Skip to Content

Baby Won’t Stop Crying – Five Steps To Calm A Colic Infant

Why my baby won’t stop crying

Here’s the thing… babies actually don’t cry for no reason.

But they may cry for no reason that you can identify yet.

Here’s my story.

One day when I was a new parent, my daughter suddenly started crying. My husband and I checked her diaper, comforted her, fed her, sang to her, rocked her, and made faces, but nothing worked.

We tried everything. Nothing worked for an hour.

We were about to lose our minds. As I was about to lose it, I noticed something weird about her diaper. It seemed clean and snug. However, something wasn’t quite right. I adjusted the tape and it immediately popped open, and my baby stopped crying.

The elastic band on the diaper was too tight, which made it pop open. My husband didn’t know how to put it on and put it on too tightly. He thought that tight diapers would prevent leaks.

As a result, the diaper popped open, and there was a red circle around her waist.

She was really suffering because we couldn’t figure out why she cried. We even thought she was crying to torture us.

I never think of baby crying the same way again.

baby crying for no reason in mothers arms

Does a baby cry for no reason

Babies can’t talk. Crying is the only way they can communicate their needs. It is a survival instinct they are born with, not a choice they make.

Sometimes, the needs are very straightforward – hunger, tiredness, dirty diapers, boredom, etc. But it could also be something not that obvious.

It is up to us to figure it out.

You will also notice that even when your baby grows and learns to speak, he may not understand what he feels or how to elaborate on what he’s experiencing.

Using crying to achieve a young child’s goals is not misbehavior. Until they learn to speak and understand their own needs, children behave in this way in order to survive.

Why does my baby cry for no good reason

Babies don’t cry for fun. They don’t throw tantrums. There are always reasons why they cry, but it may not be a reason you agree with or feel worth crying about.

Many types of infant cries exist. Most parents learn to distinguish the meaning of their infant’s cries within 2 weeks of birth and respond accordingly.

Here are some common reasons to start with.

  • Hunger
  • Pain
  • Distress
  • Fatigue
  • Dirty diaper
  • Boredom
  • Overstimulation
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Food allergy
  • Too full
  • Gas
  • Acid reflux
  • Uncomfortable clothing
  • Sickness
  • Separation from mother

Pain-induced cries have significantly stronger amplitudes and are more intense. Hunger cries, although not as strong as pain-induced cries, are still more intense than fussy cries.

Is my baby colic

When infants cry excessively and regularly without identifiable reasons, they are often called “infantile colic.” Colic is defined as inconsolable crying for 3 or more hours a day.

Colic is not just a “growing pain”. It’s not the child’s temperament or a medical condition.

It means, “We have no idea, but let’s give it a name.”

If you and the pediatrician are unable to identify the cause of your infant’s long, persistent crying, then you may say that your baby is colicky​1​

What are the patterns of normal crying

A healthy, normal baby cries the most during the first three months of age. Newborn crying peaks at six weeks after birth and drops in the third month.

According to a study, breastfed babies cry less than formula-fed babies, and the babies who cry the least are those who have been breastfed the longest.

In preterm babies, the opposite was observed. Preterm breastfed infants cried more than formula-fed infants.

What to do when my baby won’t stop crying

In a study on constant crying intervention, when parents of babies who had colic were taught to answer cries swiftly, consistently, and completely, infant crying was reduced by 60 percent.

When mothers demonstrated less sensitive or affectionate reaction to the newborn, the infant was likely to become a persistent crier.

1. Answer the baby’s crying quickly

There were many parenting pamphlets written between 1920s and 1940s that warned parents not to pick up a baby between feedings because that would lead to spoiled, fussy children​2​

Since then, studies after studies have shown that responding quickly to an infant’s cry during their first few months will decrease their crying significantly by the end of their first year. Infants whose mothers ignore their cries or delay in responding to them are the ones who show the stereotype of the “spoiled child” by the age of one.

