Six reasons why your baby won’t stop crying

Wouldn't parenting be so much easier if babies could talk and tell us why they're wailing?
Wouldn't parenting be so much easier if babies could talk and tell us why they're wailing? Photo: Getty-images

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Until humans pass that evolutionary leap, you'll have to do what mothers have been doing for centuries: look for subtle clues behind their screams and tears, and work your way through this checklist to try bring them some comfort.

We spoke to Julyanne Tesoriero, parenting expert from My Birth and Beyond, about the top reasons seemingly healthy babies cry and got her tips for calming them, and yourself, down.


Could it be colic?

Colic is defined as recurrent crying, fussing and irritability in an otherwise thriving baby over prolonged periods of time for which there is no obvious cause and the baby is inconsolable.

Tesoriero says there are a number of theories on why it occurs that relate to the baby's temperament and adapting to the "outside" world after birth – known as the "fourth trimester". Tummy troubles are also a big consideration. It could be an upset caused by the mother's diet which affects the baby through breastfeeding, or a result of the formula in use.

If so, try:

One way to soothe a colicky bub is to simulate the womb to encourage a  calmer environment.

"Make sure your baby is swaddled, use white noise, shush your baby and swing them so they're nice and calm," Tesoriero suggests.


"We also try to make sure the mum and dad are as supported as possible in that period because if they are feeling distressed, that can impact on the baby as well."

Parents should also consider switching bottle fed babies to a formula that is specifically made to combat colic. Also consider smaller and more frequent feeds. Breastfeeding mums may wish to seek advice from a professional about how their own diet may be affecting their newborn's irritability.


Could it be wind?

Babies often gulp air when they're nursing or taking milk from a bottle… or when they're crying, which needs to be passed by burping or farting or it can cause discomfort.

If so, try:

Change their position to see if you can help them release their wind. Gently patting or rubbing their back is also a move that proves effective.

"Sometimes holding them in your arms in an upright position releases gas or you could do the side and stomach hold," Tesoriero says, referring to holding them so it mimics laying on their stomach or side instead of their back. Be sure to always follow safe sleeping guidelines and lay baby on their back when in their cot.


Could it be hunger?

It should really be called "hangry" (hungry-angry) when it comes to babies who are due for a feed.

"If it's hunger, they'll generally start to put their fists in their mouth and start moving their head from side to side," Tesoriero says.

If so, try:

Making sure they get a big feed.

"I often say, 'If we feed three-hourly, we give them a really good feed and a really full tummy'," Tesoriero says.

"It gives mums a break [so you're not] feeling like you're constantly feeding [and it prevents] babies from becoming snack feeders [where] every two hours they have a little bit … sucking on the nipple for comfort."

That said, Tesoriero says that up until the age of three months, some babies will cluster feed in the early evening to fill up before a longer stretch of sleep and also stimulate your milk supply.

Babies going through a growth spurt will also want to feed more regularly.


Could they be overtired?

Just like adults, overtired babies become irrational and emotional, and Tesoriero says tiredness is one of the most common causes for tears.

"One of the key tired signs is their eyes looking slightly glazed and turning their head away and not looking at their parents," Tesoriero says.

"If we don't act then, generally they will get to the overtired point where they become irritable and fussy, not wanting to feed, not wanting to be picked up and not wanting to be put down."

If so, try:

Always being on the lookout for subtle tired signs, such as red eyes and eyebrows, jerky movements or looking away.

"It's important that babies get regular naps," Tesoriero says.

And if they're refusing the bottle or breast, Tesoriero suggests trying to calm them down then re-attempt the feed.


Are they too hot or cold?

As a general rule of thumb, Tesoriero says babies usually need one extra layer on than adults.

"Use a little bit of common sense, feeling their head to see if they feel warm," Tesoriero suggests. Or the back of their neck to see if they are perspiring.

"In winter, feel their hands and feet and if they feel cold, put a little bit more on."

If so, try:

Adding another layer in the wee hours of the morning.

"Between 2am and 4am is when the temperature drops," Tesoriero points out. "Is it worth popping on another blanket or cover and seeing whether that makes a difference?"


Could it be constipation?

Babies on formula or starting solids can suffer constipation as their immature digestive system adapts, which can be uncomfortable.

Signs of constipation are poo that is in pellets or dry and crumbly or if your baby appears to be in discomfort when trying to pass a motion.

If so, try:

You can help your baby get their poop moving by cycling their legs, lifting their legs up or giving them a tummy rub.

If you're feeding your baby formula, make sure it's made up correctly with the right amount of water.

"An infant formula with a prebiotic or probiotic may help their poo soften because it might help with the gut microbiota," Tesoriero says.


If all else fails…

Chat to your GP or maternal health nurse.

"If you're not getting any relief from the different methods you've tried, then I would seek help from a healthcare professional," Tesoriero says.


Founded in 1896, Danone Nutricia works with parents, carers and healthcare professionals to educate about early life nutrition through advice and support, as well as products and services. For over 100 years Danone Nutricia has been at the forefront of research in infant nutrition and our pioneering efforts continue today. At the heart of our work is our commitment to stand by mums, dads and caregivers to nurture new lives through science-driven research and development, as well as quality manufacturing. To learn more about our commitment or to talk to one of our experts on Early Life Nutrition visit our website.