What's a good sorted list of potential causes to check when my baby cries and I don't know why? I need something I can print out in advance because I can't think very clearly once the crying starts.
For a healthy baby, I like to keep things simple, so
- Dirty Nappy/Diaper
This allows a simple set of rules to be followed to sort the problem. My response to crying is always
Does she need fed --> Yes --> Feed | | V No --> Is her nappy dirty --> Yes --> Change | | V No --> Is she showing signs of wind (knees to chest, red face) --> Yes --> Wind her | | V No --> Is she tired --> Yes --> Help her get to sleep | | V If newborn then shouldn't have got here. If older, then then requires attention, cuddles, play etc.
Based on a list I made and kept as a poster over the crib:
- Diaper wet/dirty/tight
- Unswaddled newborn
- Gas pain
- Too cold/hot
- Hurt self
- Fear of dark
- Too much light/noise during sleep
- Strangeness in environment
- Missing toy or other object
- Foreign object on skin
- Hair-snared digits
Here's the normal list for my 1mo daughter:
- Hungry (most common, especially if the last feeding was more than two hours ago, though she feeds on demand so we've seen her take a 4oz bottle and then want another one in 30 minutes, then sleep for 4 hours after that)
- Gassy (and burpy and hiccupy; most common when it's not hunger)
- Want Mommy/Daddy to hold her (this basically encompasses bored/scared/lonely and is maybe 20% of her crying)
- PURPLE crying (often labelled "colic" and lumped in with gas/heartburn/stomach upset, PURPLE crying is actually different, and generally occurs in the evenings. It is hard to soothe, but Dr Karp's 5 S's work wonders)
First, it is very likely normal for your baby to cry and you need to ration your strength. Make sure both parents and other caregivers give each other breaks from the crying to recover. If it is just the two of you please find some help. Even as little as a couple hours once a week is important for your health and ability to have perspective.
Now, strategies for crying. Go through a cry reasons checklist in your head every time until your reaction is automatic, here are mine:
- Wet (change diaper)
- Hungry (feed)
- Gas (Burp)
- Cold/Hot (adjust amount of bed clothes)
- Uncomfortable (check the baby's body for anything that could be an irritant: don't overlook things like clothing tags, detergent used, a hair wrapped around a baby's toe, perfume on a parent)
- Tired (soothe and later ignore)
- Upset/Angry (try to remedy the upsetting environment, soothe, or ignore)
If the baby is still crying you need to look outside healthy, normal reasons for crying. Start checking for such things as:
- Alergies (what is mom eating that could be an alergy?)
Once you have a checklist in mind you need to keep track of a crazy amount of stuff: what is the baby eating, when, when is the baby sleeping, how long, any burps, how about diaper changes, and so on. If you have these things in mind you can start to identify what leads to crying in your baby. Keep it all in a little notebook and bring it with you to doctor visits just in case to help remind you of things. If your baby continues to cry call your doctor or nurse helpline. You may need to go in for a visit.
The lists given are great (definitely include "burp"). Also, you may not always be able to determine a cause. For lesser problems your primary job may be distraction. I would highly recommend The Happiest Baby on the Block. I have literally never seen these techniques fail with our baby.