Crying – learning to understand

Crying – learning to understand

How to soothe a crying baby:  The quickest way to soothe a crying baby is by learning to understand what your newborn baby is trying to communicate to you.

Newborn Babies cry – eat – and sleep – and that’s pretty much all they do for the first few weeks – and in no particular order either.

Remember, babies are not born polite – so they are not going to stop crying just because you’re new to all this – they will cry for as long as they want, and they won’t stop until it suits them to stop. Main thing is – don’t panic – don’t be frightened by your baby’s crying – you can explain to them that you are busy trying to find out what the problem is (if that is your style), but go about your business trying to identify the problem – so that you can fix it.


New parents may ask how to make a baby stop crying but remember fussy babies are trying to let you know that something is bothering them – they need something and they are relying on you to provide it for them, and then – like magic – your fussy newborn will be soothed and most likely drift off to sleep in your arms – knowing they are safe in your care.

Your best bet is that your newborn baby is crying because they are hungry – so that is a good place to start.
How long since your baby last had a feed? In the early weeks, they can feed two to three hourly (that is timed from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next feed) – This is especially true if you are trying to establish breast feeding.

If you are trying to feed your newborn baby every hour – you’re heading for exhaustion – which will usually overtake you in a matter of days or weeks. Your baby will love to feed all day, every day and they love to drop off to sleep as soon as the breast is available – because now they are content – they could not be happier – they’re in Mum’s arms, they can smell her, the nice warm stuff is right there if they feel like it – and seeing everything is just perfect, your baby feels nice and secure and is happy to drop off to sleep. Fine for your baby – but what about you? You won’t be able to take a shower, go to the toilet, fix some food for yourself, do the washing – or anything else – if you allow these hourly feedings to go on.

I always say – if you’re going to feed your baby – make sure your baby has a proper feed – and that means making sure that your baby stays awake so that he/she can keep sucking until their stomach is nice and full!! Then if your baby still continues to cry – it will help you identify what the problem is – at least you will know that your baby is not crying because they are hungry.

visit our area where you can view “Newborn Parenting for a New World:  A practical guide for Mom and Dad” – which show all aspects of newborn care including how to soothe a crying baby.


Usually the baby won’t have been fed for a few hours (two to three).

Usually the baby will be trying to suck his/her fist, or anything else that comes in contact with their mouth – often they will twist their head around searching for the nipple.

If the baby is quite hysterical and crying frantically – start a feed as quickly as is possible – this is where breast feeding is such a bonus – it’s instantly available, at the perfect temperature, and has all the essential ingredients, and tastes absolutely yummy too!!

If your newborn baby is being fed on a formula – things require a little more organisation. You will have needed to purchase the formula (check with your Maternal and Child Health Nurse or other Health Professional).

Apart from having the formula available, you need to be sure you have a feed prepared in advance which can easily be heated to the right temperature (as long as the feed is at room temperature it is warm enough – though some babies can be a little fussy and like their feed just a touch warmer).

DON’T HEAT THE FEED IN THE MICROWAVE – this can cause the milk to warm unevenly – some parts of the milk may still be cold, while other parts may be scalding hot.

Shake the bottle well and check the temperature on the inside of your arm before giving it to your newborn baby.

Don’t let your baby drop off to sleep, unless you are fairly satisfied that you saw, and felt a lot of sucking and swallowing going on. It is best to keep your newborn baby awake by gently disturbing his foot, or unwrapping him/her, rather than rubbing your newborn baby on the face – this can confuse your baby cause they may think it is the nipple rubbing and they then turn towards whatever is rubbing their face.


Wind/gas is what usually will cause discomfort in a newborn baby.

How can you tell? – your newborn baby will be crying, often have a blue-ish discolouration around his mouth, and often will bring his knees up towards his chest/abdomen.

How to relieve this – TRY to AVOID IT HAPPENING in the first place.   (You can watch a Male Midwife demonstrate how to help baby bring up the air/wind in our area – “Newborn Parenting for a New world” show all aspects of Newborn care.

