How to Stop a Crying Baby

You've fed, burped, changed and rocked your baby, but he's still crying. And crying. Your nerves are frayed, your sleep is wrecked and you're losing confidence as a new parent. Now what?

"First, don't blame yourself," says Thomas Sullivan, M.D., of Alexandria, Va., a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Four out of five babies have extended crying episodes with no easy explanation.

Some babies cry for long stretches between three and 12 weeks of age. At this period, there are steps in development when their sleep is less settled.

"Colicky" babies—generally, those who cry nonstop for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week—are thought to have a built-in tendency to overreact to any stimulation, be it a bowel movement or slight temperature change. In short, they don't easily adjust to the world outside the snug womb until age 4 months, when colic often disappears.

Other babies are just hard-wired to cry more. And the longer a baby cries, the harder it tends to be to get him to stop.

Once your doctor has ruled out any underlying reason for crying, give these tear-stopping techniques a try:

  • Wrap him like a burrito. Swaddling babies snugly in a soft blanket helps keeps their arms and legs from flailing and can switch on relaxation. If the weather is hot, however, beware of overheating.

  • Wear your baby. Babies who are carried more cry less, studies show. Skin-to-skin contact is best (and bathing together is ideal). But wearing baby in a sling for several hours a day also cuts crying and provides constant sound, temperature and motion that signal comfort.

  • Switch on a quiet, meditative noise. A running shower, a whirring fan, a white noise machine, or a recording of the vacuum cleaner (watch the volume) helps block outside stimulation and may mimic the steady sounds of the womb.

  • Get moving. A spin in the car, motion swings or dancing are especially helpful at the dinner hour, when fussy babies tend to kick it up a notch.

  • Drape her. Draping your baby along your forearm with her head in the crook of your elbow provides warmth and pressure to relax a tense, colicky belly.

  • Take a stress break. Have your spouse, family or neighbor take over while you walk, bathe and calm yourself so you can better handle crying. A colic support group can help you cope until your baby outgrows crying. (And they all do!)

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