Updated on March 7, 2019: Some babies sleep easily, eat easily and smile easily. And some babies just don’t. Sometimes it feels like getting your baby to sleep through the night without crying is more of an art than a science.
Babies can often cry for long periods of time and for no obvious reason. That’s why it’s very important that you have a pediatrician who listens and it’s very helpful for you to keep a journal or use an app for a few days before you see your pediatrician. Keep a record of what you eat (if you’re breastfeeding) and what times your baby eats, sleeps, goes to the bathroom and fusses.
There are a lot of correctable issues that cause babies to be fussy. For your sanity and your baby’s comfort, you’ll want to rule them out before accepting that you "just have a finicky baby". Here are nine of the most common baby illnesses to rule out, as well.
Here are six important questions to answer when your baby won't stop crying.
1. Is your baby getting enough to eat?
If your baby is gaining weight, your doctor may assume that your baby is getting enough to eat. To be sure that’s true, see a lactation specialist (who should be covered by your insurance) if you are breastfeeding. She measures the baby precisely before a feeding, after a feeding, and after a spit up. She can tell you exactly how much milk the baby is getting.
I know a lot of moms who needed to supplement with formula to keep up with their baby’s feeding demands. That’s a great solution.
If you’re bottle feeding, remember that suggested ounces per baby’s age or weight are just suggestions. Some babies will need more.
2. Does your baby have acid reflux?
Gastroesphageal reflux disease is severe acid reflux, but even less severe acid reflux can wreak havoc on your baby’s mood.
If your baby spits up large amounts or is especially fussy during and after eating or when lying flat on her back, acid may be to blame.
It’s important to note that acid reflux affects sleep, so it can become hard to tell the source of the fussiness. You may mistake lack of sleep for the problem when it’s actually the symptom. If the situation gets worse, it may be a good idea to visit the pediatrition. Here's how to find a good one.
3. Does your baby have food sensitivities?
A doctor can diagnose milk allergies in-office by a stool sample. It takes about two minutes to get an answer. Obviously, if your baby shows an allergy to dairy, you’ll know to stop consuming dairy if you are breastfeeding or switch to a non-dairy formula if you’re formula feeding.
Again, this is where keeping a journal for a few days can be helpful.
Remember that it often takes a couple of weeks for a particular food to be out of your system completely, so you wouldn’t necessarily see immediate results after eliminating it from your diet.
4. Is your baby getting enough sleep?
Just because your baby is awake, doesn’t mean he’s not tired. If he’s awake and happy that’s one thing. If he’s awake and cranky, that’s something else. Babies are no different than adults when it comes to sleep preferences. Everybody likes something different. Play around with different bedtimes and nighttime rituals to see what works best.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need fancy infant toys to get them to go to bed. Here are other items you can skip.
5. Are you stressed?
What came first, your high stress level or your baby’s cries?
Even if you’re not breastfeeding, you have a primal response when your baby cries.
And whether we are anxious first or the tears of our children make us anxious, it is good to remember that we have that effect on each other. Take a breath. Take a break. Even if you’re alone, you can put the baby in a safe place like a crib and step into a quieter space until you can calm yourself.
6. Is the baby constipated?
I apologize that there’s not a more sophisticated way to end this list, but here we go. Obviously, if your baby isn’t pooping at all, you know there’s a problem. But it’s also possible that your baby isn’t eliminating everything.
I recommend that you get help from your pediatrician, lactation consultant, and/or night nurse to rule out all of the above possibilities. And accept that, until you find a solution or your baby outgrows the crying, you’re going to need extra support and you’re going to need a break.
Make it a priority. No one is equipped to be alone with a crying baby twenty-four hours a day. No one.
Prospective or first-time parents? Check out our pregnancy guide for parents.
Image: Monica Rams