How to Cope with a Crying Baby

Baby’s cry; it’s just what they do. They cry for hunger, diaper changes, heat, cold, wind and more, often for no discernible reason at all. Parents, no matter how devoted and loving, can reach a point where crying consumes the day, leaving little joy and a lot of exhausted frustration. Are there ways to cope with a crying baby, one who cries far more than is considered the norm? Of course there are; in fact, there are lots of ways.

Above everything else, parents need to be in control. With the best will in the world, a baby crying on and off for hours – and they can do so – saps all strength, energy and patience. If nerves are brittle and frustration begins to turn to anger or tears, step away. Provided baby is definitely not sick, pop it in a secure crib and leave the room. It’s hard to listen to the crying, but a few minutes alone won’t do baby any harm in a secure environment. For truly worried parents, use a baby monitor, but don’t go back in.

Allow a break of five minutes, even if it is only standing outside the door. Take a few deep breaths and regroup. It might take a cup of coffee or a song on the radio, whatever makes the calm vibes rise, but do it – then go back and start again. If luck is on your side, baby may even have dropped off to sleep.

The next vital check is to be sure baby isn’t sick. This can be teething pain, wind, colic, tummy upset, a cold, a temperature and the list goes on. If carers can’t determine if baby is ill, always err on the side of caution – check with a doctor or health professional. It is better to ‘waste’ the doctor’s time than to discover baby was sick all along and no one checked.

If baby has a clean bill of health, coping with the crying is something parents and carers have to learn strategies for. First steps are getting to know what calms baby the most, on a regular basis. Music, rocking, peek-a-boo, walking up and down, rides in the car or stroller; there are as many ways to soothe as there are babies. Parents are in the supreme position when it comes to knowing what works, simply by virtue of daily experience. Use whatever works as soon as the crying spell hits.

If the usual doesn’t work, it’s time to break out the big guns. Take baby upstairs, lie on the bed together, and cuddle skin to skin. A combination of warmth, security, ‘parent smell’ familiarity and a close heartbeat can often be the one thing which never fails. There is a degree of return to the womb about this method and it is often especially useful with very young babies.

A similar strategy is to run a warm bath – keep it warm; don’t allow baby to get cold – and slip in with baby. This may relax baby, but has the added benefit of calming the parent too. Be aware when trying this method; an exhausted parent can easily fall asleep so have someone nearby to watch over the bathroom.

An important point, especially for those with babies who make crying a regular event, is making sure there is support. Struggling through nights and days with a baby who cries constantly is hard, and no-one should do it alone. Partners can take turns – even if one or both are working – getting up and trying to calm baby down. There will be sleep deprivation, but better some sleep than no sleep at all. The partner who is off-duty can deploy earplugs and sleep for a set amount of time before switching places.

Call in grandparents, friends and anyone who is willing to do an hour here or – blessed saints – take baby overnight so both parents can rest. If a parent is solo, or has little to no family or friend support, it is time to reach out to health and social circles. Baby clinics are a great place to make friends with mothers who have been through it before, or are struggling to cope now. Support each other, even if that just means sitting in the kitchen over a cup of black coffee, eyelids drooping, listening to babies screaming together; tired, grumpy but understanding company is better than none.

Talk to the midwives and health providers. Don’t let a crying baby become a cause for post-natal depression, exhaustion and relationship troubles because everyone is grouchy. Get help, get support and accept everything offered with a grateful smile.

Above all else, remember this – it will end. Three little words, and hard to believe when two brief naps in twenty-four hours is all that stands between parents and insanity, but it is true. How many three year-old children exist who still cry constantly, for no reason? Very few, because they grow and mature and it will happen for all babies … eventually.