All parents have been there… Baby has been golden all day but something has changed…
They’ve been feed, burped, changed and cuddled…
And yet… baby won’t stop crying!
So, you check them over…
There are no signs of a fever and baby is wearing the softest weather-appropriate clothing.
Could it be gas? Could they be overtired? Are they too hot, too cold or uncomfy?
Perhaps they’re teething…?!
Regardless, you’ve tried anything and everything to calm baby down but…
They. Just. Keep. On. Crying.
First things first…
So the first thing I want to say is that it is perfectly normal for even the calmest of babies to have an outbreak of incessant crying…
In fact, throughout my nannying experience, I have not yet looked after a baby that won’t stop crying at some point!
The truth is…
Up to a third of babies will cry for no apparent reason for long periods of time during the first 3 months of life.
And feeling helpless and frustrated when your baby won’t stop crying, especially when you are sleep deprived is perfectly normal and understandable.
However, knowing the difference between when your baby is having an off day and when there is something to be concerned about is very important to know.
So, what do we mean when we say baby won’t stop crying?
What do we mean by excessive crying?
All babies cry. So what’s the difference between a baby who won’t stop crying and when their tears turn into a full-blown uncontrollable wail?
Well, interpreting your baby’s crying is one of the first things new parents learn…
Babies have several different cries depending on their needs and crying is the way in which your little one communicates with us.
Therefore, when it gets out of hand or becomes non-stop, your baby is REALLY trying to tell you something.
So, what is classed as excessive crying and when should you be concerned?
Well, it’s PERFECTLY NORMAL for a young baby to cry for 1-3 hours per day.
In the early days, they may not cry much at all as they are still waking up to the world, but soon they will want to make their presence known and the only way they can do that is to CRY.
Most infant crying stops once you see to their needs…
But in extreme cases, your baby won’t stop crying no matter what you do.
In this case, they may be experiencing what is known as PURPLE crying.
Doctors came up with PURPLE crying to help parents deal with the stages of excessive crying that occurs in infants during the first 4 months of their lives.
PURPLE takes parents through the stages of crying in order to help them better identify if their baby is experiencing purple crying.
- Peak of crying. Baby is wailing a lot. The most crying may happen in baby’s second month, with less crying in months three to five.
- Unexpected. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why baby starts and stops crying.
- Resists soothing. Rocking, singing, bouncing, swaying – you may not be able to do anything, to help soothe baby and ease the sobbing.
- Pain-like face. Baby may appear to be in pain when crying, even when they’re not.
- Long-lasting. The crying can seem never-ending. In fact, baby may cry for five hours a day or more.
- Evening. The late afternoon and evening may be when baby cries the most.
However, if your baby won’t stop crying for more than 3 ½ hours per day regularly, there may be an underlying cause for concern and you should always go with your gut feeling.
So what are the reasons baby won’t stop crying?
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7 Reasons why baby won’t stop crying
Babies cry to let you know what they need. These needs can usually be resolved by doing the following:
- Feeding them
- Changing their diaper,
- Giving them comfort and a cuddle,
- Giving them some attention,
- Putting them down to sleep.
However, there are some instances when your baby will cry more incessantly and be more difficult to soothe.
So, here are some of the most common reasons your baby won’t stop crying and when it can be more difficult to calm them down.
1. Baby is unwell
Your little one may be inconsolable if they are feeling unwell.
While some babies become lethargic when they are feeling under the weather, others may cry incessantly (especially if they are in pain or discomfort).
2. They have Trapped wind
Trapped wind will often mean your baby won’t stop crying until the wind is released!
Go to my post Baby Won’t Burp to learn some of the most successful ways to burp baby if you think they’re suffering from trapped wind.
3. They are experiencing Colic
One of the biggest causes of non-stop crying in young babies is colic.
This can be a very difficult time for both baby and parents as, in many cases, there is very little to be done to alleviate your baby’s discomfort.
If you think you baby is suffering from colic take a look at my post on how to deal with Colic and Reflux.
4. Baby is Overstimulated
An overstimulated young baby can easily get themselves worked up into a crying frenzy.
Therefore, it is important to ensure that your little one does not become overwhelmed by too much attention from family and friends in the early months.
The only way they can tell you they have had enough is by crying and they can easily get themselves worked up to the point where baby won’t stop crying as a result.
5. Baby is Overtired
An overtired baby is a tricky one to handle…
If you miss their sleep cues, your baby may spiral out of control and be very difficult to calm down.
Bizarrely, an overtired baby will not settle to sleep quickly or easily so not letting them get overtired is key.
Read my post Why Does My Baby Fight Sleep to learn more.
REMEMBER: Sleep breeds sleep!
6. They are Uncomfortable
If your baby is too hot, too cold or is finding their clothing too itchy, they will let you know by the only way they know how…
In these cases, you will need to become a bit of a detective to work out what is going on with your little one.
If you think that the room temperature is fine, check for chafing from what they are wearing and make sure their fingers and toes are all free.
Read my post How To Dress Baby For Sleep to learn more.
Top Tip: Use nighttime nappies that can absorb more so that your baby is more comfortable at night. This can often help them sleep better.
7. Baby has started Teething
Although this will affect older babies, teething can mean baby won’t stop crying for long periods of time and they can be very difficult to settle and console.
To learn more about teething, check out the following post – Teething: The Ultimate Guide.
