Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
You bring your newborn home from the hospital and settle into your new normal. After a couple of weeks of snuggling with your sweet baby, they cry more frequently.
Common Mistakes Parents Make When Trying to Calm a Crying Baby
It is normal for new babies to cry; many infants begin to fuss and cry more around the two-week mark. If your baby is crying, here are some common mistakes and ways to help.
Why Babies Cry
Crying is one of the main ways babies communicate. Seattle Children’s explains that hunger is the most common reason babies cry. Other common reasons babies may cry include if the baby:
- Is tired and needs to sleep
- Has a dirty diaper
- Is uncomfortable in their clothing
- Has had too much to eat and feels too full
- Feels too hot or too cold
- Is experiencing colic
Babies may also cry because they are in pain or sick. If a baby is under twelve weeks and has a fever, they need to be seen by a healthcare provider to rule out serious causes.
Another reason a baby may cry is if something is painful, such as an ear infection or a bad diaper rash. If your baby’s crying is new and you are worried they are in pain, contact a healthcare provider for advice.
Common Mistakes Parents May Make
Caring for an infant is hard whether you are a new or experienced parent. Here are a few common mistakes parents may make that can contribute to their baby crying.
Letting the baby sleep too long: It can be tempting to let your little one snooze as long as they want. However, sometimes new babies need to be woken up to eat. If a young infant is left to sleep for too long, they may wake up too hungry and cry.
Ask your child’s healthcare provider when it’s ok to let your baby sleep without waking them. Many will say to wait until your baby has at least regained their birth weight before you let them sleep as long as they’d like.
Not taking enough time to burp after a feeding: Some babies burp quickly after a feeding, and others may take up to ten minutes or so. A baby who is not burped after eating may become uncomfortable.
If you feel unsure how to burp your baby or what positions to use, ask your baby’s healthcare provider to show you different ways to position them at their next well-child check.
Problems with feeding: For babies who eat formula, it is essential to follow the directions on the label and mix it appropriately. For example, some parents may use too much water or too much powder, making it too concentrated.
Any baby who eats their food from a bottle—whether formula, pumped milk, or a combination—may be picky about the nipple or bottle and the angle at which you feed them. For example, if the nipple flow is too strong or the bottle is tilted too high, they may gulp and eat too much too quickly.
For breastfed babies, the baby may not be latched correctly and transfer milk well. A poor latch can make a baby work harder to eat and get tired and cranky. It’s also possible to have a strong let-down and have breast milk come down too quickly initially for the baby to keep up with it.
If too strong of a letdown is the case, consider using a HaakaaⓇ or similar product to collect the milk for later. Or, wait a minute for the milk to slow down before latching the baby back on to eat.
The Most Important Point to Remember When Babies Cry
Sometimes babies just cry, and despite a parent's best intentions, they don’t stop. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome has an excellent resource for new parents through their Period of PURPLE Crying content.
They explain that a baby may simply cry during their development. The crying typically occurs between two weeks and three to four months old. Some babies cry a lot, and some barely cry at all. The PURPLE is an acronym and stands for:
Peak of crying
However, even though it can be normal for a baby to cry, it is also incredibly stressful to be caring for a baby who resists any attempts at soothing! And unfortunately, babies are sometimes harmed (typically shaken) by caregivers who become overwhelmed.
If your baby is crying and it is unrelated to a reason requiring immediate medical care (such as a fever in an infant under twelve weeks), it is ok to put the baby down in a safe place, such as their pack-n-play or crib, and walk away.
Take a few minutes to listen to calm music, shower, eat a snack, or phone a friend. Then go back to help your baby once you’ve had a chance to collect yourself. If you feel too overwhelmed to care for your baby safely, call your partner or a friend to come and help you.
If you are worried that your baby’s crying is due to a medical reason, contact your healthcare provider or a nurse line if it is after hours. Most children’s hospitals have an after-hours nurse line you can call if you’re unsure who to contact for advice.
Taking care of babies is hard, and sometimes babies cry for what seems like no reason. While there are several steps you can take to help calm a crying baby, such as feeding, attempting a nap, or adjusting their clothes—they may simply be crying because of the developmental stage they are in.
If you are concerned about your baby’s crying, check in with their healthcare provider for advice. And if you do have a baby who cries relentlessly after any medical causes have been ruled out, take breaks when needed.
Even if it means putting your baby down crying for a few minutes to catch a snack or a shower, you are still a fantastic parent. Parents need to take care of themselves too!
Here's more baby tips for new parents:
- 5 Things To Consider Before Sending An Under-The-Weather Child To Daycare
- How To Maintain Your Newborn's Routine When Traveling For Spring Break
- Causes Of Baby Congestion (And When To Visit The Doctor)
- 7 Tricks To Get Your Little One To Take Their Medicine
- The Ultimate Guide To Introducing Allergen-Friendly Foods To Babies
Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.