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My baby is crying, what can I do?

Updated: Sep 14, 2019

Check list for the newborn: When your baby is talking up a storm (you know…what you refer to as crying) here’s a good check list for you:

1. Is the baby hungry? First and foremost babies cry when they are hungry. They also need to self-pacify at the breast from the information overload they are experiencing. Check this first; sometimes all the baby wants is love, and security. She might want to feed every hour. It’s a big world to take in. This is called feed on demand, but you really need to understand what that means. At times babies come back from the hospital a bit drowsy, so don’t let your newborn sleep for hours without food.

2. Do you have a good latch on? Breastfeeding is an art, it might take some practice for both of you. You have all the knowledge within you, but you might need another woman to show you how it is done. If your baby cries during feeding, or seems restless and not really latching on, ask a lactation consultant to help you out. Most hospitals have them on staff. Ask your pediatrician for referrals. Ask you care provider for a list of specialists in your town.

3. Is she clean? Does she have a diaper rash that hurts (burns a little), every time she pees in her diapers? Change and wash with gentle water and pay extra attention to the area. Add some lotion, for the next few days. Some of my clients will blow dry the tush after cleaning to make sure it is completely dry (*make sure the blow dryer is on warm not hot). I love using calendula for diaper rashes. You can find calendula creams at your local health food store.

4. What’s in your diet? If the baby seems gassy, holds his/her breath and seems to go all red making noises as if he was passing some stool with difficulty, then check your diet. If you think her “tummy” hurts, asks your pediatrician for help. But for the most part know that babies simply fart a lot… after all their weight sometimes doubles in the next three months. For alternative care (the old school), try homeopathic remedies like chamomile, cocyntal or colic calm (gripe water). Look at your diet, maybe she has food allergy (this can last as little as three months or longer). Start by eliminating all milk products as many newborns are allergic to them, and then eliminate all those food that make you gassy. The trick is moderation. Cheese pizza, with a glass of milk will not work, but a little Parmesan on your pasta is usually ok.

5. Is there too much light / noise / lack of noise in the room? At times babies love lots of noise!!!! But I personally do not believe in “white” noise. I don’t like to hang out and listen to a vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer. What has helped me and many of my clients is singing. Maybe it is because my mom was an opera singer, or maybe it is because women have sung to their children since the beginning of time, but this really works. If you are still pregnant create a song with your baby’s name in it and sing it to your unborn child as often as you can. If you don’t feel creative, take a popular song and change the words to include your baby’s name. Once the baby is born he/she will be very familiar with that song and as long as you sing as loud as he/she is crying you will see incredible results.

6. Have you swaddled the baby? Our ancestors have swaddled babies for centuries. Our grandmothers wrapped up their love bundles into a piece of cloth or a beautifully woven carriage, and lugged their babies on their shoulders or hips taking them everywhere. If it worked for them, it will work for you too. Make sure the swaddle is tight creating the illusion of being back in the womb. Check out the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. But remember use this as a remedy for a fussy baby. There is no need to swaddle a perfectly happy baby. I like to use and encourage moms to use swaddling as a tool not a crutch. Swaddling will work in calming your baby down, but he does not need to be calm all the time. Read the swaddling dilemma article on this.

7. Do you have the gadgets? As much as I believe that trees make the best mobiles, here are a few items that really help. An electric toothbrush. No, we are not brushing baby’s teeth. These gadgets are amazing for noise. Just turn one on and place it gently next to the baby’s head and see him being mesmerized by it. I love those tooth brushes because they are portable and you can hold one as you hold your crying baby, or place one next to the changing table when you change him, or even put one in the co-sleeper again next to their little head. Basically it is white noise. The same white noise he heard while in your womb, so it will feel familiar. Dr. Karp says it turns a ‘switch’ on in baby’s brain and quiets him down. It really works. Despite working wonders, the tooth brush is difficult for us adults to listen to after a while, so I also recommend white noise machines. When I spend nights with my clients I make sure they have this little toy called The Sheep Sleep which has a little ‘portable’ white noise machine. I set it to the ocean waves and babies usually love it. Some purists say we can live without all that… just like some say we could live without chocolate, but why?

8. Have you enlisted your partner? Give the baby to your partner and have them hold him/her in a football style hold. This is called side-holding. It is soothing to the baby’s tummy and so very cuddly. Ask them to hold the baby as if he were a football, with the baby looking forward, sprawled onto the forearm. They can also use their thumb as a pacifier. You get a break too, and that will help a great deal.

9. Is she warm? Cold? There are parents who dress the baby too much, and those that dress her too little. A good rule of thumb is look at what you and the people in your house wear. Do the same with the baby, but maybe add a little undershirt. Note: if the baby is well dressed and swaddled with a heavy blanket, take that into consideration. Use common sense. Watch for signs of heat: red neck and face, hot around the collar.

10. Have you tried a bath and massage? I hear you say, “Are you kidding? Giving a bath to a screaming child?” Well, it has worked for more than one of my clients. Most babies love the water, it is their natural environment. Here is what a client told me once. One day their two month old was a bit cranky. Ok, she was downright wailing. Mommy and daddy tried everything, and then decided to rush home and prepare a nice soothing bath. They placed the baby into the warm water and she calmed down immediately. It was summer!!! If you can try this, after the bath you may have time for a quick baby massage. Find infant massage classes or rent/buy an infant massage video and follow along. Remember ask yourself how you like to bathe. Usually it feels good when your entire body is under water; the outside environment is warm too. Many baby’s tubs allow only for a wet behind and babies might not like that. Full immersion, save the head, is what a baby’s bath should look like. You can also take a bath with your baby promoting peace and relaxation for both of you.

11. Have you considered a growth spurt? Yes, those come around periodically. Babies usually eat a lot in those circumstances, so they fuss and you might think they have already eaten.

12. Last but not least, have you considered hiring a postpartum doula? Having a woman with you to gently show you the way, can not only be a great help, but it has proven to be helpful in reducing instances of postpartum depression. Moms are best. Unfortunately, we live in a world where some of our mothers live far away, some were told to bottle feed, some were told that picking up babies meant spoiling them. So some of us are at odds with our mom’s philosophies, and some of our moms cannot help. Look into hiring a postpartum doula!

Once you have gone down the checklist, and you have tried everything to calm your baby down, if he is still crying, call your pediatrician. In fact, if you suspect anything call you pediatrician and go down the list as you wait for his call back, no harm done if the baby has calmed down by the time s/he calls back. Trust in your instincts, ask for help, be resourceful and know…

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