A baby’s constant crying can become stressful and frustrating for parents and caregivers. This is normal. If you are feeling frustrated, it is okay to put the baby down in a safe place, like a crib, and walk away for a few minutes to calm yourself down.
Normal crying for babies
Crying is one of the ways that babies communicate with us.
Babies may have fussy periods in the late afternoon or evening, when parents are often more tired.
Each baby is different, but most babies have periods of crying that last for 20 to 60 minutes at a time. This may add up to 5 to 6 hours in a day.
In the first 5-6 months it is normal for a baby’s crying to increase in intensity.
Your baby may continue to cry, no matter what you do. It does not mean that you are a bad parent; this is normal.
Possible reasons for crying
Babies may cry for many different reasons, but there are some things you can do to try to soothe them. It might take your baby a few minutes or longer to calm down when trying these ideas.
Possible reason for crying
What you can do
Try to feeding the baby
Needs to be close to people
Hold baby skin-to-skin
You can also massage, rock, talk, sing or bathe the baby
Go for walks and hold baby every day
Change baby’s diaper
Burp them or rub their back
Change baby’s positioning or bring them into another room so they can see a new environment
Too hot/too cold
Hold baby skin to skin
Check the room temperature
Ensure baby is dressed appropriately
Tired or overstimulated
Turn off lights and keep the room quiet
Rock baby gently
Rhythms or white noise may be soothing for baby
Illness or Pain
If baby’s cry sounds different to you or baby cannot be soothed after trying everything, see your doctor or call: Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000
What to do if your baby is still crying
Sometimes babies cry for unknown reasons. Try to comfort the baby, allowing them time to respond to each thing you try. During difficult times when the baby won't stop crying never shake your baby as this could cause Shaken Baby Syndrome.
If you find yourself feeling this way, there are some things you can do that may help:
Put your baby in a safe place like a crib, cradle, or bassinet, and take a break to calm yourself. Check on your baby every 5-10 minutes.
Call a friend, family member, or community support for help
Take slow, deep breaths
Have a good cry
Take a bath or shower
Use positive self-talk
Listen to music
It is also important to take care of yourself on a regular basis in order to build resilience to face difficult situations like this. You can care for yourself by:
Sleeping when the baby sleeps
Eating a healthy, balanced diet
Taking regular walks with the baby
Organizing regular child care relief
Connecting with other parents or caregivers
Talking with your partner, friends, and family
Leaving your baby with other people
When leaving your baby with someone else make sure you trust this person, they do not have violent reactions, and that they are comfortable around babies. Speak with them about how to cope with the baby’s crying and help them develop a plan to stay calm. Also be sure to be available for them if they need support.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
One of the risks of this inconsolable crying is that it can be a dangerous trigger for a caregiver to hurt a baby during a moment of frustration. In fact, frustration with a baby’s crying is the most common reason for shaking a baby. Babies under one year of age are especially at risk to injury and death when they are shaken.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a type of abusive head trauma which can damage the baby’s brain, causing permanent disabilities. It can lead to life-long problems such as:
If you suspect that your child has been shaken, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room. Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome vary depending on the age of the baby, how often they’ve been abused and how forceful the shaking was. Symptoms could include:
lack of smiling and/or vocalizing
poor sucking and/or swallowing
pinpointed, dilated or unequal pupil size
loss of consciousness
Sleep related deaths such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), suffocation, or strangulation continue to be a cause of death for infants in Canada, Ontario, and Hamilton.
You can reduce the risk of sleep related death by creating a safe sleep environment. To make a safe sleep environment, you can follow the ABC’s:
A - Alone
Your baby is not sharing their sleep surface with any other children, adults, or pets.
There is only a firm mattress and fitted sheet.
There is nothing in the environment such as blankets, pillows, toys, or bumper pads.
B - Back
Place your baby to sleep flat on his or her back for every sleep.
C - Crib
Place your baby in a crib, cradle or bassinet that meets current Canadian regulations.
Place your baby to sleep in a crib within arm's reach of your bed for at least the first 6 months of life.
Frequently Asked Questions
When a healthy baby spits up during sleep, they will often spit, cough, or turn their head to clear their airway.
As this picture shows, when they are placed to sleep on their back, their esophagus (food pipe) is located under their trachea (air pipe).
This means that if any spit-up is not cleared from their mouth, it is more likely to follow gravity, back down through their esophagus, into their stomach.
If the baby is placed on their stomach to sleep, the trachea is now located under the esophagus, so any uncleared fluid is more likely to follow gravity down into the trachea and into the lungs.
This shows that placing your baby to sleep on their back offers protection.
Inclined products such as car seats, swings or bouncers are not recommended for infant sleep because infants have heavy heads and weak neck muscles, and this inclined position puts them at a higher risk for their head to fall forward and constrict the airway, leading to positional asphyxiation (their position causing their airway to become blocked).
Elevating the head of the infant’s crib is not an effective way to reduce gastroesophageal reflux and it could also cause the baby to slide down to the foot of the crib into a position that could be dangerous.
Bumper pads are most often associated with the risk of suffocation.
However, other risks exist such as strangulation and falls.
An infant’s head can get caught over or under a breathable bumper pad or in the ties used to affix the bumper pad to the sleep environment, leading to strangulation or entrapment in a dangerous position.
Older children can use the bumper pad to climb out of the crib, putting them at risk of falls.
Additional Sleep Tips
Here are some other tips that can reduce your infant’s risk of sleep related death include:
Breastfeed your baby. Any amount of breastfeeding offers protection against SIDS. But exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months has been shown to reduce the risk by up to 50%. Learn more about breastfeeding your baby.
If the room temperature is comfortable for you in light clothing, then it is comfortable for your baby in a fitted one-piece sleeper. Being too hot puts babies at a higher risk of SIDS.
Share safe sleep information with anyone who cares for your baby.
Bouncers, car seats, strollers, swings, and playpens, are not meant for routine, unsupervised sleep. Because babies have big heads compared to their bodies and weak neck muscles, the semi-reclined position can cause their heads to fall forward into a chin-to-chest position and block their airway.
The Women’s Health Concerns Clinic provides assessment, consultation and treatment for women 18 years of age or older who are experiencing physical and/or emotional symptoms related to the reproductive milestones. Phone:905-522-1155 ext. 33979
Healthy Families Hamilton is a City of Hamilton Public Health Services' Facebook page updated by our Registered Nurses and Registered Dietitians Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (excluding holidays). We share information and respond to your questions about pregnancy, breastfeeding, parenting, child safety, growth and development, healthy eating, and taking care of yourself as a parent.