Your peaceful newborn has grown out of that sleepy phase and now will not stop crying.
When looking for the answer to stop the never-ending wails, does anyone else find themselves constantly wondering what the hell their baby is thinking?
If only I could delve into her little head and hear her thoughts, I might be able to figure out what on earth she wants.
From the moment they’re born babies can swing from peaceful calm to wailing loudly with big tears rolling down her cheeks within seconds.
And then there’s the middle of the night. If only I knew why she wakes up, if only she could understand me and gesture in some way to indicate what the problem is.
Even Lassie could get humans to understand her by simply barking and running around in circles.
I remember reading countless articles in the early weeks about how baby cries take on a different sound depending on whether they’re overtired, hungry or have wind.
But it took me a long time to get the hang of distinguishing between the cries.
I’m still clueless some days now with my second who is nine months old. The trouble is there are so many options as to what she could want and even when you offer the right one, sometimes she rejects it just because she’s now upset it took you so bloody long to figure out what was up.
You’ve probably gone through the whys, whats, hows countless times yourself. Here are some tips to help, because we are not mind readers:
Why won’t my baby stop crying?
First of all you need to work through all the possible reasons why your baby might be crying. There is a long list. This is a process of elimination.
Based on the time of day you can choose the most likely options first. So if your baby’s been awake for more than 90 minutes, chances are she’s tired. Here are the options:
Newborns are hungry pretty much all of the time. It’s more than just food. They love to suckle for comfort and if you’re breastfeeding it’s about getting close to mum.
There’s also the practical purpose of building up your milk supply. In the early weeks, always offer milk if you think they might be hungry, they have a lot of growing to do in the first six months.
They say your newborn will feed every two hours. Then an older baby will likely be hungry every three hours or so. If you’re on a bit of a routine, you can probably time it to figure out if your baby may be coming up to another meal. If you’re not, try to keep a record of when your baby last fed and for how long or how much. This can help you spot patterns and figure out when they are likely to be hungry.
If you think they have had too much and they’re ready to puke it all up if you give them anymore, for example they have necked 150ml and are hungry five minutes later, you could offer some cooled boiled water in a bottle. This shouldn’t replace feeds though.
Cluster feeding is a challenge to cope with. It generally happens in the evening and can last for hours and hours. You’re not alone, it is normal but it is exhausting. This phase does not last forever.
Newborns particularly get overtired very quickly and it can sneak up on them. The signs to look for are staring into space, moving less and a cry that’s quite different to hunger, it’s more of a frustrated wail.
An overtired baby is hard work to get to sleep, but it’s also tough to spot the signs they are on their way to being overtired before it hits.
If all else fails, driving them in the car usually works.
This hits once they’re out of the sleepy newborn phase and can snooze through being handed around all your relatives. Once they’re more alert, being handed to 10 different people in 30 minutes becomes very draining.
It helps to keep visits short or to take them to a quiet room for a while so they can relax.
Too cold or too hot
They can’t regulate their body temperature themselves, so they need a bit of help. Having a room thermometer, like a GroEgg, can really help. There are lots of guides online to give you pointers on what your baby should be wearing at certain temperatures.
Sometimes babies just need you to hold them. They have spent nine months being nice and cosy, and constricted, inside you. They associate you with comfort and warmth. Sometimes you just have to surrender to it.
Trapped wind generally causes your baby to draw up their knees and scrunch up their face when crying. There are various different burping techniques. Over your shoulder, over your legs (put them face down with their tummy on your legs while supporting their head with your hand and rub their back) and sitting upright on your lap.
Silent reflux is hard to spot. It looks a bit like gas pain. It happens when the tiny muscle at the top of the stomach hasn’t quite got its strength up yet post-birth and allows some stomach contents out, causing what is effectively heartburn. It’s painful and distressing for your baby. Some babies spit up, some don’t.
See your doctor or midwife to help with diagnosis. There are certain medications that can help.
They are just crying
Sometimes babies are just fussy. There may be absolutely nothing you can do except hold them and comfort them through it.
There’s a theory that babies crying increases up to the age of 12 weeks and then gradually eases off. Your baby will cry a lot in the first year and quite often it may be over nothing.
It’s frustrating but it does pass. Read more about colic and the symptoms in this post, as well as where to get help.
What can you do?
Try out all kinds of different rocking, shh-img and silly walks to relax your baby. All babies are different and you will find the right motion that comforts them eventually.
Routines are hard to enforce in a very young baby. But they may still have a vague pattern that emerges after the first six weeks or so.
Don’t think you have to go all Gina Ford and time everything to the minute, although that may work for you, it’s all about trial and error.
Try to think about your baby’s day on a three-hour cycle, once they get to about six weeks old. Feed, play and sleep. Then it all starts again. Bear in mind that at this stage, getting them to take a nap can involve hours of cajoling. Then you’re confused as to what comes next.
This is normal. The main message is to try and keep that schedule in the back of your mind but don’t beat yourself up if it all goes out the window by 7am. The main thing is to keep them well fed and cared for.
The day/night confusion
Try to show them the difference between day and night very early on.
To do this have the curtains open during the day and talk to your baby, as much as your fatigue will allow.
Once the clock hits 7pm, close the curtains, dim the lights and don’t have the television on loud. When feeding at night, keep it quiet and don’t start bringing toys out.
If you can be consistent with this, it will eventually get through to your baby that night time is for sleeping. It may take a few months though!
See your doctor
Always make an appointment if you’re worried. A GP can check your baby over to make sure there isn’t any underlying cause to their excessive crying, such as colic.
How to cope
Do not blame yourself
If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked then start at the beginning again. Just because nothing has worked, it does not mean you have done it wrong.
Babies take a lot of getting used to. We all have days where we feel like everything we have done has been totally wrong. But we’re not wrong when we are doing our best. Chin up.
Leave the room
Put the baby somewhere safe, like their cot, and walk out of the room for a couple of minutes. Take a few deep breaths and sit down. Calm yourself before going back to it.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by it all. If you feel your temper is getting too much, having a break and counting to 10 can help you cope.
It does get easier
You might not believe this now, but it really does. Babies change so very quickly. You will hardly remember the newborn they were once you get to nine months.
My second baby cried and cried and woke every two hours at night. She’s now sleeping through and as happy as anything. It’s tough, I know it’s tough, but hang in there.
I hope this advice helps you cope and gives you a few ideas for what to do. Please get in touch if you have any questions.