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Newborn Crying

Newborn Crying

Crying is one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching sounds to a parent. When your baby cries, it's a cue that lets you know that they need help and support.

Crying is an instinctive human behaviour. Young babies experience lots of new physical and emotional sensations that can be exhausting and overwhelming for them.

When you respond to your baby’s cries quickly with reassurance, warmth and affection they’ll feel safe and secure. They will usually calm down more quickly then they can enjoy a feed or play.

Why do babies cry?

Physical reasons for crying are often easier to understand. They might be:

  • A nappy change
  • A feed
  • A sleep
  • A tummy upset
  • Being hot or cold
  • Being uncomfortable
  • Being tired

Your baby may be crying because of an emotional need. This means your baby needs help to manage their feelings because they're too young to do that on their own. These feelings may include:

  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Overstimulation from noise or lights
  • Separation from you

Sometimes, you may not know exactly why your baby is crying. The pitch and urgency of their cry might give you some clues. 

What to do when your baby cries?

Crying is an essential part of how your baby forms attachments with you. When you respond with love, it can help them stimulate brain development. 

It's important to know that you're not spoiling your baby if you pick them up when they cry. You are providing a safe haven so they can be calmed and soothed. This will help them understand and manage their feelings now and into the future. 

The more confident you are in responding to your baby's cry means the better you will become at understanding what they're trying to communicate with you. 

Here are some ways to respond to their cries. Start with one or two strategies and build on them if you need to. Whatever strategy you use, don’t keep changing for new and different ones. You and your baby need a familiar and comforting routine during this period.

How to respond to your baby's crying

  • 1

    Slow your breathing to calm yourself. 

  • 2

    Use a soothing, slow, calm voice. You could even sing softly. 

  • 3

    Show your baby your face and eyes. 

  • 4

    Gently cuddle, touch, rock or sway your baby. 

  • 5

    Be in a comfortable position that is safe for you and your baby. 

  • 6

    Carry your baby in an approved baby carrier next to your chest and make sure you're as relaxed as you can be. Your baby will hear your heartbeat which can be soothing. 

  • 7

    Put your baby on their back or tummy and use a gentle, rhythmic pat, rub or touch to soothe

  • 8

    Take your baby for a walk in the pram.

  • 9

    Place your baby in a soft, firm wrap with arms flexed on chest and their hands available to suck. This helps your baby soothe.

  • 10

    If you use white noise or baby-safe massage oil, incorporate this into the routine.

What is PURPLE crying?

Newborn crying is sometimes called PURPLE crying. Purple is an acronym that describes what happens to babies in the first few months of life. It stands for:

  • P - Peak crying. During the first eight weeks, crying tends to follow a 'bell curve'. Starting around 2-3 weeks, you may notice an increase in crying, peaking between 6-8 weeks. Gradually, the tears will lessen, easing around the 3rd or 4th month. It’s just a phase, and like all phases, it will pass.
  • U - Unexpected. Around the third week, some babies seem to become unsettled unexpectedly. It might seem sudden but it's a normal part of their development. 
  • R - Resists soothing. It's challenging when, despite your best efforts, your baby resists settling. It’s normal to feel frustrated and weary. 
  • P - Pain like face. It’s heartbreaking to see your baby in distress. Many parents worry that their baby is in pain during these crying spells. Rest assured, there is no evidence suggesting they are experiencing pain. It’s their way of communicating.
  • L - Long lasting. Yes, some evenings may feel long when the cries seem endless. It’s crucial for you and your partner to support each other and share the caring responsibilities.
  • E - Evening. Although these crying periods often occur in the evening, they can happen at any time. Each baby is unique and so is their pattern of crying.

When your baby won’t stop crying

The most common cause for a baby’s crying during the first 3 months is to let you know that they need more close, physical contact with you.

The more distressed your baby gets, the harder it is for them to calm down. When you respond to your baby’s cries quickly with reassurance, warmth and affection, they’ll feel safe and secure. Usually it means they calm down more quickly. Then your baby can enjoy a feed, cuddle or play.

Unfortunately during the first 4 months there will be times when you won’t be able to calm or soothe your baby no matter what you do, and your newborn won't stop crying. Although it is normal developmental crying, it can be hard to cope with. 

What you can do?

First and most importantly remember the crying is not because of:

  • Your lack of care and efforts to soothe
  • Your inexperience
  • Your baby’s birth order
  • Your baby’s difficult temperament or personality
  • Your fault

Here you can find some ways of coping with your baby that won't stop crying. We also have some more strategies for babies that cry at bedtime or during sleep.

Reassure yourself that it’s not your fault that your baby is going through this normal crying phase. Don’t try to tough it out on your own. It's ok to ask someone for help to understand any intense feelings you may have.

You could ask for help from family or friends, visit your local GP or Child and Family Health Nurse or call the Tresillian Parent Help Line on 1300 272 736.


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