One of the worst things ever is having a crying baby and being clueless on how to fix it. It’s terribly stressful! Now that I’m on my 5th bout of caring for a baby, I’ve come to notice a method I’ve developed for figuring out what’s wrong. Here are some of the clues I consider when I’m consoling my little ones.
1. Are they hungry? This is usually an easy one to figure out. They start rooting. They’ll turn their chin towards their shoulder and try to find something to suck on. Often times their crying is interrupted by an anxious gluttural stop. This is hard to explain, but imagine the non-verbal sound a toddler makes when he’s extending his hand, trying to reach something he wants. Kind of a repeated, “Ah-ah-ah.” Another test is to see how they react when you insert your finger or pacifier in their mouth. If they start sucking excitedly, then they’re probably hungry.
2. Are they sleepy? Yawning and heavy eyelids are easy tell-tale signs of tiredness. Try comforting them and swaddling them before you lay them down for a nap. If I see my baby having a hard time getting settled in his crib, especially if his arms are flailing around while he cries, I know he probably wants feel more secure. Re-swaddle. Re-swaddle almost like a straight-jacket. Put his arms down at his side, and wrap tightly so he can’t bring his arms up. Babies like feeling secure and being held tight- especially when they are trying to sleep. (Although, this usually only works for babies under 6 months who haven’t learned to crawl yet.) If your baby still does not settle down, pick him up, and let him be comforted by simply looking into your smiling face for a while. It’s amazing how a little focused attention can be calming for a baby.
3. Do they need a diaper change? Usually if the first two don’t seem to be the problem, it could be that they are uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be sitting in their own… you-know-what. If they have a diaper rash, they might be crying rather angrily. Dry up and soothe that poor bum with some baby powder and zinc oxide. If it’s really bad, you might want to give them a warm bath, and let their rashy bum air out while you hold them in a towel.
4. Are they gassy? Usually gassy babies will cry, grunt, then cry, then grunt some more. They’ll stiffen up their bodies- especially their legs. Their discomfort also makes their cries sound pretty angry. Try running their legs while they’re lying on their back on your lap. It will be like massaging their tummy with their knees. This helps get that gas out and provide them some comfort. You can also lie them tummy-down on your lap while you gently bounce your legs. This will help relieve their gassy discomfort.
5. Are they tired and hungry at the same time? This is a tricky one because they can be too sleepy to eat, but too hungry to sleep. It’s what I call “The Perfect Storm.” These babies are nearly inconsolable, and their parents are stressed out! I always suggest that the babies get their sleep first if they can. Rock them, wear them, do whatever to help them sleep. Then as soon as they wake up, give them their meal. They’ll be awake enough to get a full tummy. And try to never let those two needs cross paths again! A book that has helped me understand my baby’s needs and taught me how to have a happy, content baby is Babywise by Gary Ezzo. Check it out!
5. Do they just want to be held? I’ll notice that sometimes my babies just want to be held- especially 30 minutes or so before a nap. They’re not tired enough to sleep, but they’re not content enough to lie there by themselves. Baby-carrying is really great for this part of the day.
6. Are they hurt? This cry is easy to decode since it’s usually a sudden, loud, high-pitched scream. The baby will sound alarmed. Maybe another child dropped a toy on them, or they got bit by a bug. It could be any number of things. Look them over to see if they’re injured.
Good luck with your baby!