2. Answer the baby’s crying consistently

No research supports the notion that an infant can be spoiled by having their every cry answered during the first six months. Studies have shown that consistent maternal responses in the first six months reduce infant crying later in life.

This is because manipulative thinking, such as “When I cry, my mother comes to play with me”, has not developed yet. So, an infant cannot become spoiled by having their cries answered consistently. Rather than being spoiled, the infant will learn that their needs will always be met reliably.

3. Pick up the baby

Providing close physical contact is one of the most common ways mothers comfort a crying baby. Baby crying may be affected by whether the mother picks up her infant quickly after they begin crying​3​.

Researchers found that mothers who picked up their babies soon after they began to cry recorded the shortest duration of infant crying​4​.

Infants whose mothers have handled them tenderly and affectionately in their earliest months of life are content with relatively little physical touch at the end of their first year​5​.

4. Find the reason of crying

When you respond to your baby’s cry quickly, consistently, and completely, and the crying still does not stop, you may need to examine and determine what is causing the discomfort.

Babies cannot identify or communicate why they are crying. Our job is to figure it out because babies really don’t cry for no reason.

5. More things to try

In the event that your pediatrician and you are unable to identify the cause of an infant’s crying, here are a variety of techniques you can use to calm your colicky infant.

  • Give them a pacifier
  • Use swaddling
  • Play heartbeat sounds, lullabies, or music 
  • Mother sings or talks in a gentle voice
  • Pace, rock, or use rhythmic movements

Often, the effectiveness of crying-reduction strategies decreases with repetition, so don’t be surprised if what worked before doesn’t work anymore. Whenever possible, try to pinpoint the cause of the baby’s crying, and try different ways to comfort them.

reason girl crying on mothers shoulder

What NOT to do when babies cry

Do not shake a baby

NEVER EVER SHAKE A BABY.

Shaken baby syndrome, or inflicted traumatic brain injury, occurs when a baby is violently shaken or hit with a hard surface. It can result in head trauma.

Shaking is often triggered by infant crying​6​.

A colicky baby’s first few months after birth are marked by prolonged, inconsolable, and unpredictable crying episodes. These episodes can be frustrating, upsetting and exhausting for parents.

However, you should not shake a baby under any circumstances.

Colicky babies are not fussy babies. Crying spells are not meant to torture anyone. 

A colic baby is a distressed infant whose parents are not sure how to help them. Listening to excessive crying is exhausting, but consider the baby who has to produce that crying. How much discomfort must they endure for them to cry like that?

Shaking baby syndrome is a dangerous and preventable condition. Do not shake a baby under any circumstances. If you really cannot handle it, put the baby down in a safe place, take a few deep breaths to center yourself, or walk away to put some distance between you and the child. Make sure the baby is safe at all times.

Do not let your baby cry it out

It is for survival reasons that the human brain is born with a pretty developed fear/anxiety center, called the amygdala. In early childhood, the frontal lobe, an important part of reasoning and regulating emotions, does not develop until around 3 years of age.

Prolonged excessive crying is associated with long term health issues. Children whose crying bouts were not answered quickly, consistently, and completely are found to have lower self-esteem and impaired attachment security​7​.

How to prevent infant crying

The best way to avoid the problems associated with crying is to prevent crying altogether.

Kangaroo care

Kangaroo care is a skin-to-skin holding practice in which the infant is placed upright with its parent, chest-to-chest, wearing only a diaper. It’s like hugging your baby with skin-contact. It is an efficient method for preventing, minimizing, and halting infant crying​8​.

Kangaroo care is a very efficient method for preventing crying. During kangaroo care, crying is virtually nonexistent. Maternal holding and paternal holding are the next best interventions for reducing crying.

Learn your baby’s signs

Learn how to read your baby’s cue. Cue-based infant-demand care, when applied even moderately from birth, is linked to a more settled infant’s behavior in the first 12 weeks​9​.

Practice self-care

While it is vital to take good care of your baby, your mental health is also important. It’s hard to think about self-care when you haven’t taken a shower in ten days, eaten a real meal, or cleaned up your dirty house. 

