When your baby is crying, it can be overwhelming to work out why, and understanding their needs can be very hard, but Karitane is here to help. Together, we'll know what to do.
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Watch this video which offers a checklist for you to work through when your baby is crying.
Most babies have periods of crying which may last one to three hours, once or twice a day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! For young babies crying is the main method of communication. Above all, it’s a signal that tells you your baby needs something.
In the early days your baby may have frequent and extended fits of crying. But as you two get to know each other, you’ll start to understand and recognise what it is your baby needs.
It is important to always comfort your crying baby. This develops trust while making your child feel safe and secure.
There can be many reasons why your baby is crying and trying to figure out the cause is often very challenging.
Crying could mean:
- Wanting to feed
- Wanting to cuddle
- Wanting to sleep
- Wanting a change of activity
Babies become overtired easily and can become very distressed because of it. As your baby grows and develops you’ll come to understand the meaning of each type of cry.
We’ve put together the following checklist to help you determine the cause of your baby’s cries, and some ways you can help.
1. Does my baby need comfort and/or attention?
Pick up your baby; offer gentle cuddles and soothing words. If your baby isn’t rolling yet, wrap them up. Calm your child by holding them closely so they feel safe and secure.
2. Does my baby need a nappy change?
Your baby may find a wet or dirty nappy uncomfortable. If left unchanged this could lead to nappy rash.
3. Does my baby need to burp?
Sometimes a baby will feel more comfortable if ‘burped’ after feeding. Keep your baby upright and relaxed for a few minutes only, to see if there’s any wind. Bear in mind, not all babies will need burping after feeding.
4. Is my baby overtired?
When checking for what your baby’s telling you, look for ‘tired signs’. For example, your baby may wake at the end of a sleep cycle and be unable to resettle without your help. Responding consistently to your baby’s sleep needs teaches them good sleep habits.
For more information on sleep cycles, refer to our Sleep brochure.
5. Is my baby hungry?
If your baby begins to cry and hasn’t been fed in the last few hours, checking their hunger is a good place to start. Hunger signs include sucking noises, an open mouth, and sucking on fingers or a fist. If your baby has fed in the last few hours, try one of the tips above before offering a feed.
6. Is my baby comfortable?
Check your baby isn’t too hot or cold. You can do this by placing your hand on their chest or tummy. As a general rule for hot weather dress your child in one item less than you’re wearing. In the cold, add one layer extra.
In hot weather, cool the room without directing a fan or air conditioner directly onto the cot, or letting the room get too cold. In cold weather, warm the room – but make sure it’s well ventilated so your baby doesn’t overheat.
7. Does my baby want to suck?
Some newborn babies have a strong urge to suck. If you find sucking calms your baby, there is nothing wrong with giving them a soother.
8. Is my baby overstimulated?
Reduce stimulation by making the room dark and quiet. If your baby is still having difficulty calming down, soft and gentle music and/or quiet background noise may help. You could also try a relaxing bath or massage.
9. Is my baby unwell?
Take your baby’s temperature. A normal temperature ranges between 36.8 and 37.4 degrees centigrade. If you’re concerned about your baby’s health, take them to your GP or local hospital.
If you still can’t get your baby to settle after attempting all of these suggestions, put your baby in a sling, pouch or pram and go for a walk. In addition to soothing your baby, this will also calm you down – as fresh air always helps you feel better.
Caring for a crying baby for any length of time can be stressful. When you’re feeling upset, frustrated, or about to lose control, the best thing you can do is take a break. If possible, get someone to take over. If not, place your baby in a safe place like a cot with the sides up, leave the room and take some deep breaths to relax. A one to two minute break can make a big difference.
It’s important to choose a baby sling or pouch that meets the Australian Safety Standards. A safe baby sling or pouch is:
The sling should be tight, with your baby positioned high and upright. Any loose fabric may cause your baby to slump, restricting their breathing and head support.
In view at all times
You should be able to see your baby’s face at all times, just by looking down. Ensure your baby’s face, nose and mouth remain uncovered by the sling and your body.
Close enough to kiss
Your baby should be so close to your chin that you can easily kiss their head by tipping forward.
Keep chin off chest
Ensure your baby’s chin is up and away from their body. Your baby should never be curled so their chin is forced onto their chest.
Your baby’s back should be supported in a natural position, with their tummy and chest against you. When bending over, support your baby with one hand behind their back. Remember to bend at the knees, not the waist.
For more information on baby slings see:
- Red Nose - How to carry a baby safely in a sling
- QLD Government - Safety and Advice about baby slings
Safety Alert: No matter how frustrated or upset you may become, it is highly dangerous to shake your baby. Your baby’s head is still big and heavy in comparison to their body, and their neck muscles aren’t strong enough to hold it still. Shaking your baby causes tiny blood vessels in the brain to tear and bleed, which can cause blindness, brain damage and/or death. Any degree of shaking is dangerous and should be avoided. For further explanation on the dangers of baby shaking, see the following video.
As a parent, sometimes asking for help is hard, but reaching out doesn’t mean you’re not coping. It’s always OK to ask for help when times are tough. Call on a friend, family member, or your child and family health nurse for extra support.
You can also call the Karitane Careline on 1300 227 464. We provide parenting support through this free service. Should you reach us out of hours, an experienced child and family health nurse will phone you back within 24 hours, between 12.30pm – 9pm / 11pm – 6am Monday to Thursday, or 9am – 3.30pm Friday to Saturday.
Please Note: The Karitane Careline is not a crisis line. If your child is unwell, or your question is of an urgent nature, phone Health Direct on 1800 022 222 for medical advice or 000 for emergency.