Why Your Baby Is Crying and What You Can Do About It by Denise Cripps

from the original posting at the USA Baby Blog:

All babies cry. This is a fact no one can change. But for the most common crying situations, what you can affect is how often your baby cries and how long the crying lasts. With just a few tips from the pros, you can learn the best proactive approaches to stop crying before it even starts, and how to calm and soothe your baby once crying has begun.

The Top 10 Reasons Babies Cry:

  • Hunger
  • Overstimulated/Overtired
  • Desire to be held and comforted
  • Dirty diaper
  • Wants more stimulation, a change of scenery or position
  • Teething pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Too hot or too cold
  • Illness

How to Head Off Crying Before it Even Begins
Learning your baby’s signals and anticipating her needs is the best way to stop your baby’s tears before they have a chance start. Ways to head off a meltdown include:

  • Anticipating hunger – Track your baby’s feeding schedule by keeping a log, then watch the clock and start looking for your baby’s hunger signals around the time you can predict she’ll start to get “hangry“. This way you can start your baby’s feedings before she starts crying. Signs of hunger in newborns include fussing, smacking lips, rooting (turning their head toward your hand when you stroke their cheek), and trying to stuff their hands into their mouth.
  • Avoiding overstimulation / over-tiredness – One of the most difficult kinds of crying to soothe is that of an overtired, overstimulated baby. Fortunately, sleep begets sleep; so to prevent crying, it’s absolutely crucial that you provide your baby an adequate amount of quality sleep on an extremely regular schedule. When you learn your baby’s signals, you have the best chance of catching her “sleep window” – the time when she’s naturally ready to nod off without a peep. These signs include: a calm, natural decrease in activity and a slowing of large movements; less vocalizations; weaker and slower sucking; looking away from stimulation; unfocused eyes; long slow blinks; and yawning. Try to avoid missing these cues and accidentally entering the “overtired state”. Once fussing, eye rubbing, and irritability begin, she’s just about past her best chance for easy sleep. And when real wailing commences, you’re usually in for quite a difficult time.
  • Holding when she needs to be comforted – Babies love to see their parents’ faces, hear their voices, feel their heartbeat, and breathe in their unique smell. Crying can sometimes simply be their way of asking for a cuddle. During the first few months of life (called “the 4th trimester” by Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D.) it’s impossible to “spoil” your baby by holding him too much. In fact, one of the best places to relax and bond is in a comfortable rocking chair or glider. And when your tired arms need a break, wear your baby in a front carrier or sling, such as this Moby Wrap shown below, available at USA Baby Nashville.
  • Changing a dirty diaper – Whether cloth or disposable, these kind of tears are easily remedied with a fresh nappy. If your baby has sensitive skin however, stay on top of the need for frequent changes and use a protective barrier cream to avoid diaper rash. You don’t want to let a short-term discomfort turn into a sustained, cry-inducing, painful condition. Award-winning Mustela brand diaper care products come highly recommended and are proudly sold at USA Baby Nashville.
  • Providing more stimulation – Some babies are extra-outgoing and eager to see and experience the world with all five senses. However, when under-stimulated, these same lil’ charmers can become so-called “demanding” babies. In this case, the best way to prevent crying is to keep your baby active. Create a variety of safe “stations” where your baby can get a different view and have different sensory experiences when you need to get things done around the house. These stations could include an activity mat, a play saucer, the 4 Moms Mamaroo swing (shown below), a high chair with a toy bar, a Bumbo seat, and a Graco Newborn Napper Deluxe Flare (also shown below and sold at your local USA Baby). Another great idea is to find other parents with active babies and take them out to playgrounds, museums, aquariums, malls, zoos, etc. As one mom relates, “My 7-month-old wants constant activity going on around him. He’s happiest when I pop him in the bathtub for sensory playtime or into his stroller for an adventure. He’s especially peaceful in stores and other public places because he’s so interested in and curious about the world.” 
  • Lessening the discomfort of teething – If your baby is inexplicably cranky, don’t be surprised to discover a tooth on its way. First teeth usually come through between 4 and 7 months – but it can be earlier – and your baby’s annoyance with new teeth can begin 2 to 3 months before they even arrive. Experts suggest the best way to relieve teething pain is to give your baby something cold and firm to chew on. The hard surface provides counter-pressure and the coldness helps numb their gums. Refrigerated water-filled teethers or a cold, wet washcloth are good options. Over-the-counter teething ointments which contain a topical pain reliever may be more helpful than acetaminophen which relieves persistent pain. Since teething discomfort often passes quickly, acetaminophen may not always be the wisest choice. Often distraction is the best medicine. A walk in the stroller or a ride in the swing (like the highly-rated Fisher Price Swing to High Chair shown below and sold at USA Baby) can be the most effective remedies of all.
  • Treating an upset stomach – An occasional bout of gas pain can make your baby miserable until he works it out. Try a simple approach, such as putting him on his back, holding his feet, and moving his legs in a gentle bicycling motion. Other simple remedies can often help too: “If your baby is wearing any kind of pants, especially with a somewhat snug elastic waist, try pulling the waistband down, away from the belly, or taking them off completely to see if that helps. Sometimes even a little bit of pressure hurts their tummy.” Or, she might just need to burp. Some babies are intensely bothered by having swallowed air trapped in their tummy: “My little one often cries because she has a difficult time burping after a feeding… What I found helps is some tummy time. She’ll often let out a great big burp after a few minutes on her tummy.”
  • Regulating body temperature – As a general rule, babies are comfortable wearing one layer more than you. Newborns like to be bundled up and kept warm – but not too warm. Unfortunately, they’re less likely to complain about being too warm than they are about being too cold, so they won’t cry as vigorously when they’re too hot. Overheated babies, however, are at risk for heat stroke, and some studies have shown that overheating may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). You can test if your baby is too warm by placing your fingers on the back of her neck. If her skin feels hot, remove a layer of clothing. Keep Baby’s room at a comfortable temperature at night as well. Never too warm.
  • Watching for signs of illness – If you’ve tried all the above tips and tricks, and followed Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for calming and soothing your baby, but he’s still crying, he could be coming down with something. You may want to rule out a fever by checking his temperature and watch for other signs of sickness. If your baby’s crying “just doesn’t sound right,” trust your instincts and call your pediatrician.

 

Soothing Tools of the Parenting Trade
The suggestions above can often help you anticipate your baby’s needs and head off a crying jag without need of any fancy gadgets. But sometimes the right equipment can make all the difference.  USA Baby Nashville can help you select the right stroller, rocking chair, swing, play yard, and more when you come to realize that having a calm and happy baby is truly priceless.

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