We all know that babies cry, but some fuss a lot more than others. What is a mom to do when it seems like your baby cries all the time when awake?
It can be hard for parents to tell whether their baby’s cries are normal or excessive. Generally, up to a couple of hours of crying each day is considered normal for a healthy baby.
Dealing with a fussy baby is so tough on parents.
I thought that my first baby was fussy until I had my second. Whoa boy, did he take fussy to a whole other level.
If he was awake, he was crying. We joke about it now that he’s older and it has finally passed. At the time it was anything but funny.
It was heartbreaking, exhausting, frustrating, and so so so stressful.
I needed strategies to cope with the crying.
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So here I have all of the tried and true techniques I used to try to soothe my inconsolable baby.
Find A Reason Baby Cries All The Time (if you can)
If you can figure out why your baby is crying it may be easier to soothe them.
Look at crying as how babies communicate. They’re trying to tell us something.
So why do babies cry?
- Wet or dirty diaper
- Too hot or cold
- Overstimulated or understimulated
- Discomfort (teething, reflux, illness…)
Ok, so some of those reasons are pretty obvious, but others can be much harder to determine.
Start with the most likely causes.
Make sure that baby is fed and their diaper is clean.
That seems obvious, but in a sleepless daze I must admit that I have spent half an hour trying to soothe a fussy baby with a full load in their diaper.
If you can find the reason, it will help guide your response.
If your baby cries all the time when awake, you also have to consider colic.
When we talk about excessive crying, we often hear about the dreaded colic.
Colic is generally defined as crying for 3 or more hours per day for 3 or more days per week for 3 or more weeks. There is no apparent reason for the crying and the causes are still not fully understood.
Colic usually subsides by the time baby is around 3 months old. It can be a very long and painful 3 months for parents.
**It’s important to note that excessive crying in babies can be caused by other medical issues and should be discussed with your pediatrician.
Sometimes, there is no reason (or at least not one that you can find).
At that point, I try to rule out discomforts and soothe as best I can with the following strategies.
The Best Ways To Soothe A Crying Baby:
Most newborns like the security and womb-like snugness of a swaddle. It should be calming and particularly helpful if baby is sleepy or overstimulated.
Psst… a good swaddle is one of the items we deemed an absolutely essential baby item.
Switch Baby Position
Change how you are holding your baby. Your baby might prefer being held up high on your shoulder or might like the football hold with their tummy on your forearm.
Often colicky babies prefer to be on their side or stomach so try holding them in that position.
Keep in mind that the thing that worked like a charm yesterday may not do anything for you baby today.
Most babies like motion so a gentle rocking may help calm your little one. A gentle bounce or sway could also help.
Here’s a video of a pediatrician demonstrating “the hold”. It’s a great technique for when your baby cries all the time when awake because it both rocks them and allows them to be on their stomach as mentioned above.
Trying to soothe your crying baby while sitting down? Standing up might be the most simple solution.
I know this sounds too easy, but oddly enough it’s a real thing. Scientists have even suggested there might be an evolutionary basis for this calming response.
Wearing your baby is an easy way to stand and hold them for long periods. Baby wearing will save your arms and let you use them too, while still keeping your baby close.
Dim The Lights
Turning off the lights (and the TV) may help calm an overstimulated or sleepy baby.
Give A Pacifier
Did you know that babies start sucking their fingers before they are even born? Sucking has a strong calming effect on newborns and you can use this to your advantage.
Swing or Bouncer
Since babies like motion, let the technology do the heavy lifting for you. Place your baby in a baby swing or bouncer seats. Your baby may have strong preferences here between a swinging motion or vibrations.
Your newborn is used to the constant sounds of the womb so playing white noise may remind and calm them.
Though I definitely recommend a sound machine for bedtime, you may find that shushing works just as well for soothing. Some moms even find that vacuums or hairdryers can be very effective.
Sing A Lullaby
Try a lullaby to comfort your baby. Lullabies can ease an overstimulated baby and lull your little one to sleep.
