Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tips for Coping with Persistent Infant Crying

Persistent criers have a harder time dealing with the world around them. Once they are upset, it can be challenging for them to calm down. You can help keep your baby more comfortable by watching closely for disengagement cues and taking action to calm your baby at the first signs of trouble. You won’t be able to stop all the crying but you can make a big impact. Your baby will settle down and within the next few weeks, the fussiness will fade away. In the meantime, here are some tips from a mom who's been there.

1. Watch for triggers like loud noises, harsh lights, or strong smells and take steps to avoid them until your baby is a bit older. Your baby will use disengagement cues to tell you what the triggers are. Just remember, the cues won’t be specific. For example, your baby might arch away from you because the dog is barking too loud. Taking the baby into a quiet room for a few minutes can help.

2. For some persistent criers, low stimulation (soft lights, quiet) is best; for others, lots of repetitive stimulation (like white noise or going outside) works well. You’ll learn very quickly what level of stimulation keeps your baby happy. Some babies are sensitive to their own movements. Swaddling works well for these babies during the first few weeks.

3. Help your baby find ways of self-soothing, like sucking on her hands or snuggling with a soft cloth.

4. Help your baby adjust to his or her own body rhythms using light in the day and keeping things darker at night. Stick to a loose routine for daily tasks so your baby is exposed to similar amounts of stimulation each day. Watch out for overload from sights and sounds at the end of the day. Many babies have a fussy time between 4 and 6 pm when everyone is coming home, dinner is being prepared, and the TV is turned on. Try making dinner earlier in the day or even better, take a walk with baby while someone else makes dinner!

5. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can go along way in calming you both. You might want to try some infant massage.

6. Once your baby gets upset, remember: repetition, repetition, repetition. Don’t try 10 things to calm your baby, stick with one thing for several minutes before you try something else.

7. There are a lot of books, DVDs, and websites dedicated to helping you stop your baby’s crying. Most of these methods don’t address the reasons why babies cry. We encourage you to try to understand and respond to your baby’s ups and downs rather than focus all your attention on stopping his or her crying.

Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Having a fussy baby does not make you a bad parent. Don’t let others make you feel guilty or inadequate. Your baby just needs a little help to get into synch. My baby daughter went from screaming to social and adorable almost overnight, once her nervous system caught up with her. She’s since graduated from college with honors and has as much energy and passion as she did in those early weeks.

Having a crying baby while you are recovering from childbirth is horribly stressful. It is important to recruit trusted family and friends to bring you food, do your laundry, or babysit for a little while. Taking time for yourself can help you feel less overwhelmed. You may not want to ask other people to take care of your baby but others won’t feel the same way as you do about your baby’s crying; they know they only have to hear it for a short time.

Millions of families go through the challenge of persistent crying. You won’t have to look far to find an experienced mom, dad, or grandparent who knows exactly how you feel. Let us know how you are coping with your fussy baby.

Next Time: Sometimes Newborns' "Good" Behavior can be Misleading


  1. Wish I had know all of this before my "persistent cryer" came into this world.

  2. We are having such a hard time. Our little one literally cries 15+ hours a day. She sleeps less than 6 hours a day and cries the rest. She is 4 weeks tomorrow. The Dr.s have checked and can find nothing wrong but we cannot find a way to soothe her. She will calm down for about 5 minutes...almost like a power nap and that is about it. Occasionally, we will get a 2 or 3 hour nap during the night. It feels like she is over-tired but I have no idea what to do. She looks like a toddler fighting sleep (her eyes barely close and she pops them open with a determination to say, "not gonna happen". We have tried everything you have suggested above. She has been like this since the day she was born.

    Do you have any suggestions?

  3. Hi! We encourage you to read all the posts we have on persistent crying. I really know exactly how you feel. Since the doctor says she's doing fine physically, she is probably very sensitive to her new world. Very few babies (8%) keep this up after 12 weeks but that means you may have 8 more weeks of this. Important - 1) this is not your fault, 2) this will pass, and 3) you need to get a break. Have someone you trust come and watch the baby so you can take a walk or a nap. I know it seems unfair to have anyone else care for your crying baby but it is not the same for someone who is visiting as it is for you. The next 8 weeks will be tough but you'll start to see changes before that. Keep trying our suggestions and know that as her body matures, she will be more responsive. Watch for little changes and keep us posted!

  4. I am in the same boat. My baby is 6 weeks old Wednesday and for the past week or two has been crying for 12 or more hours a day. I hold him all day long and he doesn't even sleep when he's in my arms. I have tried a swing, rocking him, and a baby carrier. I have finally allowed help from my mom but its still very stressful because I have a 4yr old who just started preschool and a 19 month old. I thought it was colic at first (my firstborn had colic) but he isn't very gassy; he's just a fussy baby. I hope it gets better soon, I feel like a bad mother because I can't soothe my son.

  5. You want to make sure that your baby is growing well and healthy. A quick check with the doctor will take care of that. As long as everything checks out ok, your baby is likely having a hard time adjusting to his new world. You are not a bad mom, your baby is not experiencing things as your others did. He'll start to settle down but it may take a few more weeks. In the meantime, read all our posts on crying (it all applies even if your baby does it a lot more than others do) and know that this too shall pass. Take care!

  6. i was given the privelage of keeping my grandson, 7-week old Tristen, overnite for a weekend. The first 24 hours were spectacular. His Mom kept calling to check on him- and she'd be suprised bc I didn't report him crying or being fussey-AT ALL. Starting 'round 2-ish the following day... everything flipped! Just this quick, my grandson was crying and screaming- non stop. Whyat few minutes he actually went to sleep, he was laying on my chest. Now- they're back at home. My daughter just called- freaking out!! My grandson is screaming loudly in the backround. I am a mother of 5, and for the life of me- I can't seem to find a way of contenting him. PLEASE HELP!!

  7. Any baby that suddenly changes behavior like that needs to be checked out by a doctor, just in case the baby has an ear infection or another problem that isn't obvious. Once the doctor has made sure that your grandson is healthy, then the doctor can help your family figure out what might be wrong. Our best wishes and hope that this resolves very quickly!

  8. Our baby had 'fussy time' which was later diagnosed as colic between 7-11pm every night. Nothing we did would calm her.

    Until we discovered dummies.

    Now shes like a totally new baby, so happy and calm. Highly recommended :)

  9. To the mother of a 14 week old baby who posted an anonymous comment on March 6th -
    We understand that being a new parent is stressful and it is very important that new parents have help and support from family and friends.
    The information you gave us indicates that you may need additional support from a medical provider to cope with the intense stress you feel. Many mothers feel this way. Please contact your doctor or baby's pediatrician to explain your concerns about your baby and how you are feeling. They can set you up with the resources you need to get through this challenging time.