It is alright to ask for help. 

In fact, you should ask for help. Postpartum depression is associated with infantile colic. Get help early to protect the health of both you and the infant.

When to call the doctor

At 5 months, persistent crying problems are estimated to affect perhaps 5% of crying babies and are associated with negative cognitive development​10​.

The risk of premature breastfeeding cessation​11​ and child abuse also increases with crying babies​12​. Their mothers are more likely to suffer from postnatal depression as well​13​.

For crying babies and their mothers, early intervention is crucial to prevent these adverse effects. Therefore, when in doubt, call the doctor.


References

  1. 1.
    Reijneveld SA, Brugman E, Hirasing RA. Excessive Infant Crying: The Impact of Varying Definitions. PEDIATRICS. Published online October 1, 2001:893-897. doi:10.1542/peds.108.4.893
  2. 2.
    Bell SM, Ainsworth MDS. Infant Crying and Maternal Responsiveness. Child Development. Published online December 1972:1171. doi:10.2307/1127506
  3. 3.
    Ludington S. Energy conservation during skin-to-skin contact between premature infants and their mothers. Heart Lung. 1990;19(5 Pt 1):445-451. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2211150
  4. 4.
    Baildam EM, Wilier VF, Ward BS, Bannister RP, Bamford FN, Moore WMO. DURATION AND PATTERN OF CRYING IN THE FIRST YEAR OF LIFE. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. Published online November 12, 2008:345-353. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.1995.tb12012.x
  5. 5.
    Christensson K, Cabrera T, Christensson E, Uvnäs–Moberg K, Winberg J. Separation distress call in the human neonate in the absence of maternal body contact. Acta Paediatrica. Published online May 1995:468-473. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.1995.tb13676.x
  6. 6.
    Barr RG, Barr M, Fujiwara T, Conway J, Catherine N, Brant R. Do educational materials change knowledge and behaviour about crying and shaken baby syndrome? A randomized controlled trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Published online March 31, 2009:727-733. doi:10.1503/cmaj.081419
  7. 7.
    Ludington-Hoe S, Cong X, Hashemi F. Infant Crying: Nature, Physiologic Consequences, and Select Interventions. Neonatal Network. Published online March 2002:29-36. doi:10.1891/0730-0832.21.2.29
  8. 8.
    Ludington-Hoe SM, Swinth JY. Developmental Aspects of Kangaroo Care. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. Published online October 1996:691-703. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.1996.tb01483.x
  9. 9.
    St James-Roberts I. Infant Crying and Sleeping in London, Copenhagen and When Parents Adopt a “Proximal” Form of Care. PEDIATRICS. Published online June 1, 2006:e1146-e1155. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2387
  10. 10.
    Hemmi MH, Wolke D, Schneider S. Associations between problems with crying, sleeping and/or feeding in infancy and long-term behavioural outcomes in childhood: a meta-analysis. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Published online April 20, 2011:622-629. doi:10.1136/adc.2010.191312
  11. 11.
    Howard CR, Lanphear N, Lanphear BP, Eberly S, Lawrence RA. Parental Responses to Infant Crying and Colic: The Effect on Breastfeeding Duration. Breastfeeding Medicine. Published online September 2006:146-155. doi:10.1089/bfm.2006.1.146
  12. 12.
    Reijneveld SA, van der Wal MF, Brugman E, Hira Sing RA, Verloove-Vanhorick SP. Infant crying and abuse. The Lancet. Published online October 2004:1340-1342. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(04)17191-2
  13. 13.
    Vik T, Grote V, Escribano J, et al. Infantile colic, prolonged crying and maternal postnatal depression. Acta Paediatrica. Published online August 2009:1344-1348. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.2009.01317.x

girl covers-ears while parents fight in background
Previous
Enmeshed Family - Signs of Enmeshment And How To Rebuild Boundaries
girl takes care of sister emotion
Next
Parentification - Growing Up Too Fast
Disclaimer

* All information on parentingforbrain.com is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *