Crying is a primitive and piercing sound that is bound to get any mom or dad’s attention. When our baby cries, we naturally react to stop the crying. However it is important to understand why our baby is crying as well as responding to stop the crying. When searching for the reason, eliminate basic needs first:
- discomfort caused by a dirty nappy, cramps, bloating, reflux, constipation, etc
- medical conditions
When you have ruled out all these possible causes but the crying doesn’t stop, it is understandable that you may begin to feel desperate and at a loss for what to do for your baby. It is important to know you are not alone. In the first 12 weeks of life many babies spend some hours each day fussing and crying. This unexplained crying in the early days has been commonly known as ‘colic’. For many years it was thought that the crying was caused by abdominal discomfort or cramps but recent research shows that it is more a factor of the young brain’s inability to deal with stimulation.
Your baby’s ability to filter out stimulation in the world develops over time. In the first two weeks, we hypothesize that your baby’s brain protects him from excess sensory info. During this time your baby is probably an angel, crying very little and sleeping a lot. But at around ten to fourteen days, this protection dissolves and your baby’s brain must start to filter out sensory stimulation on its own. Of course, being immature, it can’t and so your baby reacts to the world with sensory overload. From being that angel who slept all the time, he suddenly is more alert and fusses. He may cry for an hour every evening or as much as three hours day or night. This daily crying usually peaks at around 6 weeks and by 12 weeks the fussy period is over. The best way to prevent excessive crying in the first three months is to limit stimulation and keep your baby’s world calm.
So how do you calm your baby who is already crying and unplayable due to overstimulation?
- Swaddle your baby – the deep pressure and containment provided by a swaddle is the best calming measure. Your overtired baby will then no longer be bothered by his flailing arms and will feel calmer when swaddled
- Decrease stimulation – do not over stimulate your baby when he is already fractious. Take him to a dim room with quiet lullabies instead of swinging him through the air to make him laugh.
- Hold your baby and carry him – do not worry about spoiling your newborn, as babies up to four months old do not form habits. However, they do have sensory needs and movement such as that provided in a sling is a great way to calm colicky newborn or fractious toddler alike.
- Lie with your baby on your chest – when the wheels are falling off, and mum and baby are falling apart, Dad can be a great support. Take your little baby and lay quietly with him on your chest and sooth him with your calmness and gentle touch.
- White noise – white noise provided by water, a radio tuned to static or a white noise CD/MP3 are wonderful sounds for calming babies. If possible play white noise at the volume of your baby’s cry and he will calm down.
By Meg Faure