Having a baby who cries a lot can take its toll on everyone in the family, finding out the reason for their crying and how to help relieve them can be tricky and stressful.
If your baby has colic or cries for sustained periods of time read through our list of things you can try.
Whether or not your baby has colic, or is often crying it’s important to ensure there is nothing medically wrong, taking your baby to their 6/8 week check up and discussing their health with a Health Visitor is a good first step.
All babies are different and what works for one baby doesn’t necessarily work for another but these ideas seem to help many of our clients.
1) Baby Massage – rubbing their tummy
Massaging your baby’s tummy has been well documented to help with their wind/constipation and general digestive discomforts. It is best not to massage during an episode of crying but we suggest massaging your baby’s tummy 3 times during the day to help prevent the build-up of gas which can lead to a bloated/hard and uncomfortable tummy by late afternoon and early evening. If you would like to learn more click to read Massage to help Colic
2) Breathe – Relax your own body
Babies will tune into your emotions, so by learning techniques to reduce your own stress levels you’re building your resilience to difficult situations. This simple breathing technique can be helpful if your baby is in the middle of a screaming episode and you’re trying to remain calm. Deep breathing not only helps to cure anxiety and stress, it also enables relaxation.
You could practice during the quiet moments of your day as well, the more you practice the quicker it will take you to that quiet place in your mind.
Equal breath – Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything at first. Begin a slow count to four as you inhale. Then also count to four as you exhale. Try to match the length of your inhale with the exhale, as you breathe through your nose.
You can change the numbers but always keep them equal. This exercise is really useful for calming and focussing the mind and also for getting yourself to sleep (baby permitting) it’s like counting sheep.
If this technique helped you then read our blog Breathing for Parents.
It is not surprising that babies like noise, they have just spent 9 months in the womb listening to your heartbeat, circulating blood and digestion! It might be comforting for your baby to hear similar noises whilst they are transitioning to the world on the outside. You can buy white noise cds/ download apps, some parents notice that even washing machine noise or vacuum cleaner can help settle their fussing baby.
You could also simply make a ‘shuuushing’ noise close to your baby whilst holding them in your arms, this noise is said to be similar to the blood flowing through arteries near the womb, a very familiar and comforting noise to a newborn.
4) Suckle – comfort
Babies are born with a very strong, natural urge to suck, some babies are born with a greater need to suck than others. It is common and natural for them to fall asleep on the breast or bottle. If you baby is particularly upset you could try a dummy or a clean finger, if you have an aversion to using a dummy just try and see it as a temporary ‘tool’ to use during this crying period.
Babies weren’t still whilst in the womb, imagine, they were surrounded by amniotic fluid, constantly being gently rocked. Many babies find this movement comforting after birth; they will love to be close to you and hearing your heartbeat and smelling your familiar scent. The stillness of lying in a moses basket can be scary and unsettling for them. There are some fabulous Slings and Carriers available on the market, and often local sling libraries to try before you buy.
There are also some great holds you can do in arms. Tiger in a tree is a very good one for settling babies. Hold your baby with his back to you, nestle his head in the crook of your elbow, bringing your arm across his chest.
You can also try some simple rhythmic movements, rocking backwards and forwards. Try and be mindful of your own posture whilst doing this, take it in shifts if you have someone to do this with.
Alternatively you can pop them in a bouncy chair which might be enough to soothe them to a calmer state.
6) Physical check
Birth can be a big deal for babies too. When some babies are born they can be in some discomfort, perhaps from a slow/fast birth or forcep delivery. Some have misshaped heads and other conditions which may be causing them pain. Osteopaths have a fantastic reputation for helping newborn babies following birth discomforts, well worth having a chat and seeing if they can help.
Some babies can also be suffering from reflux, silent reflux and other medical conditions which can cause them to cry and be in pain, please see you doctor or a pharmacist maybe able to help you with some over the counter medications if necessary.
If you are breastfeeding your baby it may be worth looking at your diet. Dairy can be a common allergen, and if they have an intolerance it can cause discomfort for your baby. If you’re worried about lack of calcium see here for more details on calcium and breastfeeding.
If you are formula feeding you could look at dairy free alternatives, but always speak to your doctor first before doing this.
To support your body during this time, when you’re under stress, eat as many vegetables and fruit as you can. Eating fatty foods, or too much refined or processed products can contribute to a low mood, so boost your diet with the following:
- Omega 3 supports the body and brain, eat oily fish three times a week (e.g. Salmon, mackerel, sardines). Also flax seeds, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds.
- B vitamins help reduce stress and support the body’s energy production – Brown rice, broccoli, pulses (lentils, beans), mushrooms
- Protein rich foods to support your energy levels – turkey, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds as these help balance your hormones and will give you energy.
Contact a Breastfeeding Councillor, they are highly trained and will help you with your latch and position of feeding, these things can make a huge difference to the comfort of your baby. Similarly if you are bottle feeding, perhaps try a different bottle and teat, there are ones on the market said to help reduce air intake.
Give your baby a bath. Keep the bathroom environment calm and quiet, using dimmed lights and keep it relaxed. Some babies find the warmth and comfort of being in the water a relaxing sensation.
9) Say yes to help
You are doing an amazing job and dealing with such a difficult situation, all on little or no sleep. It’s not your fault, and it’s an incredibly hard start to being a parent. Say YES to a trusted friend, family member or neighbour who offers to help cook, clean or hold your baby. You deserve and need a break. Perhaps book a mobile therapist to come and give you an holistic massage in your own home, it’s important you take time to look after yourself so you can best look after your baby.
There is also support available from Cry-sis (www.cry-sis.org.uk) a charity set up to help parents dealing with a baby with excessive crying. They provide advice and support from parents who have been through the same thing.
10) Talk about it
It can be a lonely time and feel like a lifetime when you have a baby that cries a lot. It’s never easy asking for help but it’s important you do if you feel you are struggling to cope. Even our closest loved ones won’t know how we are feeling if we don’t tell them. Otherwise call your doctor, health visitor, midwife or other health professional and tell them what you are going through.
We can offer 1:1 Baby Massage sessions for you when you need some support in your own home. We also offer nutritional consultations to support you with dietary advice during this time. For any additional support around this topic please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.