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Crying

All babies cry – it’s normal and how they communicate with us.

Hopefully this information will provide some support and reassurance.

As you get to know your baby, you’ll start to tune in to their different cries and will be better able to anticipate what they need, providing support and reassurance before they get too distressed. You’ll also spot their cues – for example a hungry baby might start to smack their lips, suck on their hands or turn their head looking for food before they start to cry.

If your baby’s crying and you’re not sure why, ask yourself whether it could be for one of the following reasons:

  1. They’re hungry. Babies only have tiny tummies, and in the early weeks especially they need to feed regularly. Respond to their needs by feeding them small amounts more frequently, rather than going by the clock. If you’re breastfeeding, ask your health visitor to check that your baby’s attachment to the breast correctly. If you’re bottle feeding, try paced feeding and your health visitor can also give you advice.
  2. They’re tired.  All babies have different sleep patterns, and often sleep for short periods. They may also need some cuddles and comfort to help them settle to sleep, a baby carrier/sling can help as babies want to be close. Remember to always follow the safer sleep guidance.
  3. They’re uncomfortable. In the early weeks, babies produce at least eight wet or dirty nappies in a 24 hour period, so they may be crying because they need you to change them. They could be crying due to discomfort caused by trapped wind.
  4. They’re overwhelmed. Some babies find being handled by lots of different people is overwhelming.  They may need to feel close to you again for reassurance, in these situations, skin-to-skin contact can really help.
  5. They’re under stimulated. Babies get bored like anyone else and like you talking to them, singing and reading to them and holding them close so they can see your facial expressions. With very young babies, mobiles, toys or books with black and white pattern or images are great because they can see the colour contrast clearly, keeping their interest.

What else can help?

Infant massage can be very soothing for both your baby and for you. As well as being calming, it also promotes bonding and brain development. These services are provided by independent practitioners and will have a charge.

A baby sling is very useful for settling fretful babies, as it means they’re held close to your chest (and therefore your heartbeat) which they find reassuring. The upside for you is having both hands free! You’ll just need to make sure your baby is big enough to go in the sling.

Sometimes music can be very effective at calming a baby. You could also try singing lullabies!

Getting out and about is good for both you and your baby. Join a baby group it’s a great way to make new friends. Other parents will be understanding and supportive if your baby cries a lot.

If you find yourself getting stressed and overwhelmed, put your baby down in their cot or Moses basket, and walk out of the room. Give yourself space to take some deep breaths and calm down.

Never shake a baby or rock them vigorously, as it can be very dangerous. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, tearful and low in mood over a longer period, talk to your GP, health visitor or supportive friends or family, as it’s important to get the support you need.

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

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Page last reviewed: 27-07-2022

Next review due: 27-07-2025