Baby Crying – What’s Normal and What’s Not

Soothing a crying baby, particularly a newborn, can be stressful. New parents may not be sure what’s normal and what’s not, and even experienced parents are tired and still learning how to decipher their little one’s cries.

“New babies can cry a lot, says Veronica Linares, MD, FAAP and internist/pediatrician with Adventist Medical Group. “A newborn can cry for as much as two hours every day, spread out across 24 hours. By the time a baby is 12 weeks old, he or she will typically only cry for about 60 minutes throughout the day.”

Interpreting Your Baby’s Cry

Fortunately, parents are typically able to tune into what a baby’s cry means – whether they are hungry or need a diaper change or just want to be held. These cries sound the same each time, and babies are easily consoled once you’ve fed, rocked, burped or changed your little one.

However, parents should be on the lookout for some more alarming signs when it comes to a baby’s cry, including:

  • Louder, high pitched cry
  • Unable to be consoled
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Suddenly stopping in the middle of cries
  • Turning blue in the face or around the mouth

If your baby is experiencing any difficulty breathing or turning blue, seek medical attention immediately, Dr. Linares advises. And if your baby isn’t having trouble breathing, but you can’t console him or her, Dr. Linares has a simple tip for parents.

“I always tell parents to strip their baby completely down and look for anything that could be hurting the baby- a diaper pin, a button that’s pinching skin or a hair tourniquet,” she suggests. “A hair tourniquet is when a piece of hair gets wrapped around a toe or finger and cuts off blood supply. If you don’t see anything and you can’t console your baby, call your pediatrician.”

Parents should never be hesitant to have their baby evaluated because of unusual or inconsolable crying. It’s rarely a sign of a serious issue, but still worth getting checked out.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” Dr. Linares reminds parents. “Once we know there are no major health concerns, we can work together to brainstorm new solutions to help calm your baby.”

A few of Dr. Linares’ favorite tips to soothe a baby include:

  • Rock in a rocking chair
  • Use an age appropriate swing, with baby fastened securely
  • Hold your baby on his or her side, with their stomach against yours while you rock, bounce or sway gently side to side
  • Offer a pacifier, bottle or breastfeed
  • Play soothing classical music
  • Talk gently and assuredly to the baby, letting him or her know you are there and will help them feel better
  • Create white noise with a noise machine, vacuum or ceiling fan
  • Go for a drive with the baby in an infant car seat
  • Gently massage your baby with long strokes on her cheek, back or leg
  • If your baby likes bath, try giving him or her a bath with warm water

Dr. Linares’ final tip may be her most valuable:

“If your baby is crying a lot or fussy, and you’ve ruled out any serious issues with your pediatrician, enlist help,” she recommends. “Take turns with your partner and see if you have family members that can come over and give you a hand throughout the day. This helps you take a break and get more rest, and will keep tempers from running short.”

Those first few weeks after your bring your little one home are the most rewarding, and sometimes the most challenging. Learn how you can prepare yourself for this time with one of the baby or parenting classes available at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. Classes include: Baby Care Basics, Discovering Motherhood and many others.