Amazingly, research has shown that singing lullabies can help infants self-regulate and also decrease the parent’s stress. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Play With Baby
Sometimes a little distraction or entertainment is the answer.
Pulling out a fun toy, counting their little piggies, or playing a game of peek-a-boo might give you a moment of relief when your baby cries all the time when awake.
Go For A Walk
Get out of the house and take a walk.
The change of scenery and motion of the stroller can do wonders for a fussy baby. Getting some fresh air and exercise is good for mom too!
Go For A Drive
Lots of babies love to fall asleep in the car.
The gentle motion and hum of the engine have a calming effect. Some parents regularly drive around to get their kids to sleep.
Give A Bath
Baths are relaxing even as adults. A nice warm bath can help calm a fussy baby.
For my baby, when all else failed, a bath would usually do the trick. Sometimes the baby would chill, sometimes he’d want to play and splash. Either way, he would stop the screaming.
Take Their Temperature
Check you baby for fever with a thermometer.
If the crying is unusual for your baby, illness may be to blame. Double check that they aren’t running a temperature.
Check Finger and Toes
If your baby is suddenly crying inconsolably, it could be a hair tourniquet. It may sound a little silly, but a loose hair or string can easily get wrapped around your baby’s tiny toe or finger. This is painful for baby and can lead to infection if left there.
There are lots of benefits of infant massage including reducing crying and colic. The downside is that it doesn’t really work in the moment while your baby is crying. It should be done consistently at a time when your baby is alert and content.
Feed Baby Differently
If you suspect tummy troubles are causing your baby’s crying, consider changing the way they are fed.
If you use bottles, switch to a different type or brand. Some bottles, like Dr. Brown’s, are specifically designed to keep air from being swallowed, reducing gas.
Also, baby could be sensitive to something in the formula or breast milk.
For breastfeeding moms, consider keeping a food diary or even starting an elimination diet to try to pinpoint foods that could be causing your baby distress.
Consult your baby’s pediatrician before making changes to their diet.
Try A Probiotic
Ask your pediatrician about starting your baby on a probiotic to promote healthy digestion.
We used Gerber Soothe Drops which are designed to help ease excessive crying and colic. They are a bit pricey, but if you’re at your wit’s end like I was, you won’t care.
Care For Yourself
We can’t stress this enough – be sure to take care of yourself. Even when baby cries all the time when awake.
Caring for a fussy baby is hard and you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself as well. Also, your stress can make it even harder to soothe your baby.
You may feel like your fussy baby is your fault. It’s not.
A fussy baby can wear parents down. You may experience a wide range of emotions.
Listening to hours and hours of crying is unsettling especially as you desperately try to soothe your inconsolable baby.
Many parents feel helplessness, frustration, anger, and even guilt. The incessant crying can undermine your confidence in your parenting skills.
Colic has even been linked to increased rates of postpartum depression.
Don’t ignore your own emotional and mental well-being. The impact of excessive crying on parents is real and painful.
This is hard, be gentle with yourself.
Take A Break
Know your limits and make sure you get a break from the crying.
This is easier said than done, but it is extremely important. Get your partner, best friend, or family member to help out, or even hire a babysitter so you can have a break.
I had to physically leave the house so I could not hear the crying.
Give anyone who isn’t familiar with your baby’s temperament a heads up about the crying. Let them know what to expect or you may receive several “he wont stop crying” texts.
Sometimes, you don’t have any help when you need it. Place your baby in a safe place like their crib and walk away.
Take a few minutes to calm yourself. Do your best to block the crying until you feel in control of yourself again. A loud song, the shower, or even the vacuum can help drown the sound for a minute to regain your composure.
It should go without saying, but NEVER SHAKE YOUR BABY.
Parents need support. Find someone you can talk to about how you’re feeling without judgement.
Find a close friend, your own parents, other moms, a support group, or a therapist that you can vent to and confide in about the crying.
Fussy babies are actually very common. You may be surprised to see how many other parents can relate.
Any other parents of fussy babies out there? Do you have any other tips for soothing the crying?