why does my baby cry only at night
Jessica Riley, mother of six-month-old fussy baby Ross, admits it can be frustrating to get through what many parents refer to as the witching hours. ÁSometimes nothing calms him down, except when heÁs on me the whole time. And even that doesnÁt always help. Á Ross is RileyÁs third baby, so sheÁs had plenty of experience trying to avoid the nightly fussy period. At times, she realizes, itÁs simply beyond her control. ÁWe cope Á chocolate and a glass of wine helps! Á
Nearly every parent has been there. At the end of the day, the baby starts fussing for no apparent reason. Toronto child psychologist Robyn Irving, a mother of two, understands it both personally and professionally. ÁA lot of things add up: overstimulation, tiredness, hunger,Á she says. The most important thing, according to Irving, is that moms or dads Á who are tired themselves Á donÁt lose their cool. ÁBabies learn from experience,Á she says. ÁWhen weÁre able to calm ourselves, we teach them we will be there for them. Á But Ronald Barr, a professor of paediatrics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and an expert in, says we shouldnÁt assume that baby fatigue is the main culprit. His research has shown that the witching hours are a normal developmental milestone. ÁDuring the first three to five months of life, are part of the overall crying babies do,Á he explains.
This is sometimes referred to as the Ácrying curveÁ and peaks around two months, tapering off by the time the baby is six months old. ÁThe level and intensity of crying is different for every baby, but it is very common,Á says Barr. For some infants, cluster crying around 5 p. m. , for example, is part of this behaviour, he says. ÁWe donÁt know why, but weÁve surmised it has to do with diurnal rhythms. Á Biological and behavioural factors, such as sleep cycles, cortisol levels and stress rhythms, can all contribute. According to Barr, 94 percent of babies outgrow inconsolable crying by the time theyÁre five months old. The bad news is that a small percentage will continue to have fussy temperaments. And the exact hour (or hours) isnÁt set in stone. While most parents report witching hours in the late afternoon and early evening, it can shift. ÁInfant sleep-wake cycles are a mess in the first few months of life,Á says Barr. What can you do get through it? Put your fussy baby in a stroller or carrier and go for a walk, or head out for a drive. Babies often respond to change of smell, so pass them from one caregiver to another, if possible. White noise can work, as can sucking Á either on the breast, bottle or pacifier.
ÁSome techniques will work some of the time, but nothing works all of the time,Á says Barr. In studies Barr and his colleagues conducted, parents who routinely carried their babies the most reported 50 percent less crying overall. The findings suggest that babywearing might prevent the witching-hour meltdowns in the first place. ÁCarrying when babies were quiet helped to keep them quiet,Á says Barr. Of course, it isnÁt realistic to carry your fussy baby all day. Sometimes the best coping method is to simply remind yourself that this period Á even if it feels prolonged Á is normal, and will end. Courtney Lundy, a Calgary mother to five-and-a-half-month-old Brynne, found support online in mommy chat rooms. ÁItÁs comforting knowing someone else has been through it. Nothing lasts more than a few weeks, even though it feels endless when you are in the middle of it. Á A version of this article appeared in our April 2013 issue with the headline The witching hours, pp. 64. A newborn crying throughout the night is alarming, exhausting and frustrating for parents. Most babies will stop crying if you comfort them, but if your baby does not respond to your attempts to soothe him, there may be an underlying problem. If you become too frustrated with the crying, always have a friend or family member intervene so you can take a break.
A newborn baby crying at night is usually normal. Fussing normally will increase two weeks past the due date and peak around six weeks, but the crying will decrease by four months. A baby cries to communicate his needs, and he may be having difficulty soothing himself to sleep at night. Itâs also possible your newborn has night and day confused, so he sleeps all day and then stays awake crying for attention at night. Your baby also may be trying to tell you he is hungry, cold, hot, wet, bored or uncomfortable. Colic is the reason for your newbornâs crying if he cries more than three hours per day on more than three days per week for at least three weeks. The cause of colic is unknown since babies that cry because of colic are thriving. Itâs possible that milk intolerance is causing the excessive crying. Sometimes colic disappears if a baby is breastfed and the mother gives up caffeine or dairy products. Other theories associated with the cause of colic are improper digestion of food, GERD or your baby having difficulties adjusting to his new environment. Colic usually stops by three months. In the meantime, increase the number of times you burp your baby during feedings. Your newborn crying at night may be his way of telling you heâs not feeling well.
If your babyâs appetite has changed and the crying is inconsolable, these are not normal symptoms of colic. Diarrhea or having fewer bowel movements than normal both indicate a problem. Check your babyâs umbilical cord to see if thereâs any bleeding, redness, swelling or oozing since these symptoms indicate an infection. If your baby boy is circumcised, check for the same symptoms around his penis. Always consult with your doctor if your newborn has a temperature, even if itâs a low-grade fever. Itâs impossible to spoil a newborn. You can soothe your crying baby by picking him up and either rocking him in a chair or walking around the house. A swing or bouncer also can soothe a crying baby. Decrease the amount of stimulation around your baby by turning off the lights and swaddling your newborn. If your baby is colicky, place him on his belly across your lap and rub his back. Softly singing or humming while holding your baby can help him relax. Breastfeeding also can offer comfort and help soothe your baby to sleep. If your baby is not responding to comforting techniques, consult with your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if your baby is having trouble breathing, has blood in his urine or feces, has persistent vomiting or diarrhea or a recent head injury or you suspect poisoning.
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