Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...


Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...


The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Why babies cry and how to soothe them

Babies cry as a means of communication, to indicate that they are hungry, tired, scared, in pain, and more. Even entirely healthy newborns will cry for between 1 to 3 hours per day, because they are reliant on other people to meet their basic needs. ....

Toddler Sleep

Do toddlers really need naps? Yes. Naps are essential for your toddler's good health until the age of 4 years. Research suggests that naps are crucial to a baby's brain development. Without them, a child's physical and mental development can suffer. ....

Toddler eating

Is it normal for my toddler to eat less than she did when she was an infant? Because growth slows after the first birthday, it is normal for a toddler's appetite to decrease. Why does her appetite vary so much day to day? Because toddlers are eager ....

Will I hurt my baby’s soft spot if I rub it when I wash his hair?

The medical name for a baby’s soft spot is called the anterior fontanelle. This is an opening in the bones of the skull that allows the cranium to grow. The fontanelle is covered with a very tough membrane so you will not hurt it when washing or br....

What’s the best way to clean the whitish material that builds up between a baby girl’s outside and inside vaginal lips?

Cleaning the discharge that accumulates between the labia majora (outside vaginal lips) and labia minora (inside vaginal lips) bother parents as much as cleaning a little boy’s testicles. A girl is often born with this discharge and it protects the....

I’m worried that I will hurt my son’s testicles when I clean him up after a poo.

Before puberty, it does not hurt if a boy’s testicles are manipulated. Although it’s logical to be gentle, don’t worry about causing your son any pain when you clean him up after a bowel movement.

When I’m changing my baby, I notice tiny opalescent beads around her anus and vagina. If I rub them between my fingers, they have a slight waxy feel. What is this?

It’s called an Epstein’s Pearl and is nothing to worry about. The pearl is composed of mucus cells trapped under a thin membrane. It will go away in the first few weeks of life. Babies often have two variations of this lesion that you may see in ....

Why does my baby get hiccups after she feeds?

Breastfed and bottle fed babies can often get hiccups after feeding. This happens because they reflux some stomach contents into their oesophagus after eating and the acid stimulates a nerve that causes the hiccups. Hiccups generally resolve after a ....

Although my baby takes her bottle without any problems, she spits her pacifier out. Why doesn’t she like it?

Babies don’t suck on things the way we do. Instead of creating negative pressure with their cheeks (that’s what kids and adults do), they lick with their tongues at the same time they work their jaws. Therefore, when a baby sucks on a pacifier, s....

When will I be able to tell the colour of my baby’s eyes?

Babies of European descent usually have dark, slate blue eyes at birth. Babies of Asian or African descent usually have brown eyes at birth. Final eye colour is usually apparent by six months of age, but occasionally remains a mystery until a baby is....

The whites of my baby’s eyes are blue. Is that normal?

The white part of the eye is called the sclera and the tissue inside the sclera is called the choroid. The choroid is bluish in colour and it can be seen through the sclera in the first few months of life because the sclera is thin. If an older baby ....

Can I take my baby out?

Of course. Going out for a walk is a great activity. If the baby is in a pram, protect them from direct sunlight and dress them warmly enough. If carrying them in a pouch, protect their head and face from the sun or wind. Take care not to overdress t....

Is it safe to leave my baby alone?

As long as the baby is in his cot, you can hear your child if he cries (get a monitor if necessary), the room is a comfortable temperature and he isn’t too hot then you can leave your baby to sleep alone. Do not leave a baby unattended on a couch, ....

How can I tell if my baby’s bowel movements normal?

When your baby is born his first bowel movements will be dark green or black and sticky, this is called meconium. They will then change to a mustardy yellow colour with small bits, often described as bird-seed like. A formula fed baby will have soft ....

Is my baby too hot?

Overheating is a recognized sign of Cot Death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To avoid overheating, place the back of your hand on the tummy or the neck, if it is damp or sweaty then your child is too hot, and you need to cool the baby down b....

Why does my baby cry all the time?

Crying is your baby’s only means of communicating. As you get to know your baby, so too will you get to know variances in his cries. He may just want attention or be lonely. He may also be uncomfortable, have a wind, be hungry, feel cold or hot. A ....

Is my child gaining enough weight?

Average, weekly weight gain is 200gms. Some babies only gain 100gms, some as much as 300gms. One week there might be a gain of about a 150 gm and the next will be about a 250gm weight gain. Bottle fed babies tend to start gaining weight from birth, w....

