Crying…….what to do?
Every baby cries, but how much crying is too much? When do you need to really worry? When do you need to bring your baby in to be seen? And what can you do in the meantime?
Crying is a normal part of development, especially in early infancy. It happens in response to too much or too little stimulation, and can also be associated with specific kinds of stresses, such as hunger, discomfort (such as needing a diaper change) or temperature changes.
Crying is Normal
Knowing that crying is normal, however, doesn’t always help when parents are tired, stressed out, or just plain worried about their baby. T Berry Brazelton, the famous pediatrician and host of the cable TV show “What Every Baby Knows,” did a study in 1962 that showed that baby crying tends to peak at about 6 weeks of age, with about 3 hours per day being the average at that time. Crying generally decreases by one hour a day by 12 weeks. The hours when crying tends to peak are from 3-11 pm.
Understimulation. Offer comfort, pick up, cuddle your baby. Constantly picking up a crying 6-week old infant will not increase the frequency of the crying. To give your arms a rest, you might consider putting your baby in a sling or a front carrier.
Overstimulation. Sometimes babies get overwhelmed by lots of noise and activity and need to reduce the amount of stimulation in their environment.
Overtired. Babies get cranky when they’re tired. Sometimes putting them to bed in a soothing, less stimulating environment (to minimize the sense that they are “missing something”) may help if they’re overtired.
Hunger. It often expresses itself as hands in the mouth, rooting, or sucking.
Pain/Discomfort. Check your baby’s skin all over, as there can be an insect bite or a hair tourniquet (a stray bit of hair that gets wrapped around a finger, toe, or even the scrotum/penis). Clothing tags or waistbands can also cause mild discomfort.
Colic. This is generally defined as 3 hours a day of crying, for 3 days of the week, for 3 weeks or more. Pain from gas can make a baby fussy. You can try bicycling baby’s legs, tummy massage, white noise machines, or even put them in a car and drive around the block.
Dirty Diaper. ‘Nuff said.
How Much is Too Much?
It’s not normal for a baby to cry for 6 hours or longer. This may be a non-specific symptom of a medical problem, such as an infectious disease, nutritional, or metabolic problem.
Will Changing Formula Help?
Crying alone is not an indication to change an infant’s formula. Children who have allergies to proteins in cow milk formula generally have diarrhea and often bloody stools. Usually, it’s not a subtle presentation.
Last, but certainly not least, be kind to yourself as a parent. There are times when we all feel stressed out and need to take a break. Take advantage of your support systems and have a parent, spouse, friend, or trusted neighbor give you a respite for even an hour or so.
If you’re alone and worry that you might shake or hurt your baby, leave them in a safe place (bassinet, crib or playpen), and walk away to settle yourself, then return. And remember: never, never, never shake a baby.
To learn more, see Dr. Wolynn’s Note on Soothing Infants.
Dr. Susan Stevens, who co-teaches our “Puberty. Seriously?” class for girls ages 9-12, joined Kids Plus in 2012.