Crying baby? How to keep your cool

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Crying baby? How to keep your cool

All babies cry, but the tears can take a toll. When nothing you do soothes your crying baby, you may feel anxious. What if there's something wrong and you miss it completely? What if you lose control? Take heart in your ability to care for your baby — and to recognize when you're reaching the end of your rope.

When the tears won't stop

It's tough to listen to your baby cry. First, cover the basics. A crying baby might simply need to be fed, burped or changed. Maybe it's time for a nap, a change in position or a session in the rocking chair. Or perhaps your crying baby needs a little more — or a little less — attention. Also look for signs of illness, such as fever, vomiting, or changes in eating or sleeping patterns.

If your baby seems otherwise OK but the crying continues, do your best to stay calm. Here's help.

  • Slow down. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Repeat a calm word or phrase, such as, "Take it easy." Imagine yourself in a calm, relaxing place. Play soothing music in the background.
  • Take a break. If you're alone, put your baby in a safe place — such as the crib or bassinet. Let your baby cry while you take a few minutes to regroup in another room. Remind yourself that you're not failing your baby or being lazy if you can't stop a crying spell. Sometimes babies simply need to cry.
  • Get moving. Put your baby in the stroller and take a brisk walk. The exertion may take your mind off the tears. You might even buckle the baby into his or her car seat and take a short drive.
  • Express your emotions. When you're getting frustrated, speak up. Saying the words out loud — either to yourself or to an understanding friend or loved one — can help ease the tension.
  • Ask for help. Let your partner or another loved one take over for a while. Take advantage of baby-sitting offers from trusted friends, neighbors or other close contacts. Use the time to take a nap or simply relax.
  • Recognize your limits. If you're worried about your ability to cope with a crying baby, contact your doctor, a local crisis intervention service or a mental health help line for support. Post a crisis number on the refrigerator or in another visible spot.

Treating your baby gently

When your crying baby can't be calmed, you may be tempted to try just about anything to get the tears to stop. It's OK to be creative, but remember the importance of treating your baby gently.

Babies have weak neck muscles and often struggle to support their heads. Shaking your baby out of sheer frustration may have devastating consequences — including brain damage that leads to seizures, learning disabilities or mental retardation. Severe shaking may be life-threatening or even fatal.

If you're having trouble managing your emotions or dealing with parenthood, seek help. Your baby's doctor may offer a referral to a counselor or other mental health professional. Remember, taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby.

Last Updated: 2009-10-17
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