Why my baby cries


I knew that when Plum was born he would cry. I wasn’t as naive as to think that I would be spared the crying! But what shocked me was the severe look of pain on his face sometimes when he cried. I seriously thought something was drastically wrong with him.

Here’s a quick reference for reasons why babies cry:

The cry is sharp, like he is in pain. His face goes bright red, he arches his back and scratches at his neck and face.

With Plum these were signs of wind. Poor babies! It actually hurts them when they need to fart or poo! I found it so distressing to watch.

Babies can swallow air when they cry or feed (especially if you have a fast let down or are bottle feeding). To prevent the painful farts it’s best to get a big burp out after eating. If you’re struggling to burp a baby it can be helped by using a medicine that encourages bubbles of air in the baby’s tummy to stick together. Infacol and Dentinox colic drops both contain Simeticone which do this.

Despite burping, your baby can still have painful wind. Tummy massages and bicycling the legs can help it pass. There’s lots of instructional videos on YouTube. Some people say cutting out caffeine or other foods from your diet if Breastfeeding helps but I don’t think this has been scientifically proven.
Breastfeeding helped to comfort Plum and he would root like crazy but then get fussy when latching. To save me from comfort feeding I gave him a dummy and he sucks on it furiously when windy. He can also go much longer between feeds.

As he gets older, passing wind becomes less and less painful. At the moment with Plum being 5 weeks old it is bad enough to wake him up when he’s asleep but he doesn’t scream in pain from it any more.

There’s a great post about wind

He’s fine and happy on my chest or being carried but the moment I put him down he wakes and cries

Plum did this every time he needed to burp. I would pick him up again and jiggle him around a bit and sure enough a burp would come out. Then I could put him down again and he was fine.

A baby not wanting to lie on his back can also be a sign of reflux (aka throwing up with heartburn) or if there’s no puke it can be silent reflux (baby swallows the puke again!). If you’ve had this while pregnant then you know how uncomfortable this can make you feel and you probably propped yourself up on pillows so you were sitting up while sleeping. For the baby it’s the same.

To help the baby with reflux, make sure he is kept upright for at least 20 minutes after every feed. Also incline the crib mattress or Moses basket so his head is higher than his feet. Lots of people buy Fisher Price Pack and Play beds which have a better angle but note they were recalled for giving babies flat heads so make sure you get an insert for it.

Severe cases of reflux can be medicated or linked to food intolerances.

He has a clean nappy, has fed and isn’t too hot or cold but is still crying

With Plum we learnt to count yawns! If he cried when everything else was ok then it was because he was overtired or overstimulated.

At the first yawn we start thinking about getting him down for a nap. After 3 yawns we’re in dangerous territory! An overtired baby can cry and cry and finds it tricky to sleep.

The only way round this is to know your baby and how much stimulation they can take. I found that if I missed the nap window and he is overtired then I can stick him in a sling and he will instantly drop off to sleep.

He is fed, has a clean nappy, isn’t too hot or cold but cries anyway. Nothing seems to help. It’s usually the evening. This goes on for hours.

This is colic. We’ve been really lucky that Plum doesn’t have colic but we have had some evenings where he cries inconsolably for no particular reason. It’s very different from the painful wind cry. He also demands more feeds.

We found the best solution is to use the 5 ‘S’s’ explained in Harvey Karp’s Baby Bliss book

Simply these are:

  • Swaddling
  • Sucking (a dummy or feeding)
  • Swinging
  • Sideways (hold baby on their side)
  • Ssshhh (or Sound- use white noise)
  • These 5 things used together are like a magical ‘off switch’ for the crying. If I’m out shopping then I have been able to quieten him just by picking him up, holding him on his side, swinging him and saying ‘ssh ssh ssh’ repeatedly fairly loudly in his ear.

    Infacol brands itself as a medicine to help with colic but as described above the active ingredient actually helps with wind and burping. The evidence that it helps colic is shaky- there’s a critical article here.

    Any other crying
    Plum hasn’t cried for any other reason than burps, wind, reflux, tiredness or colic but here are some other reasons your baby could cry:

  • too hot
  • too cold
  • wet nappy
  • bored
  • uncomfortable
  • doesn’t like his outfit
  • tickles/ itches
  • crease in his blanket
  • prefers being held by daddy
  • you dropped him
  • One Comment Add yours

    1. You should buy the book “reasons my kid is crying” both funny and reassuring.


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