What to do when your baby cries for “no reason”
Full tummy? Check. Clean diaper? Check. Fever-free? Check.
So why is your baby crying? Babies have their own good reasons. But even the wisest parents can’t read their babies’ mind – and babies don’t have the words to tell us what’s wrong.
If you haven’t already looked at 12 reasons babies cry and how to soothe them, you may want to start there. If you still need strategies, read on. Fortunately, you can offer comfort without knowing the cause of distress.
Here are some tried and true methods:
Something to suck on
Sucking can steady a baby’s heart rate, relax his stomach, and calm flailing limbs. Offer a pacifier or a finger to clamp onto and let your baby go to town.
Snuggling and swaddling
Newborns like to feel as warm and secure as they did in the womb: Try swaddlingyour baby in a blanket, wearing your baby, or holding him against your shoulder to re-create that feeling. Some babies find swaddling or cuddling too constrictive and respond better to other forms of comfort such as rhythmic movement or sucking a pacifier.
|My daughter loves to be swaddled . . . TIGHTLY. The tighter the swaddle, the bigger her smile. She also has a favorite fleece blanket that I warm up in the dryer for a few minutes before wrapping her in it.
Music & rhythm
Try playing music, singing a lullaby or your favorite song, and dancing around the room. Experiment with different kinds of music to see what your baby responds to.
|We’ve found the best way to soothe our little one is to put on some music and dance with him. His body relaxes after about two songs and he even falls asleep sometimes. The rhythm and movement seem to do the trick.
The growl of a vacuum cleaner might not seem very soothing, but many babies are calmed by a steady flow of “white noise” that blocks out other noises – much like the constant whoosh of bodily sounds they heard in the womb.
|One thing that soothes my baby is the sound of water. I stand with him cradled in my arms with the tap running and humming his favorite song close to his ear. Within a few minutes he has calmed down!
The white noise of the bathroom fan works great. I carry my daughter into the bathroom and run the fan in there. It usually just takes a few seconds and she is calm again.
My two boys love the sound of the vacuum. Several times, when my now-5-year-old was a baby, we just let the vacuum run outside his bedroom door.
I had read about white noise as a soother for babies. So I recorded a few minutes of the fountain in front of the pediatrician’s office. Now whenever my son gets a bit fussy, I play it on the home stereo and BAM! Within seconds he calms right down. The sound of my guitar works too, as I used to play a lot while he was in utero.
Sometimes simply opening the front or back door and stepping outside with your baby stops the crying instantly. If it works, savor the moment: Look around, look up at the sky, talk to your baby about the world around your home – whether it’s a quiet cul-de-sac or a busy city street.
Like fresh air, warm water can soothe and put a stop to your baby’s tears.
For a change from a bath, try holding your baby in your arms under a gently running shower. Don’t push it if your baby doesn’t like the noise or splashing water, but some babies really take to it. Just make sure your shower is slip-proof.
The movement involved in being carried in your arms or a carrier may be enough. Other ways to get your baby in motion: a rocking chair, swing, or bouncy seat; setting your baby in a car seat on the dryer while it’s on (don’t walk away, though – the dryer’s vibrations can cause the seat to move and fall off!); a ride in the stroller or car.
|When my baby has her “evening fussiness” I hold her and bounce on an exercise ball. This soothes her to sleep and I get in some exercise and cuddling at the same time.
Most babies love to be touched, so a massage might be just the thing. Don’t worry about not knowing the perfect movements — as long as they’re gentle and slow, they should bring comfort.
For more tips on soothing a fussy baby, see our article on coping with colic. Even if your baby doesn’t have colic, take a look. You’ll find strategies that work for all sorts of fussy babies.
|If I’ve tried everything and my son is still crying, I just start over. I take off all his clothes, change his diaper, rub him down with a bit of calming lotion, get him dressed, hold him close, and if he’s still crying, feed him. It always seems to work.
Give yourself a break
A crying baby who can’t easily be soothed puts a lot of stress on parents. Thankfully, as your baby gets older, he’ll be better able to soothe himself and much of the crying will stop.
In the meantime, don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself as well as your baby. It’ll make you a more patient and loving parent. When you’re reaching your limit, try these tips:
- Put your baby down in a safe place and let him cry for a while.
- Call a friend or relative and ask for advice
- Let someone you trust take over for a while.
- Put on quiet music to distract yourself.
- Take deep breaths.
- Remind yourself that crying in itself won’t hurt your baby – and he may just need the release.
- Repeat to yourself, “My baby will outgrow this phase.”
- Whatever you do, don’t express your frustration by shaking your baby.
I’m a first-time mother. I can handle the sleepless nights and dirty diapers, but the crying can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve cried with the baby. Sometimes when it gets to be too much, I just step back, take a deep breath, hand the baby over to my husband and tell him it’s “me time.”
When my son cries for no reason, I try reading books and showing him the pictures. Sometimes he is just gassy and I let him lie on his tummy and it helps. Other times he just needs to cry so I let him cry for five minutes or so and then try soothing him.
I always try to remember what someone once told me: “Sometimes everyone just needs a good cry. How would you feel if you needed to cry and someone wouldn’t let you but tried everything to stop your crying.” Now I just hold my baby and let him cry. He knows I’m there and he’ll stop when he feels better.
It took me a while to learn that it was okay to put my baby in his crib for a break during crying fits. Sometimes just a five-minute break from the crying is enough to refresh a weary and frustrated parent and give you the energy to continue your comforting and investigating.