Can I really keep expressed breast milk in the freezer for 3 months?

Yes. Expressed breast milk can stay in the fridge for a maximum of 24hrs and in a good quality freezer for a maximum of 3 months. Frozen breast milk can be defrosted in the fridge or at room temperature. It should be warmed up to body temperature in ....

Do I need to clean my baby’s nose?

It is only necessary to clean baby’s nose if there is some congestion that may be interfering with feeding or sleeping. Saline nasal spray or drops are often sufficient to “wash” the congestion away. If it is thick nasal mucous, an aspirator ma....

Why must my baby face backwards in the car seat?

A baby should face backwards in their car seat for the first 9 months or until they weigh 9 kg. For the first 9 months, their head is approximately 1/3 of their body weight and if there is an impact it could cause a forward facing baby to be propelle....

My baby has crusty eyes in the morning, what can I do?

Newborn babies can get excessive “sleep” in the corners of their eyes due to an immaturity of the tear ducts. This can easily be wiped with moist cotton wool and it resolves itself by about 2 months. There can be an excessive amount of discharge,....

My baby just cries all the time, what can I do?

This depends very much on the circumstances behind the crying. (Read more: crying) or send me an e-mail: for a personal answer.

Do I need to give my baby water to drink?

Most babies under 5 months, drinking either breastmilk or formula do not require extra water to drink. One usually starts introducing cool, boiled water when introducing solid foods.

Can I travel with my little baby?

This depends on where, how and how long the journey will take. Send me an e-mail: for a specific answer.

Is it Ok for my baby to suck his thumb?

Yes. A lot of babies need to soothe themselves by sucking on their fists, which can become thumb-sucking as they get older. It is your choice if you wish to encourage this or the use of a dummy.

Can I feed my baby both breastmilk and formula?

This can be done and in various ways, however expressed breast milk and formula should not be mixed in the same bottle. Seek guidance from your clinic nurse or send an e-mail to for specific advice.

What is the difference between a posset and a vomit?

Bringing up a small amount of milk when a baby burps is called a posset. This is quite common, especially with breast fed babies. If the baby is healthy and gaining weight, there is no reason for concern. Larger amounts would be considered to be vomi....

When will my baby sleep through the night?

This is a difficult question to answer as there are many variables to the concept of “sleeping through”. Some parents see having 12 hours uninterrupted sleep as the goal, others only expect 8 hours uninterrupted sleep as ideal. Most understand it....

Can I use soap on my baby’s skin when I wash her?

It is advisable to use a very mild soap or aqueous cream when bathing baby for the first few weeks. Avoid soap on their face. If there is a reaction to any product that is used, seek medical advice to find a cleanser that is best for your baby’s sk....

My 3-month-old is drooling a lot and chewing on things. Does that mean she’s teething?

A few interesting things happen at three months of age: (1) a baby has enough motor skills to confidently grab objects and pull them to her mouth, (2) a baby likes chewing on things more than before, and (3) a baby’s major salivary gland (the parot....

My 6-week-old has a soft bowel movement twice a day. However, before she goes, she strains real hard and gets red in the face. What should I do to treat her constipation?

If your baby is feeding well and gaining weight, I don’t think she is actually constipated—the definition of constipation is producing hard, dry stools. Babies sometimes grunt and strain when having a bowel movement because of a reflex that tells....

My 2-month-old is losing her hair. When will it grow back?

It’s common for babies to lose their hair in the first few months of life. For some infants, the hair grows back quickly. For others, they may look like little old men until they are 9- to 12-months of age.

My 2-month-old baby hasn’t made a poo all week?

It depends on what baby is drinking. A baby drinking purely breastmilk can occasionally have no bowel movement due to growth spurts and as their digestive system matures. If there are plenty of wet nappies and the baby is comfortable give it another ....

What is the rash my 6 week baby has all over its face?

This is quite possibly millia, small tiny white spots usually spreading across the nose and cheeks and up onto the forehead and in severe cases over the whole face and into the neck. They can appear worse if the baby has very fair skin or is too warm....

My 3 week old is stuffy all the time and sneezes a lot. Isn’t he too young to have a cold?

Although your 3 week old is not too young to have a cold, the chances are he doesn’t. Babies have to breathe through their noses for the first few months of life. Their nasal passages are small, however, which explains the “stuffy” sound you he....

