New parents often wish they had a magic baby cry decoder—especially to figure out why babies cry at night. Learn about the different causes of crying, and get tips on how to stop a crying baby today.
New-borns cry a lot—but they sleep even more. Most new-borns sleep about eight to nine hours during the day and another eight hours at night, though not all at once. Your baby probably won’t sleep through the night (six to eight hours) until they are at least three months old. Some babies don’t sleep through the night until six months or older. So it stands to reason that lots of crying starts up when you thought they are sleeping peacefully—or when you're trying to sleep.
Crying is your baby’s primary way of sending you a message. Babies cry at night to signal that they are in need of your help. What are they trying to tell you when they wake up wailing or crying in their sleep? Here are the main reasons why babies cry at night, and what to try when you're wondering how to stop a crying baby.
1. Routine Crying
This type of crying is usually attributed to disruptions in your baby’s normal schedule, and is rarely due to discomfort associated with a feeding issue. It may be time for your baby to eat or sleep, or your baby may be overstimulated.
What Helps: To soothe a baby crying at night, try cuddling, swaddling, and walking with your baby, all of which provide motion and body contact. A fan in the room can help, too.
2. Sheer Hunger
Your new-born needs to eat every few hours because their stomach is so tiny. Most babies cry at night because they are hungry.
What Helps: Crying is actually a late indicator of hunger, after things like smacking lips or sucking on fist. Check the clock, and if it’s been two or three hours since the last feeding, your baby is probably waking up to tell you they need to be fed.
3. Hunger-Gas-Crying Cycle
If your baby cries at night from hunger for some time, they may work themselves into a frenzy and find it difficult to calm down when nourishment arrives. When a baby is frantic to eat, sometimes they then gulp air with the milk, causing gas. This can create a cycle of discomfort that makes your baby fuss and cry instead of settling back into sleep once their hunger has been satisfied.
What Helps: Feed your baby before they become frantically hungry. Taking a break to burp them during a feeding, as well as after, can help. If you’re formula-feeding your baby, talk to your doctor about changing to a different type.
4. Crying Associated with an Allergy
When your baby’s crying is persistent and not related to hunger, sleep, or general discomfort, cow’s milk protein allergy may be the cause. Colic due to cow’s milk protein allergy tends to follow a pattern of threes: crying for more than three hours per day (usually in the evening), for more than three days per week, and for more than three weeks.
What Helps: You should consult your paediatrician to determine if your baby's crying is the result of a cow's milk protein allergy.
5. Other Discomfort
Although the stomach is your new-born’s main alarm clock right now, other things can cause baby crying at night. Check for:
- A diaper that needs changing
- A finger tangled uncomfortably in a swaddle
- A room that’s grown too hot or too cold
- Sickness (A baby who has a cold or ear infection might waken more often than usual.)
What Helps: Especially if you’ve just fed your baby and they are still fussy, check out these other possibilities to learn how to stop a crying baby. A quick diaper change before feedings can make them feel calmer while eating. If you suspect sickness, check their temperature; a temperature over 100.4°F warrants a call to your paediatrician.
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