“They” say that breast fed babies get less wind – I have not found this always to be true – as any crying baby getting into a state, swallows a lot of wind/air.

The main thing is to “wind” or “burp” the baby regularly – say usually between breasts, or after about 15 minutes of sucking. Each baby is an individual, and you will have to work out what suits your baby – your baby may need lots of “burping” or maybe very little.

There are no rules that suit everyone – what I would like to do is give you the principles behind what is happening, and then you apply the principle in a way that suits you.

How to “wind” your baby – this is one time when a picture is worth a thousand words, but I will do my best.

Remembering that all babies have a very lax cardiac sphincter (the muscle at the top of the stomach), and remembering that wind (or air) is lighter than fluid (like milk), you need to hold your baby upright, while supporting their head (they do not yet have good muscle control – so their heads would wobble around all over the show if you don’t support the head). You then need to tap or rub the baby’s body, usually somewhere in the vicinity of where the stomach is, and this will gently loosen the wind and allow your baby to bring it up – and yes, you will hear it – as again, they have also not yet learned any good manners.

Try not to let your newborn baby slouch down, as you can then trap the wind in such a way that it can’t get to the cardiac sphincter. The easiest way, if you have no one to show you, is to place your baby upright with the head on your shoulder, and then to rub or tap their back (this pressure is usually transferred to the stomach, where the wind/gas is. Don’t pat them too hard, or you may get more than you bargained for – that is – a wind accompanied by a vomit – which means more cleaning up to do!!!

Don’t spend forever trying to get a wind up – if say you’ve spent 40 minutes feeding your baby, if you can’t get a wind up in say 5 to 10 minutes, give up and get on with the next thing, as soon it will be time to start feeding all over again.

Wind/gas is a very personal issue, and you will need to get to know what amount of winding suits your baby.
There are both pharmaceutical and natural preparations to help reduce wind pain in a colic baby – ask your Health Care Professional about it if you are having a problem.

Even though I am a nurse, I have found that the Medical Profession does not believe too highly in “colic”, cause it is only wind/gas – but I have seen the heartache and distress it can cause to all concerned – and it can be an extremely difficult and trying time while waiting for the baby to outgrow it. If this is a problem for you, perhaps try natural remedies first.   Breast fed babies are said to have less problems with wind/gas. If your baby is being fed a formula –  Manufactures of certain types of teats claim to reduce the amount of air the baby is likely to swallow. Make sure that your baby has good suction on the teat he/she is sucking on – that is the best way to avoid swallowing air.



How will you know if this is the problem – LOOK inside the diaper/nappy and the secret will be revealed.

Ideally, it’s a good idea to “change” the baby (No – not for a different sex), before starting the feed.

How much discomfort a wet or dirty diaper causes depends on a few factors, the main one being whether you are using disposable or cotton diapers/nappies.

I’m not going to get into a debate as to which you should use – that is your choice – I’ll just give you the information as I see it.

Disposable diapers/nappies certainly make life easier – mainly because the newborn baby is not constantly lying in a wet or dirty nappy – The disposables work by absorbing the moisture so that the baby’s skin is not constantly exposed to urine or faeces which usually cause burning. Therefore – the less burning the baby experiences, usually it follows that they are less likely to cry because their bottoms are burning. Some babies are more aware of this than others.

However – this does not apply to faeces/poohs or what ever else you would like to call it. Most babies do not like lying in pooh – and a poohy diaper should be changed as soon as possible. This is what will usually cause nappy rash – and once the buttocks become excoriated (raw), you start a downward spiral or trying to heal the raw area. The main thing is to ensure that a dirty nappy is removed as soon as possible, that all urine or faeces are totally removed (check in the creases too), and that the buttocks are dry before the clean diaper is applied.

