All infants cry, but when your baby bawls for hours on end, you may feel like bursting into tears, too. Don’t despair — there are tactics at your disposal to soothe everyone’s frazzled nerves.
“In spells that can last 40 minutes or longer, an infant may spend four to five hours a day crying,” says Antonia Chiesa, MD, FAAP, with the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “Crying may come and go, and you won’t know why. It may not stop no matter what you try. Take comfort in knowing that prolonged crying is normal and will stop eventually. An onset of extreme fussiness can also be a sign of illness, so it is prudent to take a temperature or check with your doctor.”
Calming the tempest
If your baby is comfortably warm, well fed, has a clean diaper and shows no signs of illness, try these soothing strategies:
- Stand up, hold the baby close, and slowly and carefully bend your knees.
- Gently rub or stroke the baby’s back, chest or tummy.
- Swaddle the baby in a soft blanket.
- Take baby for a ride in the car or turn on the vacuum cleaner, bathroom fan or clothes dryer; some babies respond to rhythmic sound or vibration.
- Offer a pacifier, rattle or toy.
- Put the baby in a calm, quiet place and see if he or she wants to sleep.
Give yourself a break
If nothing you try seems to work, your baby may need to cry to relieve stress. It is okay to put the baby in a safe place, such as a crib or infant seat, leave the room and shut the door. Rest your weary ears for a few minutes, or call a friend and cry on his or her shoulder.
“Parenting can be really hard, and taking care of a baby can be frustrating,” Dr. Chiesa said. “Make a plan to deal with these frustrations before they occur, and ask for help when you need it.”
Talk to the experts
While there is no magic trick to stop baby’s tears, there is help:
- To speak to a caring pediatric nurse any time, day or night, call Children’s Hospital Colorado’s ParentSmart Healthline at 720-777-0123.
- Call the Fussy Baby Network® Colorado “Warmline” 877-627-9227 (877-6-CRYCARE).
- Visit calmacryingbaby.org for information and resources.
Never, ever shake a baby
No parent or caregiver ever thinks he or she could intentionally harm a child. But it happens. An adult loses patience, just for an instant, and shakes a crying baby.
That momentary lapse in judgment can bring a lifetime of sorrow. Shaking a baby can cause serious — and sometimes fatal — head injuries or permanent disabilities called Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). You can prevent SBS by educating everyone who cares for your child about the dangers of shaking a baby, and how to appropriately respond to crying.