We all know the feeling when your baby just won't stop crying. You've tried everything, but nothing seems to work and you're at your wits end. When the wahhs start getting your baby (and you) down, it’s time to take a new approach to soothing those tears.
Here is our guide for how best to stop your baby crying, split into each age group.
- 0-3 months
The hungry cough
For 0-3 Months:
Every baby will have his own set of cries and you’ll get used to understanding them.
‘Most babies who are hungry have a “wah wah” sound to their cry and there’s often a cough,’ says Tinies maternity nurse Tess Rendell. ‘Some of the time, he’ll even stop crying to cough.’
A baby who feeds every three hours will sometimes want to eat after only one or two. ‘Don’t think, “He can’t be hungry, it’s only been an hour”. Just go with it,’ says baby expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith.
At this age, his first need is food, so feed on demand to keep him happy.
Is he too hot or cold? Is something digging in too tightly or scratching him, such as straps, zips or buttons?
Also look out for hair tourniquet syndrome, which is when a loose hair (usually yours) is wrapped around your baby’s toe or finger. Although unusual, it can be painful and lead to your baby’s finger looking red and swollen. If this happens, take him to your GP.
If your baby is crying fiercely in the late afternoon and evening, and draws his legs up to his chest, it could be colic.
Try massaging his tummy in a clockwise direction, gently stroking his legs and arms, and tracing tiny circles on his palms and the soles of his feet.
A gassy baby will be grouchy, so ease trapped wind by resting him on his tummy.
The Tiger In The Tree baby yoga position can help. Cradle him along the length of your forearm with his head near the crook of your elbow, and his legs dangling down either side of your arm.
Learn to decode cries.
For 3-12 Months:
Pain and discomfort cries come in different patterns.‘If your baby bumps his head, say, the pain is intense, then it disappears. But, when he has wind, the pain comes in waves,’ says Tess.
Your baby’s cries will replicate this pattern. He’ll let out a shriek, then cry fiercely if he’s hurt, but a child with wind might have a rolling cry that comes and goes with the pain.
Settle your baby in a sling or baby carrier, then gently bounce up and down on a fitness or birthing ball to soothe his cries.
The up and down movement will remind him of when he was jiggled around in your stomach.
Remember the scene in the classic Three Men And A Baby when Ted Danson takes the baby in the shower to stop her crying? Not far off the mark.
‘The shower provides a rhythmic white noise that can help soothe your baby,’ says Sarah. ‘The warmth and closeness as you hold him skin-to-skin is comforting – just make sure you shelter him from the direct flow of water.’
Try shushing your baby at a similar volume to his cries. ‘When the wails decrease in volume, follow his lead,’ says Tess.
By copying your baby, he’ll feel understood, which should help calm him.
Hang a white sheet over the hood of your baby’s pram – the plain background will calm him if he’s over-stimulated and needs to rest.
‘Holding him over your shoulder and standing with your back to a white wall has the same effect,’ says Rosie Harper, from Worcester, who’s mum to Josh, five months.
This is what French mums call the couple of minutes you wait before going to your crying baby at night – if you’re lucky, he’ll settle himself.
‘Between four and six months, your little one can learn to self-soothe,’ says Megan Faure, author of The Babysense Secret (£12.99, DK). ‘When your baby comes into a light sleep state, he may cry out. It’s not because he needs you, but because he’s alert.’
At around 8-10 months, babies quite often develop separation anxiety and cry when you leave the room. He needs to learn you exist even when he can’t see you.
‘Playing peek-a-boo helps,’ says Megan. ‘Hide behind a muslin and pop your head round.’
Find your car song
For 12-18 Months:
When he’s not sleeping well, your baby probably won’t be a fan of long car journeys.
‘I sing my daughter’s favourite song over and over. It’s exhausting, but seems to stop her wailing,’ says Catherine Graham, from Manchester, who’s mum to Lola, one.
If your little one screams in the night, but still looks asleep when you go to him, it could be night terrors.
‘These cries are distressing, but your baby won’t remember them,’ says Megan. ‘They’re usually linked to over-stimulation and tiredness, so let your toddler nap during the day.’
Your baby will be so in tune with your emotions now, he’ll pick up on tension. ‘If you’re stressed, he will cry harder,’ says Tess.
Try to watch where and when you have a row with your partner – your baby’s bedtime isn’t ideal.
If your tot’s toys are always out, they’ll lose some of their magic. Keep a few treasures back so you can use them as a distraction.
‘I keep a bag of toys hidden away, so that when my son is on the verge of a meltdown, I can whip one out,’ says Beth Gronig, 32, from London, who’s mum to Oscar, 20 months.
At around 18 months, your toddler will often cry due to frustration, as his verbal abilities lag behind his understanding – he knows what you’re saying, but can’t explain what he wants.
Acknowledge his frustration. Say, ‘I understand that you want me to buy a toy’. Then give a boundary, such as, ‘You can have one when we get home.’
How to spot when he’s really sick
Distinguishing a nasty bout of colic from an actual bug isn’t always easy, but here’s what
to look out for…
There are subtle differences in the sound of a baby’s cry when he’s ill. High-pitched cries, shrieks, snuffles and wheezing are all signs of illness. If
he’s got a temperature,
his breathing may be more rapid. Call NHS Direct (111 or 0845 4647, depending on your area, see nhsdirect.nhs.uk) if you’re worried.
If your baby’s unwell, he may also have other symptoms to look out for. Check his nappy – either for diarrhoea or if he hasn’t produced a wet one recently. If your baby seems unresponsive, floppy,
listless and/or has a rash on his body, take him straight to hospital.
Feel your baby’s forehead with the back of your hand, as it’s cooler than your palm. Then compare it with your own forehead, to see if he has a fever. If you think he does, double-check using a thermometer. Contact your doctor if his temperature reaches 38°C or over.
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