All babies cry. Some babies cry a little and some babies cry a lot. This does not mean there is anything wrong with your baby or that you are doing something wrong as a parent. If your baby is healthy but is crying a lot he or she may be going through a normal developmental stage called the Period of PURPLE Crying®. This stage usually starts at about 2 weeks, gets worse through the second month of life, and usually stops at about 4‑5 months of age. It is normal for babies to cry a lot more in these early months of life, sometimes even for hours a day. For more information about this crying period, visit the Period of PURPLE Crying® website.
Why do babies cry?
Babies usually cry because they are hungry, uncomfortable, sick, hurt or they want to be held. Crying does not mean your baby is being bad or that your baby is mad at you. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to help your baby to stop crying. This is called unsoothable crying and it usually ends by about 3‑5 months of age. The most important thing you can during the crying stage is stay calm and take a break when you need it.
What can you do to try to help your baby to stop crying?
- Snuggle your baby close to your chest.
- Check your baby’s diaper. Keep the baby clean and dry.
- Feed and burp your baby often.
- Wrap your baby in a soft blanket. Keep your baby warm and comfortable – but not too hot. Do not put your baby in crib or bassinette wrapped in a blanket.
- Provide some soft music or other relaxing sounds.
- Offer a soother or teething ring.
- Offer a favourite blanket or soft toy while cuddling.
- Provide gentle motion.
- Walk with or rock your baby.
- Use a baby swing (if you have one).
- Go for a walk in a stroller.
- Go for a car ride.
Sometimes these things work and sometimes they do not work. They are worth trying, but do not blame yourself or the baby if your baby is still crying. It is a normal stage that will come to an end.
What can you do when your baby won’t stop crying?
- Gently place the baby in a safe place and leave the room. Take a 10‑15 minute break to give yourself a chance to calm down.
- Find someone to help you. Call a friend or relative you can trust. It is important to get away from the baby if you think you might lose control. It is just as important to be sure that the baby will be safe while you are gone.
- Call Healthlink BC at 8‑1‑1, your health care provider, or public health office.
- If the crying is constant, louder than usual, or the baby has a fever or is vomiting, or you have concerns that something is wrong, go to the hospital or health clinic.
- Never shake or hit your baby.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken Baby Syndrome (or neurotrauma) is the name for the injuries that can happen when a baby is shaken. Shaking can cause brain damage, blindness, paralysis, seizures, and death. Shaken Baby Syndrome often happens when a parent or caregiver loses control because a baby will not stop crying.
To prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome:
- Learn how to calmly cope with your baby’s crying.
- Tell others who care for your baby that crying is normal. Ask them to call you if they get frustrated, so you can return.
- Learn how to control your anger. If you are very angry, put your baby in a safe place, such as the crib, and walk away until you are under control again. If you feel unable to cope or are afraid that you may hurt your baby, make sure she or he is safe. Then call someone for help. Never pick up a baby when you are angry about the crying.
- Do not leave your baby in the care of someone who has problems controlling their anger.
Babies have weak neck muscles and heavy heads.
Even a few seconds of hard shaking can cause serious damage to babies.
If you have a babysitter tell him or her she must never shake or hit your baby.
Call a family member, a friend, HealthLink BC at 8‑1‑1, your public health office, or your health care provider if you need someone to talk to.
Staying Calm as a Parent
It can be very difficult to deal calmly with a crying baby day after day. Crying won’t last forever and it is OK to ask for help. Have a plan to help you stay calm and deal with the difficult times.
- If you are becoming angry, put your baby down and hold onto something you can’t throw. Count to ten, leave the room, cry into or pound a pillow, or run on the spot. Don’t touch your baby until you are calm.
- Ask someone to be your immediate back up, someone you can call if you are losing control. Keep their number close by your phone.
- Take regular breaks. Have someone take over so you can rest, walk, or just get away. Be sure the caregiver has a plan if the crying is hard to cope with.
- Talk with your partner about how you can help each other.
- Talk with other parents about how they coped.
- Ask your health care provider about courses on parenting.