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All babies cry. Crying is the only way babies have to let you know they need something. Understanding why your baby cries, how you can comfort your baby and how to cope with crying will help prepare you to respond to your baby.

If you're feeling frustrated, it's okay to put your baby in a safe place like a crib. Letting your baby cry for a few minutes will not hurt your baby. Take time to calm yourself. Talk to someone during these stressful times. Never shake a baby! For more information, please visit Purple Crying and Don't Shake.

Ways to Understand Your Baby’s Crying

Healthy babies can cry a lot in the first 5 months. Some babies cry as much as 5 hours each day or more. Crying usually increases in the first 2 months, and gets less by 3 to 5 months. It usually happens in late afternoon or evening and can start and stop for no apparent reason.

Your baby may cry because he/ she is:

  • hungry
  • needs to be held
  • too hot or too cold
  • uncomfortable- diaper needs changing, needs to change positions, something is hurting
  • over stimulated (too much noise, too much play, too many people holding him/her)
  • bored
  • sick

There may be times when your baby may be crying for no reason at all. This can be upsetting for parents, but it is important to remember the crying will get better. It is good to talk with your partner and other supports on how you will manage a lot of crying.

Tips to Comfort Your Crying Baby

To make your baby feel better, try to:

  • offer your baby the breast or finger to suck
  • provide skin-to-skin contact
  • burp your baby
  • change your baby's diaper
  • hold your baby (hold, walk, rock or massage)
  • go for a walk in a stroller
  • go for a car ride
  • swaddle your baby with a light blanket
  • play soft music, sing, dance gently while holding your baby
  • turn on the TV or radio
  • turn on the dishwasher, vacuum or shower for neutral, white noise
  • stimulate your baby by moving to a different room, gently playing, reading, looking at pictures or in the mirror
  • take a warm bath with your baby
  • hum in a low tone- hush or shush sounds

You cannot spoil a baby, so responding to your baby right away helps build trust and security.

There may be times when everything you try does not soothe or comfort your baby. If you are concerned about your baby's crying, have your healthcare provider check your baby.

When You Feel Overwhelmed

There may be times when your baby's crying seems overwhelming, especially if you have tried everything to soothe your baby. Recognizing that you feel overwhelmed or upset does not mean you are a "bad" parent. Feeling helpless or anxious when your baby cries a lot is very normal.

Here are some tips on how to cope:

  • Plan ahead by making arrangements for regular childcare relief and then get some rest or time away from home
  • Form a "back-up" plan for calling in reliable help when your baby's crying seems impossible to deal with (know your child's caregiver; never leave your child with someone you don't trust, someone who has violent reactions or becomes angry quickly and easily).
  • Talk to a friend, family member, counselor or health professional about your situation and get some support
  • Try to stay calm and check your own state of mind. Are you upset? Are you frustrated? Calm yourself by taking deep breaths. Your baby needs you to be calm.

Never Shake Your Baby!

Imagine a melon on a toothpick. This represents how fragile your baby's head and neck are. Shaken Baby Syndrome happens when a baby is injured as a result of being shaken violently. Shaking a baby is a potentially fatal form of child abuse.

Shaking your baby can cause:

  • brain damage
  • blindness
  • paralysis
  • death

Never shake your baby or child at any age in a moment of anger; it can damage your child's health for their entire life.

Talk to your babysitter, day care workers, friends and relatives so they are aware of the dangers of shaking a child. The Period of Purple Crying is a DVD that you watched while in hospital.  Share what you learned with everyone who cares for your baby.

Where to Get Help

  • Mental Health Crisis Service 'Reach Out' London 519-434-6848 or Middlesex County 1-866-933-2023
  • Mental Health Distress Line (24 hrs) 519-667-6711
  • Merrymount Children's Centre (emergency childcare for parents in crisis) 519-434-6848
  • In emergencies call 911

Health Connection

Call Health Connection to speak with a Public Health Nurse from the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

  • 519-663-5317 ext. 2280
  • Monday - Friday
  • 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Where to Learn More

Date of creation: February 13, 2013
Last modified on: May 3, 2017