Your newborn baby cries because they have to. When they are tiny, this is their only means of telling you that they are hungry or uncomfortable.
As they get older you will start to recognise what their different cries mean. They will also start to develop other ways of communicating with you and cry less often. Your baby will cry for the following reasons:
After the first couple of days, the most common reason for a baby to cry is because they are hungry. Try offering your baby a feed. If they don’t settle then something else is bothering them.
Some babies don’t like a dirty nappy or it might be that their nappy is too tight or irritating in some other way. A nappy change is a good idea if a baby doesn’t settle after a feed.
Your baby may like to be swaddled, tightly wrapped or bundled. It’s important not to overdress your baby though – your baby may get too hot. A rule of thumb is to give your baby one extra layer of clothing than yourself.
A baby’s feet and hands will always feel slightly cold so it is better to feel their stomach if you want to check how hot or cold they are. When they are sleeping try lighter bedclothes that you can layer rather than a very thick blanket or doona. The room temperature in your baby’s room should be around 18 degrees C. It is always important to make sure that your baby is sleeping safely according to the safe sleeping guidelines.
If your baby is still unsettled they may just want a cuddle. Some newborn babies simply need more cuddles and reassurance than others. Cuddling your baby will not make them too clingy or lead to personality problems in the future. If anything, it is likely to make your baby feel more secure.
Some babies will find it hard to settle themselves and need you to create an environment to help them to settle and to fall asleep. Babies can get very tired and over stimulated. This can cause a roller coaster affect where the more tired they get the harder it is for them to fall asleep and this makes them more upset.
Babies are often subject to a lot of stimulation when they are awake. It is important as parents that we recognise when baby isn’t coping or, even better, to anticipate when they may get over-stimulated and to move them to a quiet environment.
When all else fails
If you have tried all of the above it may be that baby is unwell or irritated by something that is not obvious to you. It’s a good idea to have them checked out by the maternal and child health nurse or a GP if you are feeling concerned.
Some babies go through periods when they are unsettled and they may cry for long periods of time. We tend to refer to this as colic – even though colic is not a specific physical condition. Colic will pass – though it can last for up to three months. What causes colic is still unknown – theories include food allergies, adjustment issues, alcohol and nicotine use in the mother, and feelings that are foreign to the baby like feeling full.
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