Each carer will have their own preference as to what they want to use to clean the genital and buttock area – some like soap and water, some like disposable wipes. Have a container in which to place the used items. If you have a problem with excoriated buttocks, or genital areas, olive oil is a great solution. Don’t use water at all, using clean cotton wool, dip the cotton wool in the olive oil, and use it as if it were water. Once all the urine or faeces are cleaned away, a little residue of the olive oil may be left on the skin.

For excoriated skin rashes that do not respond to the above treatment – consult your health care professional, as there are numerous other possibilities that could be causing the problem.

As I was saying, because the disposables keep the moisture away from the baby’s skin, the baby can go for long periods without needing the diaper changed. As a general rule, you would change the diaper for a clean one every 3 to 4 hours during the day, and as long as it is only wet, you may be able to get away with leaving the diaper on for about 8 hours overnight. This does not usually apply to cotton nappies, and the baby will often complain as soon as the nappy becomes wet.

When making a decision as to whether to go for disposables or not, do take into consideration the number of cotton diapers that need to be washed, the amount of hot water needed, the caustic solutions needed to clean the diaper, and the amount of power and water used. And then also take into account the number of wet clothes and blankets that accompany each wet nappy. There are now reusable cloth diapers/nappies available that work similarly to disposables.


Sometimes your newborn baby just needs to be held and comforted – he/she may have a full tummy, a dry bottom, but may just want a cuddle ( you really can’t “spoil” a baby in the early months – this is no time to start “controlled crying” – your baby is not old enough to have learned how to manipulate you!! Newborn babies are taking in everything that is happening around them, including the atmosphere – and pick up on any tension – and may need to be reassured by you that everything is OK and they are safe.

It’s great if you are able to carry your baby around with you while you do other things – their are various types of baby slings available – your baby is able to sleep while enjoying your closeness, and you are able to get on with other things. Don’t forget about keeping hot drinks well away from your baby.


Many babies find the fluorescent lights and noise of shopping centres – overstimulating.   Or perhaps you have a family gathering – and every one is playing “pass the parcel” with your baby – and constantly prodding or keeping the baby awake.   Newborn babies particularly sleep for long periods, and if they are constantly disturbed – they become overstimulated, or over tired – and keep crying.

This is exhausting for everyone, especially the new Mum and Dad.    Remove the baby from the situation that he/she is finding overstimulating.   It is important to try to calm the baby, make a “shushing” sound, or sing softly, and gently rock the baby back and forth – this can help settle the baby.   In future try to avoid situations that you know your baby finds overstimulating.


When something is really wrong – a baby crying in pain will not usually just stop – unless he/she is really weak. It is usually a persistent cry, which does not stop no matter what you try. Another cry that is a concern is a very weak cry – get a Professional opinion as soon as possible.

Learn to trust your judgement, and if you are unsure – seek help from your Health Care Professional. Don’t allow yourself to be “fobbed off” – get a second opinion if you don’t feel satisfied with the first opinion.

As time goes by you will get to know your newborn baby better, and will easily be able to distinguish a cry of pain, and find the appropriate solution.

Before taking your baby home – make sure you know where you can get professional help if you need it.

All local communities, have at the very least a community nurse, who can either help you, or guide you to where to go for help. Usually there will be a 24hour a day help-line for new parents – make sure you have it handy, and use it if you feel unsure. Everyone understands that new parents may make calls for things that may be of minor concern – everyone would prefer you did that, rather than that you did not call and the problem turned out to be really serious. If someone is a bit abrupt with you – don’t take it seriously – you made the call for the sake of your baby – that is who you owe your first loyalty to, and don’t ever forget that.

Professionals who are a bit short tempered either have no children of their own, or have forgotten what it’s like to be a new parent – or maybe they are just having a bad day – we all have them – Health Professionals too!!

It’s also a good idea to know where the closest doctor is located, and where your closest Emergency Department is. Keep a list of important phone numbers near the phone – so they are easy to find in a hurry.