Crying decoded

5 things to remember when your baby cries

There may be no greater test of a new mom’s self-confidence than an inconsolable baby. Here are five things you should keep in mind when your baby’s tears start flowing.

1. Sometimes a cry is just a cry Unexplained crying is a biological part of a newborn’s modus operandi—your baby simply can’t help it. Often in the first few months, there may be no specific reason why a baby starts crying and no reason why she stops. A newborn’s cries typically have no hidden message, so try not to get too worked up about analyzing the sound of each cry at this stage.

2. Crying will peak, then decline There’s a universal pattern of crying that parents should be aware of: All babies cry to some extent, and it will likely increase in frequency over the course of several weeks, peaking at about two months of age. At this point, the crying gradually tapers off. This pattern is specific to the first three to five months of a baby’s life. For many infants, it consists of unexpected, unsoothable crying bouts that average 35 minutes but can last as long as one or two hours. The upside? It will pass.

3. Crying becomes communication By the time your baby is five months old, crying is usually easier to decode. At this stage, babies start to use crying as a form of language. The most obvious signals that will help you interpret cries at this point are gestures with arms and legs, which are under better motor control, as well as the direction their baby is looking.

4. Tummy trouble is often to blame A baby’s cries are often linked to digestive upset. It could be gas or constipation that prompts the waterworks, but your baby may be easier to soothe once you’ve identified a cause of her cries. Some clues that your baby is experiencing gas or a sore tummy include the timing of the crying (if it happens during, partway through or immediately after a feeding), if she’s spitting up a lot, if her tummy is bloated, if she’s gassy, if she goes red in the face when passing small hard pellet stools, or if she pulls her legs up when she cries (which could mean that she’s struggling to pass gas or stools).

There are a few things you can do to ease her discomfort. Breast milk is easiest on your baby’s tummy, but if you’re using formula, choose one with 100 percent whey protein that’s partially hydrolyzed (broken down) and easier to digest. It’s also important to burp your baby halfway through a feeding, then again at the end. Keeping her upright for about 10 to 15 minutes after a feeding can also help with digestion. If she’s still gassy, try a light massage by alternately bicycling her legs in and out to help move gas out of her belly.

5. Colic crying is different Colic is a normal, temporary condition in which an otherwise-healthy baby cries for more than three hours a day, more than three days per week. It’s not so much the sound of the crying that differentiates it, but, rather, the timing. It’s predictable in that it starts after a couple weeks of life, peaks at six or seven weeks and tapers off by three or four months. Colic crying tends to cluster at a particular time of day, typically in the evening. While colicky babies cry incessantly and are often inconsolable, they do eventually grow out of it.

Help soothe your crying baby with these tips from the Canadian Paediatric Society:

  • Hold your baby. Keep in mind, however, some babies do not like being passed from person to person, especially when they’re very worked up. 
  • Wrap or swaddle your baby in a soft blanket. 
  • Turn off the lights and keep surroundings quiet. 
  • Soft music, white noise or a gentle shushing noise can soothe some babies. 
  • Many babies are soothed by motion. Try walking with your baby in a carrier or in a stroller. Rock or sway with baby in a gentle, rhythmic motion. Or try going for a ride in the car. 
  • Sucking sometimes helps babies to calm and relax. You can provide this by allowing your baby to breastfeed or by offering a pacifier. 
  • Give your baby a warm bath.

New source for colic: