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Dealing with a crying baby

Babies can't talk (durrr!) so they cry to let you know what's up. We're programmed to respond to crying babies - it's natural and it's essential to their survival. But it's one of the more difficult things that new parents have to deal with. Here's the low-down on crying - what it means, how to deal with it and how to stay calm.

All babies cry. They cry a lot in the first year and most of all in the first three months. Of course, this is also the time when it's all new to you and it's easy to panic, or worry that you're doing something wrong. Start by understanding that crying is Baby's only way of communicating and you'll be well on the way to dealing with it. If you pay attention and listen, you'll pretty soon be able to tell the difference between ‘I hurt' and ‘I'm bored' and everything will be fine.

Top 3 reasons why Baby cries

Babies have a very small number of needs and each one has its own unique cry. There are three main reasons babies cry, so always check for these first.

  • I'm hungry Before they're born, babies don't know what hungry is. The need for food is satisfied before they know about it. Hunger is a new feeling and it's important - obviously it's dangerous if your body doesn't tell you it needs food. Answer = hunger pains. You'll soon know this sound for what it is!
  • I'm uncomfortable So would you be if you'd just filled your nappy. Sort it out Dad!.
  • I'm tired What are you like if you've been up too long and you just can't be bothered anymore? Baby's the same.

There are other reasons for crying

Although hunger, tiredness or a dirty nappy will explain most crying there are other things that might be bothering the poor little thing.

  • I'm in pain This is the cry that we really respond to without a second thought. (Pub fact - if you slow down the sound of a police siren, it sounds very like a baby in pain). You won't ever mix up crying in pain with the grizzling of a tired baby.
  • I'm ill Feeling ill isn't necessarily the same as being in pain - it might just be a tummy ache. Check for signs of illness, like a rash or a high temperature and, if you aren't happy, call your GP.
  • I'm bored Babies get fed up too. Sometimes they want company, they want to be entertained, they want to hang out with you because they like you and think you're cool. It doesn't mean they're high maintenance. How bored would you get if you were tucked up in a cot all day?
  • I'm scared Don't forget that it's all new. The vacuum cleaner can be terrifying. So can thunder. So can that idiot on a moped steaming past the bedroom window at 11 pm. Reassurance and a cuddle is what's needed - it's ok and the world's not about to end.

It just won't stop. Some things you can do.

You've taken care of the obvious things - feeding, changing, whatever. But it just won't stop. No-one can cope for very long with a baby who cries a lot. Here are some things that might help.

  • Continuous background noise Like the washing machine or some gentle music. That sometimes works.
  • Go for a walk or a drive Sometimes a change of scenery or some gentle lulling motion will do it.
  • Sing Something repetitive like a nursery rhyme.
  • Talk Quietly. Baby likes your voice and it's soothing.
  • Rock-a-bye baby Sometimes, the simplest things can be the most effective.

Never ever

  • Shake your baby This can cause real lasting damage - bleeding or even brain damage.
  • Get angry Easy to say, hard to do. If you feel anger coming on, put the baby in the cot and go into another room for ten minutes until you calm down.
  • Shout You'll just be raising the stakes and making it worse.

Finally - if it gets too much.

Don't be ashamed to ask for help - you'll be in good company because it's a very common problem. You could call the CRY-SIS helpline on 0845 1228 669.

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