As a new parent, your ears are attuned to every sound that your baby makes. The ooos and aaaaas of cooing and the giggles you elicit are so enticing. The crying, however? Few things make new parents feel more helpless than a crying infant they are unable to soothe.
Remember that crying serves a purpose for your infant. It is his or her way to communicate with you. It is a way to release tension. It helps shut out environmental sights and sounds that are over-stimulating. The average baby cries between one and four hours a day! Some variations may occur depending on your baby’s temperament. You will quickly learn to differentiate the cry that means ‘hunger’ from the cry that means ‘entertain me’. Crying helps to facilitate the attachment cycle with your infant. The baby cries to indicate a need, you step in to fill it, and the baby stops crying and relaxes. Holding your newborn skin-to-skin often helps them soothe.
You can never spoil your newborn infant by responding to her cries or giving him attention.
Around 4 to 6 weeks of age, you may find that your newborn cries frequently and requires more soothing. This is because infants of this age spend more awake time than younger newborns do. They are also not yet capable of self-soothing, so they rely on you to calm and quiet them. This can often be a significant emotional and physical challenge for new parents who are adjusting to less nighttime sleep and more responsibilities during the day. It is important to remember that this stage is short. By the time infants reach 4 months, they are generally able to soothe themselves more easily.
When your infant cries, assess and meet the most pressing need first. Use your experience in recognizing the tone and intensity of the cry to help you figure out what is going wrong. Is she cold? Is he wet? Is it time to eat? Is she in pain? Once you have gone through your checklist and are assured that your little one is warm, dry and fed, but is still crying, you may become frustrated. Don’t panic or feel tense. The more relaxed you remain, the more quickly your newborn will calm. There are many techniques that work well to soothe the fussy infant:
- Swaddle your infant in a large, thin receiving blanket with her arms close to her body. Infants like being contained. Some babies prefer swaddling with their hands close to their faces so that they can suck on their hands.
- Sway gently or rock gently from side to side. This simulates the back and forth motion your infant is familiar with from the womb.
- Soft, rhythmic noises such as white noise machines, ‘shushing’ sounds by the parent, singing, talking or playing soft music
- Sucking, such as on a pacifier or your finger.
- Walking with your infant, in your arms, an infant carrier or a stroller.
- Infant massage
- Going for a ride in the car (be sure to properly restrain your infant!) The gentle vibration helps infants fall asleep.
- Settling your infant to sleep. If no other strategy works, sometimes just letting your newborn cry in a crib for a few minutes will allow them to relax and fall asleep. Most babies will cry for a few minutes before they fall asleep.
Remember that crying is one way your infant communicates with you. Don’t take your newborn’s crying personally! If you feel overwhelmed by your infants crying, if you feel yourself becoming increasingly tense and irritable because of the crying, take a moment to step back from your infant. Get support from a family member or a friend. If at any time, responding to your newborn’s cries feels like it is too much to handle or if you are unable to comfort your infant over a prolonged period of time, please contact our office for advice.