Fussy infants — especially if your baby won’t stop crying unless held — can be hard on a new parent’s confidence.
You feel bad for your little one. You may feel like you’re just not getting this parenting thing down right. You’re tired from being up all night rocking your screaming tyke.
You may even lose your cool after extended crying sessions when it seems like nothing you’re doing is working.
Keep calm, Mama. You’re doing great.
While there are several — very normal — reasons your baby might be in distress, you’ll want to make sure your child is safe and healthy before attempting to soothe her.
We’ll help you sort through the reasons for unrestrained crying, when you should call a doctor, and what you can do to help your crying baby through his distress.
Help! My Baby Won’t Stop Crying
Babies can’t talk, so they cry to express themselves and alert you to their needs.
Over time, you’ll be able to discern the difference between an “I need a new diaper” cry and one that means your little one wants a cuddle.
Among those cries are the times in most parent’s lives when their baby won’t stop crying and seems inconsolable.
Those are the times you need a little extra help and information.
How Much Crying is Normal?
Guess what? Newborn babies cry for nearly two hours a day!
And, by six weeks of age, that’s increased to a whopping three hours — no matter what effort you make to stop it.
After that time, though, your child’s crying should get less as he gets used to your routine. It’s important to remember that your baby’s cries are the only way he can communicate. So if something is upsetting him, he’ll cry to let you know.
Some common reasons your baby may be crying (outside of illness) are:
- Needs to burp
- Dirty diaper
- Want to cuddle
- Too hot or too cold
However, if your baby has a fever that’s higher than 100.4 F, has a rash, vomits, or has diarrhea or constipation, call your pediatrician right away to rule out medical reasons for her crying.
If you’ve checked for all of the above reasons and your baby is still screaming, it’s very possible this excessive crying is part of your baby’s transition from stage to stage.
The good news is — that means it’s normal!
What is Purple Crying?
Purple crying is a term meant to describe the stage in a child’s life that they cry more than any other time (from about two weeks of age to four months).
This age and stage are often referred to as “the period of purple crying.” The term “purple” is actually an acronym for the signs of this type of crying:
- P – Peak of crying
- U – Unexpected crying
- R – Resists soothing
- P – Pain-like face, even when not in pain
- L – Long-lasting crying (five hours or more)
- E – Crying is more common in afternoon and evening
Knowing that this stage is a natural and normal developmental stage in your baby’s life can help you respond more calmly to their distress and feel more confident that nothing is “wrong” with your child.
What is Colic?
Another reason for extreme crying and fussing is a condition called “colic.”
While some use the terms “colic” and “purple crying” interchangeably, the word “colic” used medically, denotes abdominal distress.
Doctors theorize that colic can be caused by:
- Spasm of digestive system
- Hormones that cause stomach pain
- Developing nervous system
Colic is, like purple crying, considered a benign and normal occurrence in a baby’s life.
No matter whether your child is purple crying or colicky, you’ll want to know how to comfort a baby that can’t stop crying.
How to Soothe a Crying Baby
“How can I get my baby to stop screaming?”
This is a question many new parents ask as their child begins to enter the period of purple crying, which can be a trying time for both parents and baby.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to soothe your baby and help her through this stage.
One noted pediatrician, Harvey Karp, put together a series of tools you can use, called the “Happiest Baby Method.”
Some parents call this the Five S Method, because each easy-to-remember tool begins with an “S.” Let’s take a look:
Use a thin blanket to wrap, or swaddle, your fussy infant with her arms at her sides inside the blanket. Swaddling works by giving babies the secure, confined feeling they had before birth, in your womb.
In fact, nurses frequently swaddle crying infants in the NICU to promote sleep.
2. Stomach Position
Your swaddled baby can now be put on her stomach or side, not to sleep, but to soothe. You can even turn them over gently in your arms on their stomach and sway.
To reduce Sudden Infant Death risk, experts recommend putting your baby to sleep on his back, but newborns prefer side or tummy position for security.
As long as you’re there to watch him, and he’s awake, a side position may offer comfort.
Everyone’s heard that soft “ssshhh” sound that most moms make naturally when calming a distressed child.
This sound offers a natural way to help your baby feel secure.
After all, she’s just spent nine months listening to your blood shushing through your body — a sound that, to her, was louder than a vacuum cleaner.
White noise sounds while trying to soothe all our babies (we had 3), was a gamechanger. Most often, as soon as the sounds start, baby instantly stops to listen. It calmed them down and helped us move on to the next two steps of this Five S Method!
I encourage you to check out the Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine. We’re still using it for our toddlers.
It combines the sound machine, a nightlight, and time-to-rise alert (perfect for getting a few extra minutes of sleep before the Littles pounce on your bed in the morning!).
Best part: you can control it from your smartphone!
When your baby was in utero, he rocked and jiggled all the time as you moved through your day.
So, rocking and jiggling a swaddled infant with tiny, quick movements can duplicate the secure feeling he had before birth and help to comfort and calm him.
Let’s face it, babies just love to suck. If your baby is one of these, offering a pacifier or the breast may help her relax and stop crying.
One or more of these methods may work better with some children than others. Experiment to see which of these works best for your crying baby.
If you want more in-depth information on the Five S Method, be sure to check out the book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block“.
Winning at Calming Fussy Infants
The next time your child has an uncontrolled crying fit, take a deep breath. When you are at a loss and thinking, “why won’t my baby stop crying”, remember what you’ve learned here.
First, check to be sure there’s no reason for his distress — dirty diapers, hunger, and a host of other simple issues can cause it, but so can an illness.
If your baby is fed, comfortable, and has no signs of illness, it could be that you’re experiencing the period of purple crying. This is normal!
Now, start employing one or more of the tools of the Five S Method of child soothing and see which works best for your child.
Using the Five S Method to comfort your baby can help calm and quiet him and give you a bit of much-needed peace.
With these tried-and-true tips, your confidence as a new parent should increase, even when your baby won’t stop crying unless held!
How often does your baby cry, and what have you tried to help?
Share in the comments below!