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.
A crying baby can make quite a racket. They can pierce through any veil of sleep you may have managed to snatch. It is important to be able to know how to limit your baby’s crying time so that both child and parent can have a good night’s sleep.
It is difficult to put the crying sound in words. It can be a horribly harsh sound that can seem like it will never end. You will marvel at how something so small could make so much noise.
You may even lose your cool after extended crying sessions when it seems like nothing you’re doing is working. And because you love your baby you will always be worrying that they are in pain because they are crying so much.
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. There are many age-old methods of soothing your child and in recent years new techniques have been developed.
If you are sick of crying and tired of trying we are here for you! 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. Crying is an important part of a baby’s development, even though it may seem frustrating when they are screaming the house down. We’ve all been there – your baby won’t stop screaming and you’ve done everything in your power to calm them down… so you start to panic.
It’s normal for your baby to cry more frequently at around the age of 7 weeks to the point where you’re losing the will to live, however, gradually, this phase starts to dwindle away. The crying will start to become less frequent and hopefully not as loud.
While there are reasons your baby may cry, there are times throughout the day (especially in the evening) where your baby is suddenly crying inconsolably. You may have already got used to just waiting for the crying to subside rather than actively trying to deal with it. Eventually, this kind of approach will become untenable.
Unfortunately, this is also the time of day when tiredness gets the better of you, so you may feel as though you’re far less able to cope than a little earlier on. Be assured that this dreaded moment each night is experienced by almost every new mom – they all have to get through it and you can too!
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. Despite this, are also times you need a little extra help and information on what to do when they simply won’t stop. Every mother needs a little assistance to make sure that they can handle the crying.
How Much Crying is Normal?
Guess what? Newborn babies cry for nearly two hours a day! That’s two whole hours where you won’t be getting anything productive done. That’s at least two hours of worrying, especially if you are particularly paranoid parents.
And, by six weeks of age, that’s increased to a whopping three hours — no matter what effort you make to stop it. It is a period of high stress for everyone in the family, especially the poor baby!
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
- Teething (Find out more about how to soothe a teething baby)
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! And therefore over time humans have developed ways of dealing with the problem of excessive crying.
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.” It is a testing time for a parent and many hours of sleep will be lost.
The phrase was coined by baby expert, Richard Barr. He stated that persistent crying is completely normal and is just a ‘phase’ that your baby will snap out of in time. While it will seem distressing at first it should not be the cause for too much concern.
Researchers have found that ‘purple crying’ is simply part of your baby’s brain development and won’t last forever!
So you may be wondering why it goes by the term ‘purple. ’This is because it’s 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.
This provides further evidence to show that staying informed is one of the best ways to help your crying baby. If you were completely clueless about ‘purple crying’ then you would be worrying a lot during this period.
Hopefully, your GP or relevant medical professional will be able to answer any questions you have. But thankfully, there are now many online resources to help you during those tough hours when a doctor is not available.
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 pain, due to the ‘type’ of cry, which often sounds as though your baby is in some distress.
Unfortunately, there is no fundamental cause of colic and has been considered by practitioners as just another stage that babies go through. It can be scary for parents because you can see what seems like pain and anguish and it is not much you can do about it. It is just a stage in your baby’s development that you have to ride out.
However, if your baby has been diagnosed with colic and cries frantically on a constant basis, it could be an indication that they are ill and are in need of medical attention, especially if they have developed a temperature. In this instance, it would be best to contact your GP in case symptoms get worse.
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. Despite it being benign it is also emotionally taxing for any parent to handle.
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. Let’s have a look at some of the best methods you can use to soothe your crying baby.
How to Soothe a Crying Baby
Want to know how to stop a baby from crying? Well, this is the section you’ve been waiting for!
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. As the tears begin to flow from both child and parent you will be looking everywhere for some form of miracle salvation.
Whether your baby is 14 weeks old or 18 months old it is important to have some soothing methods that you can rely on.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to soothe your baby and help her through this stage. And here we have collected some of the best-known ways to calm your baby. So if one method doesn’t work then you can always try the next one!
Some parents call this the Five S Method, because each easy-to-remember tool begins with an “S.” Let’s take a look:
In most cases, a baby won’t stop crying unless held which is where the ‘swaddle’ technique could be your life-saver.It is an age-old technique that parents have used for years to get their child to calm down and stop crying.
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. They will feel safe if they are tucked in and held against their mother.
In fact, nurses frequently swaddle crying infants in the NICU to promote sleep. It is perhaps the most common method used to calm crying babies and it is always a good place to start.
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. As the baby relaxes into a more comfortable position their crying may subside.
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. It may sound weird but replicating this noise can be a great source of comfort for a distressed baby.
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!
But it is also important to remember that while the baby’s crying may be loud it is not always productive to counter their noise with an equally loud noise.
Obviously, baby ears are very small. Shushing can be quite loud for a baby and the last thing you want to do is scare them even more. This is why a quiet sound machine that produces a constant and appropriate noise may be better than your own shushing.
When your baby was in utero, he rocked and jiggled all the time as you moved through your day. They were in constant motion and now that this is no longer the case they can become upset. Wailing ensues. Therefore we must look to the baby’s very recent past for a solution.
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. The sight of a mother or father rocking their baby back and forth is common. Even non-parents know that gently swinging the baby as they are tucked tight against you can send them to sleep.
The next time your baby starts to cry uncontrollably try calmly rocking them to sleep.
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.
Sometimes a crying baby just needs something to latch on to. This is particularly true if your baby is going through teething pains. Allowing your child to rest their gums on something will naturally stop them from wailing. But it can be slightly painful for the mother!
If your baby is breastfeeding, you could also allow them to suck on your breast when they’re screaming and crying to give them a sense of comfort and make them feel closer to you.
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“.
A few other methods include…
Your baby can become completely overstimulated by the vast amount of light and noise they are exposed to, which can often be overwhelming and turn out to be the underlying cause of crying spells. When you think about it, this should be totally expected. After all – they’re used to being confined in the womb where it’s dark, quiet and cozy, so the world is a scary place at the moment.
If you’re unable to console your baby, you should try laying them down in a very dark room to relax their body and mind. This will help block out the unnecessary stimulation and put them into a much more peaceful state so they’re more likely to drop off to sleep.
7. Play some tunes
Some babies need total peace and quiet in order to feel a sense of calm when they’re upset, while other babies much prefer background noise to help soothe them.
Much like rocking and swaying movements, music has the ability to decrease your baby’s heart rate and make them feel at ease. This is especially the case if they hear the familiar sound of their mum’s voice singing or talking to them, which has been proven to ease distress.
8. Give them a Comforter
Sometimes a bit of cloth or blanket helps to calm your baby down. This method is more applicable to slightly older babies who have the ability to grip and hold small things. A comforter can be a good distraction and will give you a break from the crying.
Some babies respond well to comforters and others don’t. As with the other methods, a comforter may be able to stem the tide of wailing but the crying will most likely return. That is why it is important to try a variety of methods on a regular basis to see which one your baby responds to best.
9. Try a warm bath
A warm bath can help to calm your baby. It can soothe your baby’s senses and provide a pleasant environmental change.
However, be advised that in some cases a bath can make some babies scream even louder.
10. Ask your health advisor
As we have discussed, it is important to stay informed. As a parent, there is only so much you can do and there is only so much you are expected to know.
If you are truly all out of luck and none of these methods have been able to stop the crying you should consult your GP or medical/health advisor.
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. Try some of these helpful methods if your poor 11 month old won’t sleep or your tiny six weeks old is constantly crying.
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!