6 Solutions For when baby won’t stop crying!
So now that we have looked at the possible causes of your baby’s non-stop crying, what can you do to help them calm down?
For obvious causes such as hunger, dirty nappy or tiredness just meeting your babies needs can stop the crying.
For when baby won’t stop crying because of colic or wind, there are measures you can take to help your little one through their discomfort.
In the case of teething, there are lots of things you can do to help with the pain. And as I mentioned earlier, my Ultimate Guide To Teething has lots of tips on how to deal with a teething baby, so be sure to give that a read to learn more.
Sometimes despite all your best efforts to work out why your baby is crying, they may get themselves worked up to a point where you feel at a complete loss as to what to do to calm them and baby won’t stop crying…
If this happens… try the method devised by Pediatrician Harvey Karp called the 5S’s:
Most babies love to be swaddled.
Swaddling makes them feel secure and reminds them of their days in the womb.
Therefore, the first step to soothing your crying baby is to wrap them in a snug (but not too tight) swaddle.
2. Side or stomach position
Hold your baby on their side or on their tummy over your arm. Both positions are comforting for babies.
This method works especially well for babies with tummy and wind issues.
When baby won’t stop crying, making a gentle shushing sound directly into your baby’s ear, which is similar to the noises they heard in the womb, can also help.
White noise machines have a similar effect, but your voice will be far more comforting when baby won’t stop crying.
Babies are used to these types of motions from their time in the womb and often don’t like the stillness they experience after birth.
Therefore, try gently swinging or jiggling your baby to get them to calm down.
Be careful to always support their head and neck when doing so.
I find that putting a baby over my shoulder with one hand on the back of their head and jiggling them up and down or moving from side to side as you walk around the room often helps to calm them down when they won’t stop crying.
Once your baby has calmed down a bit, sucking will often comfort them.
Offer a pacifier, your finger or try to feed baby (bottle or breast).
6. My Bonus Solutions
Other helpful ways to calm your baby are to:
- Put them in a pram and rock them or go for a walk.
- For many babies, going for a ride in the car can calm them down too.
- You can also try babywearing for a baby that cries a lot as it will take them back to the days they were in the womb and enjoyed the comfort of your body’s movement.
- Try singing to your baby or playing some music… This will often get your babies attention and break the cycle of crying.
- Some babies calm down if you give them a warm bath or a massage too.
You may have to try several different things to find out what works best for your baby when they are upset, as different things work for different babies depending on their personality and what is the underlying cause of their crying.
What if nothing works?
It is very distressing when baby won’t stop crying…
Even with all the training and experience I have had, I know how helpless and frustrated you can feel when you have a baby that just won’t stop crying.
Honestly, it’s heartbreaking.
And I feel so deeply for you.
So, if nothing seems to work and your baby won’t stop crying at all, then call a friend or relative to come over and give you a break.
If you are not able to do this and you feel you are at the end of your tether…
Then you need to place your baby in a safe place such as their crib and leave them for a few minutes.
Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, take some deep breaths and call a friend or relative for a supportive chat.
You can then return to your baby with a better mindset to cope with calming them down.
REMEMBER: Never shake your baby. If you feel you are at breaking point, put your baby down safely in their crib, walk away and call someone.
In the UK if you are struggling when baby won’t stop crying you can contact the Cry-Sis Helpline on +44 (0)8451 228 669 open 9am-10pm seven days a week.
Cry-Sis can put you in touch with parents who have been in the same situation.
In the U.S, call the Crying Baby Hotline at 1-866-243-2229 or the Fussy Baby Warmline at 1-888-431-BABY.
They too will be able to support you through this trying time.
And no matter where you are, know that there are parents everywhere who have been through this too and there are people to help you.
So don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You are not a failure.
You are doing the best for yourself and your baby.
You’ve got this momma.
When to see a doctor
If your baby has been crying constantly for more than 2 to 3 hours and NONE of the normal remedies for calming them have worked… then you should consult a doctor.
In addition to excess crying, if baby displays any of the following symptoms you should also seek IMMEDIATE medical advice:
- High fever but hands and feet are cold
- Has a spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body
- Has a seizure or convulsion
- Has pale skin or blue, mottled skin
- Is breathing rapidly
Trust your instincts.
You will know the difference between a fussy baby and excessive crying that is cause for concern.
Baby won’t stop crying Recap
Dealing with a non-stop crying baby is tough.
It can be totally overwhelming and it will have you questioning what you are doing wrong as a parent.
However, it is important to remember you are not alone.
Most babies will go through a period of excessive crying in the early weeks and the good news is that after 6 weeks of age, these bouts of crying usually start to occur less often.
Remember that crying is your baby’s only way of communicating their needs in the early months so it is up to us to work out what they need.
As you get to know baby more, you will probably find that they cry less as you will become more aware of situations that prompt excessive crying.
Whatever the reason when baby won’t stop crying, hang on to the fact that time is on your side and that this will get better. Even a colicky baby will eventually get better and cry less as they grow older!
And finally, if you are really struggling, ASK FOR HELP.
A constantly crying baby, no matter what the cause, is very difficult to deal with and you will need a break, so share the load.
With love and support as always, Happy Parenting.
NOTE: If you are feeling depressed, resentful towards your baby or detached, speak to your doctor who will be able to offer help, support and advice.
Paula McLarenPaul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.
Download this daily routine template to take back control and get out of perpetual survival mode!