying, become upset and then tune out and fail to show any emotion.
If you think about it, you probably know more than one adult who acts this way when faced with difficulty. An unresponsive baby might seem like an easy baby, because they may be quiet and agreeable. But a baby that doesn’t respond to you, the environment, and sensory influences needs help. Call your pediatrician right away.
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.
Coping with a crying, colicky, or unresponsive baby
You already know that no two babies are alike, but this reality may still hit you hard when you hear other parents talking about how easy their babies are or how their newborn sleeps peacefully through the night.
Try to avoid comparisons and specific expectations, as they can create negative feelings—especially if you have a very challenging baby. Give yourself a break if you are having feelings you didn’t expect. It may take a bit of time to get in sync with your baby, but the extra work will be worth it!
In stressful situations—when your baby won’t stop crying or won’t respond to you, and when you are feeling frustrated, tired, and angry—you need to develop some strategies for taking care of yourself. When you’re calm and centered, you’ll be better able to figure out what’s going on with your child and soothe his or her cries.
Recognize your limits. Pay attention to internal warning signs when you are feeling overwhelmed. The sooner you spot your personal limits, the easier it is to plan ahead—for extra help, a break, an excursion outside, or a quick pep talk from a friend or loved one. The small things you do to prepare will help you get in the best frame of mind to care for your baby.
Remember that time is on your side. For most babies, crying peaks at six weeks and then gradually eases off. There is an end to the crying on the horizon! You may have to put in a little extra work right now and be very patient, but things will get better.
Reach out for support. If you can, enlist help during the fussiest times of the day. Say yes when people offer to help with housework, meals, or babysitting. Find a group of moms to talk to and get out of the house when you can. Knowing you have some help on the way can make a big difference.
You don’t have to be perfect. Parenting is not about perfection. It would be impossible to be fully present and attentive to an infant, especially a crying infant, 24 hours a day.
Experts estimate that meeting your infant’s needs at least one third of the time is enough to support healthy bonding and secure attachment. Don’t worry about getting it exactly right all of the time. Instead, try to relax and enjoy the times when your baby isn’t crying.
Pay attention to your baby’s signals
The whole world comes to your baby through their senses, and every baby has different sensory needs, which is why one baby might love to be held and another won’t; or one baby will cry because of a wet diaper and another will ignore it and continue to play happily.
Get to know your baby’s preferences by engaging all of your senses as you try to figure out what your baby needs. Try being especially attentive to:
Changes in mood – Do your baby’s mood changes seem to coincide with environment changes, the time of day, or in relation to food or naps? For example, if your baby is cranky in the late morning, watch to see if they are sending signals that you’re missing—like an isolated yawn or eye rubbing.
Reactions to different situations and environments – Babies often send signals that we as adults just don’t notice. Your baby might get overstimulated if too many people are around or become especially upset about schedule changes.
Differences in your baby’s cries – At first all cries will sound the same, but, gradually, you will hear how the “I’m hungry” cry is very different from the “I’m tired” cry. Notice noise level, pitch and intensity of the cry, as well as your baby’s body language and facial expressions. An arched back, a scrunched-up face, eyes tightly closed to shut out the light, fists curled up, rubbing eyes, hyperactive or frenetic movement—all of these signs communicate something specific about your baby’s emotional and physical state.
Learning what it takes to soothe and comfort an upset or unresponsive baby may take all of your skills of perception and awareness. Don’t give up if you are having a hard time figuring out what makes your baby cry—he or she will probably keep trying to let you know.
Where to go for help when your baby won’t stop crying
If the stress or crying becomes more than you can stand, or if you feel like shaking, hitting or harming your baby in any way, call for help immediately.
In the U.S.:
- 24-Hour Parent Helpline: 1-888-435-7553
- Crying Baby Hotline: 1-866-243-2229
- Fussy Baby Warmline: 1-888-431-BABY
- Parent Help Line: 1-800-668-6868
In the UK:
- Parentline: 0808 800 2222
- Parent Lifeline: 0114 272 6575
- Parentline: 1300 30 1300
If your baby is crying or upset often, or unresponsive, you should seek help from your pediatrician or a child development specialist. Your pediatrician should be able to recommend a specialist in early infant behaviors to help you figure out if there is a problem and what to do about it. Alternately, contact the pediatrics branch in your local hospital and ask about services in your area, such as:
Parenting skills classes. Available in many areas, coaching and education for parents and caregivers can build necessary parenting skills and offer support and advice.
Support groups. Run by peers rather than professionals, support groups provide a safe environment to share experiences, advice, encouragement, and coping strategies for parents of babies who won’t stop crying.
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