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Baby Crying

7 Common Reasons Babies Cry -- and How to Soothe Them

Obviously, you know that baby’s going to cry, but that doesn’t make it easy to hear. The key to calming those cries is to get to the bottom of what’s causing them. And since babies don’t come out of the womb with a full vocabulary, you’re going to have to use the process of elimination.

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Hunger

Probably the first thing that runs through your mind when baby’s crying is, “Could he be hungry again?” They call it hangry for a reason, and babies seem to go from zero to screaming pretty quickly if they haven’t eaten for a while. The key isn’t to watch the clock with feedings -- it’s to respond to baby’s cues.

“Crying is a late sign of hunger,” says Paul Horowitz, MD, of Discovery Pediatrics in Valencia, California. To avoid crying completely, look for early signs of hunger: lip-smacking, sucking on his hands and rooting -- turning his head to find the boob or bottle. When you see those, start the feeding. If baby’s already crying, you might recognize the “feed me” cry as rhythmic and repetitive and (usually) short and low-pitched. All you’ve got to do here is feed baby.

Tummy troubles

Is your fussy baby’s also wriggling, arching his back or pumping his legs? Classic case of gas, says Preeti Parikh, MD, pediatrician at Pediatrics of New York in New York City. And yes it sounds gross, but you can help him pass it. “Hold baby on the left side or on his or her stomach to help with digestion,” she says. “If baby is gassy, bicycle his legs and push them up to his chest to help relieve the gas.”

Dirty diaper

Some babies can sit in a wet or dirty diaper for hours without a care in the world. Others go nuts if they’re sitting in it for more then a second. (Can you blame them really?) It doesn’t take much effort to open up the diaper and make a quick check, but there are also some diaper brands with a “wetness indicator” that changes color when they’re wet, so you don’t have to go through the whole undressing process every time you wonder.

Teething

Baby can start teething as early as four months old, around which point you may notice more fussiness. Other telltale signs of teething are excess drool and gnawing on anything within reach. “Sucking either on a pacifier or on your thumb or finger can help soothe baby,” Parikh says. You may even want to give her gums a massage. “Massage them frequently until you make a squeaky sound,” Horowitz says. Chewing on frozen or refrigerated teethers, washcloths or even cotton bibs may also give baby some relief.

Sleepiness

You may be able to fall asleep the minute you hit the mattress, but it’s not the same for baby. In fact the more tired baby is, the harder it might be for him to wind down. Do some trial and error to see what calms your tired baby. Swaddling, for starters, may make baby feel cozy and comfy. Some babies respond to rocking motion or the sound of a lullaby or even a hum of the vacuum.

Set a bedtime routine that signals to baby that it’s time for sleep. “Mine is the three Bs: bath, bottle, then bedtime,” says Bumpie MammaMoon9. “Baby doesn’t always fall asleep immediately, but the bath does calm him quite a bit.” Resist the urge to limit daytime naps thinking it will help baby sleep at night -- it won’t. And even if it’s not his usual naptime, and he seems tired, go ahead and put him down. “Sleepy babies should be allowed to sleep,” Horowitz says.

Need to burp

“Everyone remembers to burp baby after a feeding, but many babies may need to be burped after sucking a pacifier, having the hiccups or crying,” says Horowitz. “All these activities can result in swallowing air.” So, when baby’s crying and you’re not sure why, it doesn’t hurt to give her a pat on the back. “I hold baby over my left shoulder, making sure his left arm is hanging over my shoulder,” Bumpie KatieDahlia says. “Then I rub in circles on his left side and back, starting down by his hip and working up. Usually after two or three tries, we get a massive burp out of him.”

Overstimulation

We all get sensory overload now and again. For baby, it might be after getting passed around by aunts and uncles at a family party, or toted along to the grocery store. Remember: Baby’s still getting used to all that commotion, so it might not take much to get him upset. It’s a good idea to take baby home and relax when he seems overstimulated. Or go for a walk together, suggests Parikh. Some fresh air, quiet and/or familiar surroundings will probably do him some good. But don’t go too crazy trying to keep him away from stimulation completely. “Stimulation is a good thing,” Horowitz explains. “But the best form of it for baby is one-on-one stimulation with a loved one.”

Plus, More from The Bump:

How to Read Your Baby's Mind

Should You Let Baby Cry it Out?

Excessive Crying in Babies


-- Madeline Schmitz

See More: Baby Basics , Newborn Basics