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Post Childbirth: When Your Baby Cries

Baby crawling

It can be distressing to hear your baby cry, even though you know it’s natural. Some mums experience a frightening period of adjustment when their baby is born and they can’t always make them feel better straightaway. In all likelihood there will be times when she’s wailing terribly but you have no idea why – you’ve fed her, changed her nappy, checked for rashes and she doesn’t seem ill – why the crying? Some of the other reasons for this may be:

Sometimes babies are simply too exhausted to get to sleep easily. They may be over-stimulated from the steady stream of visitors for example. Learn to read his tiredness signs [2] and when you spot them, take him off somewhere quiet to settle him down.

Being Too Cold Or Too Hot
Remember, she spent all that time in your lovely snuggly womb. She’s probably not used to feeling cool water on her skin (for example when you bathe her or change her nappy). But you’ll quickly learn to speed up the nappy change if needed!

You also need to be careful not to overdress her – keep in mind she’ll probably need one more layer of clothing than you to be comfortable. But on a warm day a vest and nappy should suffice. Many mums use lightweight cellular blankets and sheets as bedding in their baby’s Moses basket or cot because they offer the freedom to remove or add layers as needed. On the other hand, the advantage of Grobags or their equivalent is that there’s no risk of the covers ending up over the baby’s head.

You can check if your little one is too cold or hot by feeling her belly rather than her hands or feet – these usually feel cooler anyway. If she feels too cool or warm then either add or take away a blanket as needed.

Try to keep your baby’s room at a steady 18 degrees C or so. Put her down to sleep with her feet at the bottom of the cot. Then she can’t wriggle too far down under the blankets and get too hot.

Feeling Unwell Or Ill At Ease
Your baby may be crying because she’s still a bit ill at ease with being out in the world. Some baby’s get fed up more easily and all have different personalities and temperaments. Some little ones struggle with too much attention or stimulation at once and so may fuss more when relatives come to visit, for example. Babies like this may need more calm attention and shorter periods of stimulation. Part of the challenge is to begin to learn and recognise your baby’s rhythms and signals and respond accordingly. But try to be patient and don’t automatically assume you’ve done something wrong if your baby happens to cry quite a lot.

Having said that, be aware of changes in your baby because too much crying might mean she’s ill or in pain. Usually when babies are unwell the crying has a different quality to the usual one. It may be in a higher pitch, more urgent, weaker, or continuous and she may be particularly difficult to settle down. On the other hand, if your baby usually cries quite a lot and she suddenly becomes quiet, it may mean she’s unwell.

Ultimately you know your little one best. If you think she may be ill then call your doctor, midwife or health visitor. Play it safe. If your baby is struggling to breathe through the crying or is vomiting, has diarrhoea, constipation or a fever, always phone the doctor.

Needing A Cuddle
Mother and baby 2

After 9 months in a warm, snug womb, your little one is going to need a lot of cuddling and physical contact to reassure and comfort her. When she’s wailing like that and you’ve tried everything else to get her to stop – it might be that she just needs to be held.

If your arms get tired after so much holding and pacing, try a baby sling to keep her close – perhaps moving about gently from side to side. Babies often take great comfort from being rocked. And holding her close enables her to hear your heartbeat (which she was constantly exposed to in your tummy). Swaddling her with a blanket may mimic the warm protective feeling of the womb in some way too.

On the other hand some babies don’t like being swaddled and respond better to being sung to. It’s all about trial and error.

Some new mums worry about spoiling their babies if they cuddle them too much, but this is not an issue in the first few weeks of life. Newborns need a lot of reassurance and comfort when they first enter the world. Get cuddling!

Sometimes babies cry inconsolably for long periods of time with no evident reason behind it and this is known as colic. Babies with colic may become frustrated and flushed, clench their fists, pull up their knees or arch their back. Experts think this is due to tummy ache, possibly because of an intolerance to something in her milk. Unfortunately there’s no one definite cure for colic but it usually disappears within about three months – thank goodness!

If you’ve tried the suggestions above and your little one still isn’t settling, here are some other handy tips you may want to experiment with:

  • Try a different feeding position – babies sometimes cry during or after feeding. If you’re breastfeeding then you may need to review your baby’s latching on position to make sure she’s comfortable and getting enough milk. If she seems to experience a lot of wind during feeds then you could try placing her in a more upright position. Remember to burp her after she’s fed by holding against your shoulder. If she cries right after a feed it might be because she still needs more milk.
  • Put her in a warm bath – this all depends on your little one – some babies are soothed by a warm bath and others find it jarring. Experiment and you’ll realise in time.
  • Let her suck on something – some newborns have a very strong need to suck. You could try letting her suck on a clean finger or a dummy. This may calm her and slow her heart rate.
  • Try a tummy rub or massage – baby massage has become quite popular over the last decade or so and your health visitor should know of a local class. This might be particularly effective for heavy criers or babies with colic. Try gentle clockwise tummy strokes. This encourages poo and trapped wind to move. You might want to use a suitable cream or oil so as not to irritate her skin.
  • Find some appropriate background noise – believe it or not, the steady buzz of a hoover or hum of a washing machine can be comforting to your baby. Don’t forget, she spent all that time in the womb with the steady pounding of your heartbeat – repetitive noise can be soothing to her. You can even buy CDs which mimic the noises of the womb.

Above all, be gentle with yourself. It can be incredibly exhausting and upsetting to hear your baby cry like that. You may feel completely powerless and even blame yourself, but the fact is, you are not the reason she’s crying.

If you’ve taken care of her needs and done everything you can to calm her down then you should really take a moment for yourself. For example:

  • Play some quiet music and relax for a moment
  • Call a friend or someone in the family for support – You can have a break and let someone else try for a while.
  • Put your baby down in her cot and let her cry for a moment out of earshot – Count to ten and take a few deep breaths.
  • Speak to your midwife or health visitor – She may be able to suggest mother and baby or support groups where you can empathise with other parents going through the same thing. There’s also an organisation called Cry-sis that runs a helpline on 0845 1228 669.