It can be a shock to discover how difficult it is to cope with a baby that cries a lot. In fact, it is hard to cope with a baby that cries at all - especially if it is your first baby.
Very small babies can only communicate by crying when they are uncomfortable, and in the early days it is not possible to tell what they need by the cry. You can make sensible guesses - for example, if it is soon after a feed, did you wind your baby? If it is more than one or two hours since a feed, try feeding again. Likewise, always check the nappy. After that, you may just be trying various things to see what works. If you are worried, please do consult a doctor.
I recommend all new parents to compile the longest list they can, of ideas to try if baby cries.
Collect ideas from your friends, your parents, midwives, health visitors, go on websites and read books.
Compile your list on a piece of paper you can stick to the door of the fridge. Then, it is there when you need it.
It might begin like this:
Going out with pram or car
Hand baby to someone else
Let baby go to sleep (some babies tend to cry themselves to sleep)
Any group of parents or parents-to be can easily top 20 suggestions, which can be a godsend when you are tired and frustrated.
For more support visit www.cry-sis.org.uk.
Teething or dentition refers to the period when babies grow their first ‘milk’ teeth.
This is very variable, but usually starts between 5-12 months and is complete by 3 years.
Symptoms may begin sooner than you think: from a couple of months old.
There are 20 teeth; the first to arrive are usually the front incisor teeth. Lower teeth often come first, with the corresponding upper tooth soon following.
Irritability, fussiness and sometimes crying or screaming
Drooling. Drooling may start months before the tooth comes through, and may irritiate the skin around the mouth or chin. Try chamomile or marigold ointment. Buy lots of bibs!
Loss of appetite
Red or sore gums, sometimes with a bluish spot
Desire to chew or bite on something
Diarrhoea or tummy upset
Colds coughs or catarrh
Although babies that are cutting teeth sometimes pull at their ears, a combination of ear pulling, cold symptoms, fever and increased fussing at night, could indicate an ear infection.
Prolonged screaming, unusual behaviour, high fever or difficulty feeding, are serious
In these cases, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.
Teething Rings and Biting
Some babies like to chew or bite to relieve their gums. On no account allow them to use you for this! If they bite, say a firm NO and offer something more suitable. If breastfeeding, try inserting a finger to remove your nipple as you say NO, and start again.
I believe putting teething rings in the freezer is too extreme, and may irritate or damage babies’ delicate mouth and hands. But baby may appreciate cool things such as cold finger food, or a cloth moistened with chamomile tea and kept in the fridge. Never leave your baby alone with food.
Sometimes plastic toys are too hard, and some contain dubious chemicals such as phthalates or bisphenol A; try more resilient natural materials such as a rubber teething ring, a wooden spoon, or a thick cloth.
Treating the Gums
You can buy anaesthetic gels for baby’s gums, they provide short term relief and must not be used too frequently. Baby may not like the numbness, and it may also make breastfeeding difficult. If you prefer something more natural, try cooled chamomile tea or slippery elm paste (see natural remedies).
Please consult a doctor or pharmacist before giving your baby medical pain relief such as paracetamol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen. They also taste disgusting – have you tried them?
Cleaning baby teeth
Always clean, right from the first tooth.
Tips for Colic
In Europe up to one in five babies experience colic. Despite 40 years of research, no-one yet knows the cause, or causes of colic in babies. Colic is simply a term for a type of behaviour. There are several theories, and there may be several causes:
An immature digestive tract
An immature nervous system
Allergies or sensitivities
Common symptoms of colic
Crying or screaming for several hours
Difficult to comfort
Red in face
Draws legs towards tummy
Arches back, clenches fists
Passing wind or explosive poo
Often starts towards evening
Parents may feel
Baby does not like me
I am doing it wrong
I am at my wit’s end
I am tired
Focus on Feeding
Recent research indicates the things you can do that may help:
A. Full feeding
Breast milk consists of the first, foremilk, which is low fat and watery, and the second, hindmilk, which is richer. If baby swaps breast too soon, she will get mainly foremilk. She will be full up, but she will be hungry because it is mostly water: “ Two soup courses and no main course” as one researcher puts it. Extra lactose in the high volume of milk means baby gets more fermentation and wind in the gut, causing pain.
Encourage baby to feed all she wants on the first breast, until she comes off herself and seems satisfied. Wind her, and offer the second breast only if she still wants it.
B. Get baby to latch on well
1. Check positioning and teat size in bottle-fed babies
2. A good ‘latch’ or feeding position is critical for breastfed babies. This means the baby has a big mouthful of breast, and not just nipple. The areola, the dark area around the nipple, will be invisible.
3. Make sure baby’s head and body face straight towards you, so her neck is not twisted.
4. Make sure she can relax: her chin should not be tucked in, nor too far back – you could not drink like that!
5. Hold baby comfortably for you and securely for her.
6. Try the NCT Breastfeeding Helpline or other helplines for more advice, see Links.
C. Check possible food intolerance
This may come through in breast milk, but is an infrequent cause of colic. Monitor your food intake and check against baby’s behaviour; don’t just eliminate everything. Check:
Caffeine – coffee, tea, cola, chocolate, energy drinks
Cow’s milk products – milk, cheese, yogourt; milk derivatives like whey are common ingredients.
Cabbage family veg – cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, kale