Why is my baby crying?
Like us, babies are individuals and some cry more than others.
When your baby cries, they're trying to communicate with you. They might:
- be too hot
- be too cold
- be hungry
- be windy
- need their nappy changing
- need a cuddle or to be held
- need a break because they feel overwhelmed or overstimulated.
Sometimes, crying can indicate pain.
How to soothe a crying baby
Talk to your baby softly while you go through the list above to see if you can find out what’s wrong. If you can’t find anything obvious, see if there’s anything else you can do to calm them down. You might:
- Sing them a song
- Give them a massage
- Pick them up and hold them gently while talking softly
- Go for a walk to change your surroundings.
Why it's important to soothe a crying baby
When a baby cries, they release a hormone called cortisol in their body. If they’re soothed, the cortisol reduces. But if a baby is ignored, then the hormone continues to be released, even after they’ve stopped crying.
Cortisol isn’t good for a baby’s developing nervous system. If babies are ignored when they cry, they might think no one is there for them.
So, it’s important to soothe them and help them to feel calmer again.
Why is my baby crying so much?
Usually, the amount a baby cries will increase in their first 3 months, until it peaks. After that, it should gradually reduce again.
If you think your baby’s crying more than usual and you can’t find the cause, speak to your health visitor or GP to get support.
Feeling stressed when your baby cries
It’s normal to find crying stressful, especially if your baby cries a lot.
The sound of crying might make you feel frustrated, unsure of what to do, or overwhelmed. And it can feel especially stressful when you're tired because of broken sleep and the demands of being a parent.
It’s good to try and remember that your baby isn’t doing it on purpose. They just need some help to feel better. You can use the checklist above to go through what might be wrong.
If you start to feel upset, angry, or overwhelmed, it’s OK to put your baby down somewhere safe (for example, in their cot) and walk away for a short period to calm down. You could use a mindfulness technique, make yourself a hot drink, or quickly call a friend or family member for some support.
You must never shake your baby as this can cause a brain injury. That's why it's so important to put your baby down somewhere safe and walk away if you start to feel angry or frustrated.
If you feel you are getting angry or frustrated at your baby often it's important to speak to your health visitor, or a family member, for help.
Sometimes, parents or carers worry that they might hurt their child by accident through rocking them gently or winding them. This is not usually the case if it's done gently. If you're worried, ask a health professional or an experienced, trusted parent for advice.
Helping toddlers with their emotions
Once your baby becomes a toddler, it should be easier to understand what they’re trying to tell you. Their brains are still developing, though, and the areas that control emotions are immature. That means they will have outbursts and easily become overwhelmed and tired.
It can help you both to build a bond if you put their emotions into words, such as ‘Playing with that toy has made you very happy.’ Or ‘I can see you’re tired. Let’s go home and have a rest.’
If you do need support with managing tantrums, we have advice for you.
Where to get support
Ask your health visitor or GP for advice. Or talk to other parents and carers who'll all all have their own ways of soothing their babies. Their suggestions could work for yours, too.
Cry-sis is a UK charity that offers help and support for parents with babies who cry excessively or have trouble sleeping. Their helpline is available 7 days a week from 9 am to 10 pm on 0800 448 0737.
Tips to help you manage stress
When you're looking after a baby or toddler, it's important to be aware of your own stress levels too. Using these techniques might help if you're feeling overwhelmed:
- Arrange time for a rest. Feeling tired or trapped can make stress feel even worse. See if you can arrange times when a partner, relative or friend can take over the baby's care, so you can rest.
- Have techniques to deal with stress. Stressful events are going to happen. But if you already have a strategy to deal with them, it'll be a real help. Taking deep breaths and counting to 10 works well, but you could also go for a walk or get some fresh air. Or try a mindfulness app or video – there are lots of free options.
- Put on some music. Music can be one of the best ways to change your mood. If your baby is crying, make sure they're in a safe place then go into another room, and listen to one of your favourite songs to give yourself a short break.
- Ask for help. All parents have challenges, and there's no shame in asking for help. See if a neighbour can give you a little support, or give a friend a ring. You can contact NSPCC counsellors for advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- See what others do. Talk to other parents about how they handle stressful situations. They might have a solution that could work for you too. Remember that it's OK to experience stress and frustration. You're not alone. It's all part of bringing up children.
You can help us to support more families.
Get more parenting advice
How to bond with your baby
Babies and sleep
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