This morning, my youngest daughter started crying while I was holding her. Of course, all babies cry, but my daughter never cries for no reason and has never been absolutely inconsolable. She is always happy when she’s picked up, held, given attention, and fed. It took over 30 minutes for her to calm down, and I never did figure out what prompted the fit. I’ve had similar experiences with all three of my daughters-and with each baby it was distressing.
If you’ve ever had a baby that won’t stop crying, you may be worried about when and how to get help.
Has the baby had an injury?
Has your baby had an injury that precipitated the crying? A bump, fall, finger jam, or other seemingly minor accident could have seriously hurt or upset your baby. If you didn’t see something, there’s still a chance that something is going on with your child physically. Strip down your baby and examine them from head to toe to make sure there is no injury you aren’t aware of that could be causing the crying.
Is your baby sick or teething?
Both sickness (ear infection, cold, stomach bug) and teething could cause your child enough discomfort that they may be crying and unable to be comforted. Depending on the age of your child, if you suspect an illness you may want to give the appropriate dose of infant Tylenol to help minimize their pain and hopefully curb their crying. Do contact the doctor and make an appointment if you suspect illness.
Are your baby’s immediate needs met?
Even if it doesn’t seem like the right time for a diaper change, nap, bottle or snack, we know that babies can tell time. Ignore the clock and make sure your baby’s most immediate and urgent needs are met. A growth spurt could make a baby hungry unexpectedly, and a bottle may console them. Even if you just changed the diaper, it could be wet again. Did they just wake up? It doesn’t mean they aren’t tired. Make sure to try meeting these needs before seeking help.
Have you tried putting your baby down?
If you don’t suspect an injury and all of your baby’s needs are met, try putting your baby down for a few minutes. When I tried this with my baby, she crawled across the room and put her head down on her pillow. She was still crying, but it was a clue to me that she needed a nap (which she did). It’s possible that all your helping may be over-stimulating your baby, and she may just need a few minutes without touch or attempts to soothe. In addition, if your baby’s crying is distressing you, stepping back for a minute and calming yourself is equally important.
Consider contacting your pediatrician.
If your child has been absolutely inconsolable for excess of one hour, you may want to consider contacting your pediatrician. One hour is just a loose rule I’ve used over the years– vary the amount of time based on what you know about your child and the circumstances at hand. If you suspect an injury, even if you can’t find one, don’t wait an hour. Is this a regular occurrence with a colicky baby? An hour might be too soon to call for help or reinforcements. Only you know your child, and once you’ve met your child’s needs and confirmed that they aren’t injured, use your judgment and call for help. Depending on your pediatrician’s office, they may ask you to come in immediately (we did this once with my oldest daughter!), or they may try to discuss and troubleshoot your child’s crying with you on the phone.
Don’t feel badly if your baby stops crying.
When my oldest daughter cried inconsolably for an hour, the pediatrician had me come right in. By the time we got there and were settled in the waiting room, she had stopped. My first instinct was to feel bad for wasting their time, but in fact, she did have an ear infection and needed to be seen. Even if that hadn’t been the case, never feel badly for trying to help or comfort a sick child-that’s what your pediatrician is there for. Feel glad that your child is no longer crying and has gotten the care they need.
An inconsolable baby can be distressing for parents. If your baby won’t stop crying, take the time to step back and assess the situation. Once you’ve gone through the list, you’ll know when and if you need to get help.
Read more by this author:
How to relieve colic in the breastfed baby
Does my child have a concussion?
Soothing baby’s first cold at home