Baby – crying

Key points about babies crying

  • All babies cry. But for many different reasons, some babies cry more than others.
  • Crying can be hard to cope with but it doesn't mean you are a bad parent or they are being naughty.
  • Understanding why your baby is crying and finding ways to settle them is a big part of being a parent.
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Crying is normal, it is how your baby communicates. Your baby may be telling you something is wrong, that they are uncomfortable, tired or hungry, or they may just need your attention and love. A lot of the time you will not know why your baby is crying. This can be very hard to cope with but it doesn't mean your baby is being naughty. 

Infant colic is a term used for repeated, long-lasting episodes of crying without an obvious cause in babies that are otherwise healthy. 

Video: Baby cues

This series of videos from the Raising Children Network goes through some of the common cues babies will show at different stages. This video may take a few moments to load.

Credit: Raising Children Network, Australia

  • Cuddle and comfort your child.
  • Your baby could be hungry. See if she wants to feed.
  • Change your baby's nappy if it's dirty or damp.
  • Check to ensure your baby’s clothing is comfortable and not too tight.
  • Check your baby's temperature. Is she too hot or too cold?
  • Burp your baby (trapped wind can cause pain).
  • Wrap and hold your baby safely in a light-weight blanket.
  • Your baby could be tired, try putting your baby down somewhere safe to sleep.

I’ve tried all of the above but my baby continues to cry... Now what?

  • Hold your baby close to you, gently stroke their back, hum or sing.
  • Have a warm, relaxing bath with your baby. Never leave your baby alone in the bath.
  • Take your baby for a walk in their pram. Or try a drive in the car.
  • If you are concerned your baby is not well, see your doctor, midwife or well-child provider.

Video: Settling strategies

This video from the Raising Kids team Australia shows you how to settle a crying baby, and takes you through key things to check. Is your baby hungry, tired or uncomfortable? Get video transcript.(external link) This video may take a few moments to load.

(Raising Children Network, Australia)

Looking after a crying baby can be exhausting. If you are finding it hard to cope, make a plan – what are you going to do if your baby will not stop crying and you begin to feel frustrated or upset? 

  • If you feel like you could lose control – walk away. Put your baby in a safe place and leave the room.
  • Check on your baby regularly, but don't pick him or her up until you feel calmer.
  • Try doing something that helps you relax – a walk to the letterbox, a quick shower or have a hot drink.
  • Call a family member or friend and let them know that you need a break. Sometimes just talking to someone will be all you need. 
  • Don’t be ashamed. It’s OK to realise that you've reached your breaking point.

The leading reason for a baby being shaken is a frustrated caregiver or parent. You have the power to protect your baby. If you notice yourself becoming frustrated, walk away and take a break. When you feel ready, pick up your baby offer them love and comfort. Never leave your baby with a person who you feel could lose control.

If you ever think your baby could have been shaken, seek emergency help immediately by calling 111. Do not be scared or let your pride get in the way. This decision may save your baby’s life.

Video: Early days - when your baby cries

This video may take a few moments to load.

(S.K.I.P, NZ, 2015)

Coping with a crying baby Ministry of Health, NZ, 2015 English [PDF, 184 KB], te reo Māori(external link)
Crying baby – what to do(external link) KidsHealth NZ
The period of purple crying(external link) National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, US

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Credits: Adapted from 'Power to protect - Coping with a crying baby', Ministry of Health, NZ

Reviewed by: Kati Wilson, Auckland DHB

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