Crying: the lowdown

Trying to understand your baby’s tears can be frustrating, but it can be done…

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After 6 months, you could let your baby self soothe

How much to expect

“How much a baby cries differs widely, but the average for a newborn is two hours each day – which includes the amount of time he spends fussing, sniffling, grizzling or crying inconsolably,” says Siobhan.

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“At around 6 weeks the average is about two to four hours a day but by 4 or 5 months your baby’s crying and fussing will have stabilised to an average of around an hour and as he gets older he’ll cry less and less.”

Decoding his cries

“With time you’ll be able to tell by the pitch, constancy and duration of the cry how upset your baby is and whether he’s crying because of something urgent or just letting you know he’s there,” says Siobhan.

“You might not know the precise cause of his distress based purely on the sound of his crying – for instance there’s no specific cry for hunger or for comfort – but you can get a general indication of how bad things are, and by a process of elimination try to work out what might help.”

The self-soothing debate

Some experts believe leaving babies over 6 months to cry is OK as long as you’ve checked he’s not hungry, uncomfortable or due a nappy change, but others disagree, believing it can be harmful for your baby in the future. But they do agree that a newborn shouldn’t be left longer than a few minutes.

“A young baby needs a lot of tender loving care and needs to know you’re there,” says Anne. “But a slightly older baby can be left for a little while, as long as his needs have been met and you’re reassuring him you’re still there by being in the same room.”
As you spend more time with your baby you’ll learn whether his cry is urgent and he needs you right away or if it’s more for attention, in which case he can wait a bit longer.

Mum’s story

“I’ve learned when he’s frustrated”

“I know when Henry’s crying from frustration as his cry is short and angry sounding. I’ve started teaching him what he can do next time, so for example, if he’s frustrated about not being able to reach something I’ll hold it up for him and try and tempt him over. When he reaches what he’d wanted he stops crying and he seems to be learning that he doesn’t need to cry – he can get what he wants if he moves!”

Celine Philibert, from Surrey, mum to Henry, 11 months

5 ways to comfort:

Aside from seeing to all his physical needs there are other things you can do to try and calm your baby…

1. Cuddles. Babies enjoy the warmth from your body and are reassured by the sound of your heartbeat.

2. Rocking. Babies love the sensation of being in constant motion, it’s what they’re used to after months of being swayed gently in the womb.

3. Swaddling. This means wrapping your baby up in a blanket and with only his head exposed which will make him feel more secure.

4. Distraction. Pointing out an object like a train, plane or animal may distract an older, tearful baby.

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5. Reassurance. Telling an older baby you’ll be back will reassure him you’re always there for him.

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