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What to do when your new baby is crying

April 18, 2017

Being a parent for the first time is an exciting adventure, with many moments of joy but certainly also many moments of anxiety when facing the unknown, whether it be feeding techniques, putting a baby to sleep, etc.  Parents often talk about their baby being fussy, or crying. It’s a common parental concern raised at office visits and is one worthy of delving into, as it could be a sign of something common or that something may be very wrong. 

Swaddled African American BabyCommonly babies typically only do three things: eat, sleep, void/stool. Their typical response to hunger or pain is crying. Parents will quickly realize that a newborn usually feeds on average every three hours for the first month of life; although some will do it more often, and they usually herald the time for a feed by becoming irritable or crying. This is easy to learn: once the baby feeds, then it’s all peace and quiet again and the baby usually goes to sleep.

There are several conditions that can cause a baby to cry, in which feeding the baby will do hardly anything.

Nonetheless, there are several conditions that can cause a baby to cry, in which feeding the baby will do hardly anything. One of these is baby colic. This is a phenomenon that is common in babies, but there is no definite explanation as to what the exact cause may be.  It happens usually within the first few months of life, and the baby can cry to the point of screaming, shaking his legs, passing gas. It is typically worse in the afternoon. The American Academy of Pediatrics states this can be due to the inability of the baby to self-soothe or regulate his nervous system due to immaturity. It can also be secondary to a sensitivity to a protein in the mother’s diet, which is then passed to the breast milk. 

Some common things parents can try are the Five S’s: 

  1. Swaddle the baby using a blanket, assuring the baby is snuggly bundled. 
  2. Stomach carrying: place him belly down on your chest; this helps free stomach gas which may contribute to the colic
  3. Suckle: use a pacifier before trying a bottle of milk or breastfeeding.
  4. Swing: belly down on your arms, baby bouncer, stroller or car seat
  5. Shushing the baby: oftentimes is enough to calm a baby.

Remember NEVER to shake the baby to calm him/her down. Babies are very delicate and this can lead to severe brain bleed and death.

Father in Bed with Crying BabyOne other common condition that can lead to a crying baby, particularly before a bowel movement, is dyschezia. It’s basically ineffective stooling due to failure of the baby to effectively relax his muscles to allow for the passing of the stool. This is not life threatening and usually resolves by itself. Typically the baby will calm down after finally passing a stool. No laxatives or stimulation is usually needed.

Milk protein allergy can also make a baby cry, and it can manifest with the same symptoms as above and can also give bloody stools. Talk to your pediatrician if you think this may be happening. It’s important to remember to look for any signs of alarm: high fevers with crying and bloody stools or lethargy. This can be a sign of other major problems, which require prompt evaluation. 

Crying is a common baby symptom that oftentimes means a baby is hungry, however it can also be a sign of other things, which a parent should take into consideration. If you have concerns about your baby’s crying, remember to ask your pediatrician for guidance.