You've fed her, changed her, cuddled her, rocked her … and she's still crying.
You've no clue what else you can try.
You're exhausted and feeling sad for your upset little one.
Crying babies are generally trying to communicate their needs, but sometimes it's hard to work out what the message is.
In fact, for your baby, it's even harder – how to communicate many varied needs with only a limited range of communication tools.
As renowned birth and motherhood educator, Sheila Kitzinger, explained:
“Imagine being stuck, helpless, inside a plastic box, unable to move much, to get food or a drink when you are hungry or thirsty, or do anything for yourself, and being expected to lie there, in solitary confinement, staring at the ceiling. The only thing you can do to change what happens around you is to make a very loud noise.”
And as Pinky McKay’s iconic book, titled 100 Ways to Calm the Crying, suggests – sometimes you have to try everything – and then try everything again!
So, what can you do if your baby is still crying? After all, you've tried to meet every need you could think of. Here are a few more things to consider:
#1: Is She Still Hungry?
Breastfed babies feed best if allowed to suck for as long and as often as they need. If you've been timing feeds or scheduling feed times, try popping your baby back on the breast to settle her.
A bottle fed baby might need a top up if still hungry, or a dummy if needing more sucking time.
If you aren’t sure how to tell if you baby needs a feed (or another feed!), read more in our article Baby Hunger Cues – How To Tell If Your Baby Is Hungry.
#2: Is She Comfortable?
Improvements in the design of both disposable and reusable nappies mean babies are less likely to cry from a wet nappy but it is always worth checking again. If you recently changed her, check that the snaps on a modern cloth nappy or the tabs on a disposable aren't rubbing or digging in from being in the wrong spot.
Check that her under-clothing hasn’t bunched up, nothing is caught on her fingers or toes, and that she isn’t too hot or cold.
These little discomforts are things we fix for ourselves without much thought but we need to remember our little one can't fix these things without help.
#3: Is She Able To Relax?
In a noisy, busy or visually overwhelming space, her brain may be too stimulated to relax and calm down. Try moving to another room, stepping outside or turning off screens and other sources of sound and vision. Move away from other people and dim lights. White noise apps on mobile devices can be handy to screen out disturbing background noise.
If you are anxious because of her crying, this might stop her calming so if you have someone with you, see if she settles in their arms instead.
#4: Is She Too Still?
Babies are naturally wired for gentle, constant movement. A perfect way to give them this movement is to wear or carry as you go about your work. If you have a baby carrier, try wearing her while you go for a walk – or do laps of the hall.
If you don't have a carrier or she isn't yet familiar with being in one, try her in the pram or stroller and walk outside. If you can't be outside, you can try to push it backwards and forwards over a join between hard and soft flooring or a folded towel on the floor.
Read more in our article 10 benefits of babywearing.
#5: Is She In Pain?
If inconsolable crying is becoming a recurring issue, it is important to seek medical advice to rule out any underlying issues such as food intolerance or allergy, reflux or other problems.
Some babies benefit from treatment with a paediatric osteopath or chiropractor, to deal with any ongoing discomforts due to a long, protracted or rapid birth.
Read more about 6 reasons why your baby may have tummy troubles.
#6: Is She Going Through A Developmental Change?
Followers of the Wonder Weeks may recognise them as ‘leaps'.
Others may think of them as fussy periods or growth spurts.
Whatever the label, there are definitely times when crying increases and is harder to resolve. No matter what you do or don't do, crying tends to increase around six weeks and decrease again around 12-16 weeks.
Your role is more to console and soothe her, rather than make it all stop.
For ideas to help her, read our article Baby Crying? Here Are 9 Ways To Soothe Tears.
As your baby grows, you will become more confident in understanding her cries. As she matures, it will be clearer what she is asking for. As with all relationships, it takes time to learn each other and pick up on cues and behaviours.
Remember that crying is your baby's way to communicate, it will get easier and these fussy days will be only a memory.