All babies have one thing in common and that is they all cry. A newborn baby can cry for anywhere from 2 to 3 hours a day. It is their way of communicating and expressing their needs during their early days. While a crying baby is totally normal, it can be very distressing for parents and babies alike. Here’s what your baby might be trying to tell you through their tears.
Everyone gets a little cranky when they haven’t eaten. This couldn’t be more true for babies. During the first 3 months of life, your baby will need to eat every few hours because their tiny stomachs can only hold a little food at a time. Typically a hungry baby will cry in a rhythmic sound that is short, low pitched with a rise and fall. Crying is a late sign of hunger and the best way to prevent your baby from launching into a ‘hangry’ cry is to look out for early hunger cues such as smacking their lips, sucking on their hand or thumb, or rooting (turning their head to look for a breast or bottle).
Offer your breast or a bottle and see if your baby is interested in eating. If they are not hungry at that moment, they may just want something to suck on as the sucking motion is innate for newborns. Offer a pacifier for comfort.
Most exhausted parents can fall asleep the minute they hit the sack, but the same isn’t true for babies. Babies who are overtired often become more cranky which leads to more crying. Sleep is a learned skill and newborns don’t have a circadian rhythm established until they are around 4 to 5 months old. To help reduce your baby crying due to overtiredness or fatigue, keep an eye out for their sleepy cues. These include rubbing their eyes, yawning, looking a little “dazed” and not being as interactive.
One of the best ways to soothe your overtired baby is to swaddle them and rock them. A gentle hum or lullaby can also be relaxing, or a white noise machine. The white noise machine and a gentle rocking motion mimics the womb which can provide additional comfort to your newborn.
Some babies can sit in a wet or dirty diaper for prolonged periods of time and other babies start fussing within a few seconds of having a wet or dirty diaper. It’s always good to check your baby’s diaper when they start to cry to eliminate the “dirty diaper” culprit. A quick sniff test or a peek is enough to do the trick. It’s also a good idea to make sure your baby stays as dry as possible to prevent diaper rashes. Diaper rashes are common in newborns and if left untreated can cause pain and discomfort to your little one. Using a baby rash ointment or a baby skin protectant can help keep diaper rashes at bay.
Needs to burp or gassy
If your little one is fussy or crying right after they eat, they might just need a good burp. There are many techniques on how to burp a baby, so find one that works for you and after a couple of tries you will get a good burp out of them. It can also be helpful to take breaks and burp your baby in between feeding them. You can also try certain bottles and nipples that prevent them from swallowing too much air while eating.
If you find your baby is wiggling their legs, squirming or arching their back after a meal, it could be a telltale sign they need to pass gas. Passing gas can be uncomfortable for your little one, so you can help them get some relief by laying them on their back and gently moving their legs in a bicycle motion.
The AAP defines colic as a condition when a baby cries for more than 3 hours a day, 3 times a week for 3 weeks in a row. Around 1 in 5 newborns get this condition and babies with colic cry excessively, they are more difficult to console and have disruption to their eating and sleeping. While managing a colicky baby can create a lot of stress, it is important to remember that it is short-lived. Babies typically outgrow colic by 3 months old. Until then, you might consider rocking your baby, taking them for walks, offering a pacifier and using a soundmachine. You can also talk to your pediatrician about some herbal remedies to help with colic. If your baby continues to cry for a long time, check in with your doctor to ensure there is nothing serious wrong with your little one.