Chances are, if you’re reading this it’s because you’ve been scouring the internet because your baby won’t stop crying and you’re looking, possibly desperately, for something that will stop the screaming.
If this is you then I can relate to your situation and I really and genuinely feel for you. I wish I could come to your house and support you through it. I wish your baby was content and that you were enjoying these early times together rather than searching online for how to make your baby stop crying. I wish you weren’t sleep deprived, eating junk, questioning your parenting ability, or feeling isolated. I wish you were getting the opportunity to bond properly with your baby and were enjoying the simple pleasures of parenthood.
Unfortunately it is very unlikely that I can come to your house but I really hope that through sharing some of our experiences I can help from afar. It took us months to find the answers and solutions we needed and in all that time our beautiful little girl was in pain and unable to sleep. These are the things I wish I’d known from the start:
1) Follow your instincts – There are many reasons for a baby to cry but there is always a reason. And your baby should stop crying once you’ve met that their needs. Don’t let anyone tell you that “some babies just cry”. Follow your instincts and fight for your child because no-one else is going to do so.
2) Take your baby to see the doctor – The general advice is that if your baby is crying excessively you should take them to the doctor to be checked over to ensure there is no serious underlying issue.
2) Make a symptoms diary – When I took our 3 week old screaming baby to the doctor I had the unfortunate experience of being asked whether I was a first time mum (I was) and being told that it was common for first time mums to start struggling at around the 3 week mark once they realised how hard things were going to be. I was told that babies cry and that it should improve by 12 weeks and I was sent on my way. I don’t write this to complain about the doctor. She was trying to reassure me that our baby was OK and she didn’t understand what I meant when I said “my baby cries all the time”. Help your doctor or health visitor understand by presenting them with a 3 or 4 day symptoms dairy. Use a full page per day, jot 24 hours down the side and then record what your baby is doing – sleeping independently, sleeping but requiring comforting, feeding, awake and content, awake and unsettled, awake and crying, awake and inconsolable. I shaded the different categories in different colours to make it painfully apparent that most of the page was red ie “awake and inconsolable”. If you are breastfeeding then also jot down when and what you ate. Once I showed this to healthcare professionals they were a lot more supportive.
3) Get informed – Learn about the reasons that babies cry. The normal reasons first as working out how to meet your baby’s needs is not as straight forward as you think it will be. In addition, get informed about reasons for excessive crying and the management and treatment options. For example, a lot of babies with colic are struggling with temporary lactose intolerance due to gut immaturity or are cow’s milk protein intolerant and removing these from a breastfeeding mothers diet or changing to a hypoallergenic formula milk can fix the problem. Becoming informed can help you understand why your baby is crying and help you manage it better. They can also help you to fight for your baby if the medical professionals are not proving very supportive. These are the pages I found most useful. I wish I’d found them a lot earlier than I did.
The reasons babies cry:
Colic and reflux leaflets:
Map of Medicine NHS guides – these are resources for doctors but are available for the public to view on line. The language is geared for health professionals but they are informative and contain useful flow diagrams of treatment pathways which you could work through with your doctor, especially if you feel your concerns are being dismissed or played down.
4) Buy a baby carrier – If your baby won’t settle then this is like your hands-free kit. Our eldest would only sleep in an upright position and once we’d bought a baby carrier she spent the majority of her time in it for the first few months. Our second didn’t cry excessively but it was still invaluable for that fussy hour which always seemed to coincide with when I needed to make dinner for our eldest.
Buy a wrap as it spreads out the weight of your baby which is important if you’re carrying for longer periods. Baby carriers can be expensive but the wraps are essentially just one long piece of slightly stretchy fabric. You could theoretically buy a 5m length with a 60cm depth from your local fabric store for under £10. But an easier cheap option is to look on ebay for a non-branded wrap for around £15-£20 and look up a video of how to use it on youtube.
If you want to try a few out before you buy then most areas have a ‘sling library’ where you can borrow one for a few weeks at a time. Check out the UK Sling Libraries Network to find one near you.
If you decide to buy a baby carrier then make sure you read and follow the TICKS rules for safe babywearing:
5) Attempt to form some type of routine despite the crying – As mentioned previously, babies cry to let you know what they need, but it can be challenging to distinguish the ‘needs’ from the discomfort if your baby cries excessively. We found it useful to establish a routine so that we and our baby knew what was coming next so that we could anticipate her ‘normal’ needs despite the constant crying. A time-based routine is unlikely to work with an unsettled baby so we used a sequenced routine of “eat, activity, sleep” on repeat, which is the routine suggested in the book title The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.
We also found it useful to have a ‘reset button’ in the evening, which for us was at 6:30 and consisted of a bath, PJs and quiet feed to help distinguish night and day. We found that after persevering with this for a few weeks she did start to settle better overnight.
6) Don’t be afraid of ‘bad habits’ – As a new parent you are drip fed a lot of very helpful information about establishing good sleep habits, self soothing, avoiding dummies, etc all of which are completely impossible if you have an unsettled baby. I spent a lot of time stressing about all the ‘bad habits’ we were forming but these were easily rectified later on. It took only 24 hours to remove the dummy at 6 months and she was self soothing to sleep by a year. Just follow your instincts, meet your child’s needs and ignore what other parents around you are doing because every baby is different.
6) Look after yourself – Make sure you let family and friends help out so that you can have a break or get some sleep. If you don’t have support nearby then contact your health visitor or local children’s centre as there are voluntary support programs such as Home-Start who could give you some short term help to see you through.
I hope some of the information I’ve shared has been helpful. Importantly, despite your exhaustion try and do something proactive for your baby. Depending on the cause of the excessive crying you may not be able to alleviate your baby’s discomfort or crying completely but you should be able to make them more comfortable which will in turn help you cope better as a parent. Also, be reassured that it does improve with time, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment! If you have any other suggestions then I’d love you to add them so make sure you comment below.