There are many reasons why a baby cries, and few things can undermine your confidence as a new mum more than feeling unable to comfort your crying baby. So how do you know what’s causing the distress? The answer lies in reading your baby’s signals and eliminating the causes.
The windy cry
Small babies typically pull their legs up when crying, so it’s easy to mistake every cry for a sore tummy, which isn’t always the case. However, if your baby fusses and cries right after being fed, gas may have built up in her tummy, making her feel uncomfortable.
If your baby stops feeding and fusses at the nipple, take a break and see if she burps or breaks wind. Sometimes, a burp will pose no problem and come up quickly; at other times, your baby will not burp at all.
The hungry cry
To rule out whether hunger is the cause of her distress, consider when she last fed. Crying less than two hours after feeding probably doesn’t indicate hunger, as long as she is gaining weight. Babies have growth spurts at four to six weeks and again at four months, and she will need to be fed more frequently at these times. If your five- to six-month-old baby begins to fuss between feeds, or is only satisfied if fed more frequently than before, talk to your health visitor about the best time to start introducing solids.
The uncomfotable cry
This cry is generally accompanied by squirming and is often caused by a wet or dirty nappy, or nappy rash. A room that is too hot or cold can also be a cause of discomfort – the best room temperature for a baby is 16-20 degrees celsius, with the ideal being 18 degrees.
The sick cry
If your baby suddenly becomes very irritable and cries a lot, he may be unwell. If this is accompanied by a fever or loss of appetite, take him to your doctor straight away.
The tired cry
If you have ruled out hunger, wind, discomfort and illness, and your baby is still crying, the chances are she is over-tired. Daytime naps are crucial for keeping your baby calm while she is awake, and will also make it easier for you to get her to sleep at night.
The over-stimulated cry
If your baby is crying unconsolably and you’ve eliminated other causes, it could be that she’s been over-stimulated. If she was fussing just before the crying spell and continued to be stimulated, she may have reached such a state of distress she is unable to calm herself – particularly if it’s the end of the day. Typically, she will pull up her legs, become blue around the mouth, and bring her hands towards her face and mouth, in an attempt to soothe herself.