Soothing a crying baby or toddler
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Dr Anna Maw

Consultant pediatrician at Cambridge University NHS Trust in the UK. A child doctor specializing in brain development and neurology. She has three children.
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Baby crying

My baby won’t stop crying – could it be a medical problem?

When your baby is crying because they are in pain his cry will have a high pitched, high intensity sound and will be impossible to ignore as it signals urgent distress.
Video Tutorial
In Short
Seek out medical help if your newborn baby has a 'pain' cry (the same kind of cry you hear when your baby is given an injection).

You will begin to recognise the cries your baby makes and when he makes them.

Try to recognise patterns associated with when your baby cries e.g., 40 minutes in a cot after a milk feed might indicate acid reflux.

Take a long a video of your baby crying to your doctor to help them to understand what your baby's crying bout it like and how distressed they are.

When your baby cries

As you get to know your baby over the first few weeks and months, then you’ll get to recognise their cry and what’s their normal cry. So when your baby is hungry they will cry and display hunger cues.

Similarly, you will learn to recognise the sounds and scenarios when your baby is tired, bored, fed up, they want to be picked up, they want to be put down, and that’s something that you’ll learn as you get to know your baby. What you’ll also be able to do is pick out when their cry is different from usual.

Pain cries are different to another crying

One of the first times you might hear them cry in pain is when they have their heel prick test done at around 5 – 9 days. This pain cry you will hear tends to be a higher pitched, more distressed type of cry. If you hear your baby crying like that, in a way that’s not their usual cry, then that’s their way of trying to tell you that they’re not feeling very well and all is not well, and that’s the point where you should think about taking your baby along to see the GP and have them checked out.

Meningitis and other serious infections

They might have a serious infection such as meningitis (which is associated with a high pitched whiny cry) or if the crying has been going on over a period of time it might mean your baby has an underlying medical problem.

If you think your baby might have an underlying medical problem such a silent reflux try to think about when your baby cries and keep a crying diary. Do they wake up crying less than 40 minutes after being put down to sleep after a feed? If so it could mean that the contents of their stomach are leaking back into their food pipe when they are lying down (babies, especially premature babies have immature sphincters keeping their stomach contents in and milk is a liquid and flows easily). The stomach acid from the stomach contents can cause pain and irritation in the oesophagus or food pipe.

Your baby will need to be assessed by a paediatrician if you think your baby has silent reflux causing inconsolable crying.

Colic

Colic is a blanket phrase but may sometimes mean your baby has an underlying digestive problem due to their diet or something in your breastmilk that they are intolerant to. Again speak to your doctor if you have seen a pattern to your baby’s crying e.g. it always happens after they have cow’s milk or toast.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.