These tips might be helpful no matter how old your child is.
Babies cry to tell us they need something. Sometimes they cry every day—this is normal. It can be hard to tell what your baby might need when she is so upset. It can be frustrating, but try to stay calm. Being a parent is hard, and you’re doing a great job. Here are some reasons that babies cry, and some ideas about what you can do.
- Baby is hungry: Feed the baby. (Crying is a late sign of hunger. When you can, try to feed baby before she starts crying.)
- Baby is uncomfortable from gas pains: Pat or rub the baby’s back. Hold baby in the football hold.
- Baby is uncomfortable from a dirty diaper: Change the baby’s diaper every three hours when baby is awake.
- Baby is uncomfortable from clothing (hot, cold, itchy): Remove or add clothes until your baby is comfortable.
- Baby is sick or hurt: Take the baby’s temperature. Call the doctor if necessary.
- Baby is bored: Show your baby a new toy. Go for a walk outside. Change your baby’s position.
- Baby is sleepy: Bring your baby into a quiet, dark room. Try swaddling, swaying or rocking, gentle massage, “shushing,” or singing. Some babies like to be breastfed or given a pacifier or finger to suck on.
- Baby is overstimulated (too bright, too noisy, too many adults holding the baby). Babies will fuss or turn their heads when they have had enough. Dim the lights, quiet the room, and go to another room or ask visitors to leave.
- Baby is teething: Offer your baby a teething ring that has been cooled in the fridge. You can also offer a pacifier or your clean finger.
If You Need a Break
Sometimes, parents get upset and frustrated, too. It’s good to have a plan for what to do during these times.
- Put your baby in a safe place and leave the room for five minutes. Sometimes babies need a chance to calm down.
- Take those five minutes to calm yourself. Stand outside, take deep breaths, or call a friend or your partner for support.
- If your baby is still crying and/or you can’t calm yourself down, check on your baby and then call a friend or family member for help. Ask them to come over and care for your baby while you take a break.
- Have a plan. Write down a list of people you can call for help. Write down some ideas for calming your baby. Stick the list on your fridge or somewhere you can see it.
- NEVER EVER SHAKE A CHILD. Shaking a child can cause brain damage, blindness, hearing loss, and even death.
Preventing Temper Tantrums
Has your child had a temper tantrum yet? If not, expect one soon. Children use temper tantrums to show negative feelings like anger and frustration. Most children throw temper tantrums until they are around 4 years old. To prevent tantrums you can also:
- Plan ahead. If you are going to be away from home, bring along snacks or toys to keep your toddler busy.
- Help your child to use words. If you notice your child is getting mad, ask her how she feels. Help her talk about her feelings. (“I can tell you are mad that we are going home.”)
- Offer choices. Toddlers are learning to be independent. Give your child two or three choices.
During a Tantrum
Temper tantrums are not fun for parents, but they are very normal. Staying calm will help prevent and stop tantrums. Once a tantrum starts, you can:
- Stay calm. It is okay for your child to cry and scream when he is angry. This is how he expresses himself.
- Offer something new. Try to get your child to focus on something else like a favorite toy or book. Sign, dance, or make silly faces. This works best when you first notice your child is upset, before a full tantrum sets in.
- Give your child some alone time. Tantrums are attention-grabbers. They don’t work as well if no one is watching. Take your child to a quiet place where she can calm down. Or if you are in a place where your child can be left safely alone, walk to another room.
- Don’t give in to demands. Giving your child what she wants will only stop the crying for a while. It will not stop the tantrums. In fact, it will probably make them worse. Your child will learn that if she screams, she will get what she wants, and she will do it more often.
- Stop dangerous behavior. If your child’s tantrums include kicking, hitting, biting, throwing things, or hurting others, correct the behavior right away. Move your child somewhere safe and quiet. Tell your child firmly, “No hitting” or “No biting.” If you are worried that your child’s behavior is out of control, call your doctor.
After a Tantrum
Help your child calm down. Tantrums are upsetting for children, too.
- Don’t punish your toddler for throwing a tantrum. Tantrums are normal and your toddler will grow out of them.
- Once your child is calm, offer a hug and understanding. Say something like “I’m sorry you didn’t get the cookie you wanted.” If your child is old enough, it can help to tell why (“you just had a snack and it is almost dinner time”).
- Stick with the rules you have set. Toddlers get confused and angry when the rules change. Be consistent and don’t be afraid to say no.
- Share your rules with friends and family. It will help prevent future tantrums.