If your baby is acting unusual, has a very high or low temperature, is consistently screaming, has a different type of cry to normal and is acting different please seek medical advice. You know your own baby and you know when something isn't right. Please visit the NHS website for advice or call 111 in non emergencies or 999 in an emergency.
If your baby is crying because they just seem uncomfortable in that moment (i.e. they cry in waves, always cry at certain points in the day/night or just start randomly screaming)... then I may be able to help.
I have been a baby photographer for over 4 years, in my time I have photographed over 500 babies and their families. My job is to keep a baby as calm and relaxed as possible for around 2-3 hours so I'm able to capture as many photos as baby will allow. Through my experience of handling babies, being around different families (new parents and parents with 6+ children), I have gained a great insight into what makes a baby cry and how babies respond to different situations when they are crying.
Why does a baby cry?
In my own personal opinion based on what I have witnessed a newborn baby mostly cries if they are:
- Has a super wet/ smelly nappy
- Is suffering from colic, wind and or constipation
- Has a milk allergy
From 3m+ they also tend to cry if they are either:
It is likely a baby can suffer from all of the above at once.
Being able to recognise what baby is crying for can save so much stress for baby and the parents.
Rooting: your baby will open their mouths wide and thrash their heads around to find their milk. They are born with this reflex. A good way to make sure your baby is hungry is to place the back of their hand to their mouth and if they suckle hard, you know they want more milk.
HOWEVER, if your baby still cries and acts hungry after a feed, but you have just fed your baby and they have had the required amount (ie. you was able to see how much they had on the bottle, they haven't vomited and they are gaining weight in general). Then they could be suffering from a common upset such as colic, acid re-flux or have a milk allergy. If you continue to feed your baby after they have had the required amount you could make their suffering worse... and you enter a vicious circle.
A common sign that your baby has colic is that they will cry in waves and when they do they will become squirmy and agitated. They may arch their back, clench their fists, thrash around, instantly scream really loud and respond to being patted on the bottom.
If you lay your baby down on their back and gently press their stomach you may be able to feel the trapped wind.
You know what it is like for an adult to get trapped wind, so imagine how it is for a tiny baby. Be patient with them.
This video demonstrates exactly what I do to a gassy baby and it works 9/10 times! Persistence is key!! I cannot stress this enough. If you think it's not working, keep trying (unless your baby seems to be in a lot of pain). Try not to confuse this for your baby just whimpering because they have been put down.
If your baby doesn't respond to the leg exercises and has already worked themselves up. Then I also recommend swaddling them to soothe them. When I swaddle I always lift babies legs and cross them on their tummies which puts baby in a position to move their wind easier (and is similar to what they were like in the womb). However, if baby is squirming this may be difficult to do, so just wrap their arms instead - the purpose of this swaddle is to make your baby feel safe (like being in the womb). A swaddled baby is easier to handle as it stops them from throwing their arms and legs around. Once your baby is in a swaddle you'll be able to easily transition them into the "air guitar" pose.
This video demonstrates the air guitar pose I am referring to - note how her right arm is free. You can use this arm to help them catch their dummies or to gently pat them on their lower back/ bottom to help relive the pain. With your left hand you can also gently press their tummies to help move the wind. At the same time you can sway/ softly bounce and shush or hum to them to distract them from crying. Once your baby has settled you can try the leg exercises again (unless they have got their wind out).
There are products you can purchase to also help relive a babies wind. I won't recommend any on here as I am not a medical expert, please do your research to find what works best for your baby.
Baby massage will also help to soothe your babies tummy and is a great opportunity to meet other parents.
Unfortunately this is where things get slightly confusing and complicated (in my opinion) it takes me slightly longer to figure out if a baby has a milk allergy as the signs are usually the same as a baby with colic. However, a key difference is; they may have a rash, they are constipated, the above techniques don't work at all or do but just for a few minutes, baby will not sleep or only sleeps for short bursts, is consistently thrashing around and gets irritated instantly after a feed. If this sounds like your baby please go see the GP as soon as possible.
There is re-flux and there is silent re-flux. If your baby is sick regularly after a feed, makes gulping noises/ hiccups and then instantly screams they could have acid re-flux. This will be worse when your baby is laid flat at nighttime, if they tend to get more upset during the night, this could be why.
Sometimes babies will not be sick or make the noises but can still have re-flux. This is refereed to as silent re-flux.
To help prevent acid re-flux you must always wind your baby and keep them up right during and after a feed, and give them little and often breaks (whilst winding them). If you are breast feeding and have recently changed your diet, it could be something in the milk causing the irritation. If your baby has re-flux do not bounce them, instead gently sway them from side to side (whilst in an upright position). When changing them try not to lift their legs to their stomach as you'll cause the acid to rise, instead change your baby on their side. You can also try rolling a blanket under their mattress to keep them slightly upright more during the night.
If your baby is sick a lot and is not keeping their milk down, they could be losing weight and need to visit a GP as soon as possible. They will be able to recommend some anti re-flux milk.
PERSISTENCE IS KEY
I mentioned this above, but I'm mentioning it again as I cannot stress it enough. The amount of times a parent has said to me 'oh my baby doesn't like that', I try it and it works. Persistence is key. All these techniques I am listing do work... they are all tried and tested 100's of times. However, please always seek medical advice if your baby is unwell.
You're not alone!
If you're a parent and are feeling stressed and frustrated, please know you're not the only ones! It is so normal and so common. How anyone is supposed to just know what to do when you leave the hospital I'll never know but I hope these tips help a little at least.
I have lots of other soothing techniques which I use throughout my baby photography sessions. If you have any questions or need help with anything else please just ask.