My son was circumcised three days ago. His penis was red at first, but now there’s some yellow pus on the head. What should we do?

Right after a newborn is circumcised; the head of the penis is bright red and has a “wet” look. Over the next few days, the head becomes drier and takes on a dull red appearance. The head returns to its normal skin colour about a week after the c....

My 3-week-old’s big toenails are in-grown. Is this normal?

Although this is a common observation, it is not usually due to truly ingrown nails. A newborn’s toenails have the consistency of parchment and because of intrauterine positioning; the nail may grow up against the fleshy part of the toe. The reason....

My 2-week-old has a small amount of milk coming from his nipples. Is this normal?

Male and female infants can be born with swollen breasts, due to the effect of maternal hormones on their breast tissue. A small percentage of babies also get a milky discharge from their nipples which resolves in a few days. You should not squeeze t....

My 10-day-old still has his umbilical cord. It’s gooey and smells bad. What should I do?

It is not unusual for the cord area to have an unpleasant smell a few days before it falls off. The reason for this is because the cord remnant is actually decaying, i.e., the umbilical stump does not have a blood supply and the body’s immune syste....

If I carry my newborn in a carry pouch, will it hurt his back?

Infants are very flexible and carrying them in an infant carrier will not cause back pain. The main thing to be concerned about when you use an infant carrier is that their head is well supported and that they don’t get too hot.

My newborn has overlapping toes. Should I tape them to straighten them out?

Things are pretty tight in the uterus and babies have a few “problems” because of this. Their shins are bowed because their legs were crossed in-utero, and their toes may overlap as well. If your newborn has overlapping toes because of these intr....

For the first week of my son’s life, I kept finding a pink stain in his nappy. Does he have blood in his urine?

Your baby was excreting uric acid crystals in his urine. This is a common finding in the first week or two of life. Although parents often report seeing “blood” in their baby’s urine, on further questioning we find out that there is a pink or s....

This morning I saw some blood coming from my 5-day-old’s vagina. Should I worry?

Baby girls commonly have a small amount of whitish discharge from their vagina. In some cases, this discharge turns bright red—it happens because the baby is shedding the lining of her uterus just like women do when they have their periods. This is....

My 1-week-old is peeling and has very dry skin around his wrists and ankles. What should I do about this?

During the pregnancy, babies are floating in amniotic fluid. For most of this time, they are covered with a greasy white material called vernix caseosa. Unfortunately, by the end of the pregnancy, the concentration of vernix lessens and the baby’s ....

My 3-day-old has a blister on her upper lip. Do you know where this came from and when it will go away?

This is called a sucking blister. It doesn’t bother the baby and usually falls off in a few days. Often a baby will get more than one in the first few weeks of life.

Is it normal to have piles after giving birth?

One third of women can develop piles during pregnancy. They are swollen veins around the rectum that may itch and ache or cause extreme discomfort. Ice packs can be applied to reduce the swelling as well as specific topical haemorrhoid ointments. Ple....

Why am I still bleeding a month after the birth?

Vaginal bleeding after the birth of your baby is from the uterus at the area where the placenta was attached. It can take up to six weeks for the uterus to return to its normal size and for the bleeding to stop. The blood should be dark in colour and....

Why babies cry and how to soothe them

Baby_cry_-_CopyBabies cry as a means of communication, to indicate that they are hungry, tired, scared, in pain, and more. Even entirely healthy newborns will cry for between 1 to 3 hours per day, because they are reliant on other people to meet their basic needs. Most parents, especially mothers, may find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. Initially, it may be difficult to interpret the different types of cries your baby produces, particularly if you are first-time parents. There are several reasons why babies cry and it is only natural that some babies are more content and cry less than others. By approximately the end of the first month, you will intuitively learn to recognise your baby’s various cries and which basic needs they are associated with. For example, hunger cries generally begin loudly, are seemingly forced and tend to stop easily once your baby is satisfied. If their first attempt to obtain nourishment is not promptly met, their cries become louder, are more upset in tone and are often accompanied by sucking movements, lip-smacking and hand-to-mouth reflexes. As babies grow, they learn other forms of communication which reduce the need for crying, such as body movement, eye contact, making noises, and even smiling. Below are 14 reasons why babies cry and how to soothe them (Babycentre, L.L.C., 2010; Collins, 2003; Dubinsky, 2010; Leary, 1990).



The most common reason a newborn cries is to express hunger. The younger the baby, the more likely that she is crying because she is hungry. The one exception is during the first day or two after birth, when some babies feed very little. Breastfeeding moms will notice that the very early concentrated milk, colostrum, is only produced in small amounts and that their milk only ‘comes in’ around the third day. Babies have small stomachs that cannot hold very much, so if your baby cries, offer her some milk because it is highly likely that she is hungry. Your infant may not stop crying immediately; allow her to continue feeding if she would like to, and gradually she will be soothed as her stomach fills. If your baby stops crying after a feed, you may need to reduce the intervals between feeds to meet the demand. In time, you will learn to recognise your baby’s hunger signals before the crying stage. These may include fussing, lip smacking, rooting (a reflex in newborns whereby babies turn their heads towards your hand when you stroke their cheek), and putting their hands towards their mouth. Sometimes breastfed infants cry continuously in the evening. Rather than being a sign of colic, it may be due to hunger because the milk you produce at that time of day may be less rich and filling. In order to remedy the situation, try resting in the afternoon if possible, to help replenish your milk supply (Babycentre, L.L.C., Dubinsky, 2010; Collins; 2003).


A dirty nappy

Some babies let you know right away if a soiled nappy is bothering them and want to be changed immediately, especially if their sensitive skin is being irritated, while others don’t seem to mind if their nappies are full – it just feels warm and comfortable to them. It is easy to check your baby’s nappy and simple to remedy her discomfort. It also provides you with the opportunity to ensure that the nappy tab is not too tight or whether there is something else about their clothing that is making them uncomfortable (Babycentre, L.L.C.; Dubinsky, 2010).



While some babies are able to fall asleep anywhere, any time, other babies may fuss and cry, finding it more difficult to fall asleep – particularly if they are overtired. Babies often provide parents with signs that they need to sleep, such as jerky arm and leg movements, fist clenching, face grimacing, grumpy sounds and possibly a nasal-sounding wail. Overtiredness may present itself with yawning, spaced-out staring and short wailing cries with short breaths in between that can escalate into long, hard, red-in-the-face screaming (Littlies Ltd, 2004).


It is important to ensure that at least one of your baby’s daytime sleeps always occurs in the same bed, at a similar time. Also, if your baby does not sleep enough during the day, she may become whiney, upset and overtired in the evening, making it harder for you to put her to sleep at night. Help soothe your baby before bedtime by giving her a warm bath, followed by a massage with essential oils, such as lavender. Give her a soft cloth that has possibly been used during feeds and has a familiar, comforting smell, a dummy or particular toy; avoid using any stimulating play at the end of the day, and keep her environment calming by turning off or dimming the lights (Collins, 2003).


A technique that can be used to settle babies in their cots when they are over 6 months of age is known as ‘controlled crying’. This involves initially leaving your baby to cry for 5 minutes, then going in to reassure her by talking gently and stroking her briefly, but never picking her up. As you repeat the process, gradually space out the intervals to 10, 15, 20 minutes, etc, until your baby learns to fall asleep on her own. Although some parents find controlled crying distressing, if you persevere it is an effective method for teaching your child to fall asleep on her own. The older the baby is when you start using the technique, the longer it will take to see results (Collins, 2003).


Needs burping

Babies sometimes swallow air when they are feeding and if the air isn’t released, it may cause them some discomfort. If your baby cries after a feed and her crying ceases after you burp her, then she is suffering from wind. Signs that a baby needs burping may include a noiseless scream or a high-pitched shrill wail accompanied by gasping, panting or holding of the breath. Some babies may curl their tongues upwards, screw up their faces into a painful smile, tense their bodies, shake their arms, draw their knees up to their chests or suck frantically and then pull off your breast (Littlies Ltd, 2004).


The following tips may help prevent wind from developing or help release it:

·       If your baby is bottle fed, ensure that the hole in the teat in the bottle is unblocked and that it is not the wrong size.

·       Hold your baby in a semi-upright position when feeding so that the milk falls to the bottom of her stomach.

·       Burp your baby after every feed to release any trapped air. Either her him in an upright position against your shoulder or lie her face down on your lap. Soothe your baby by rubbing or patting her back (Collins, 2003).


Not feeling well

If you have met your baby’s most basic needs and comforted her and she continues to cry, she may be unwell or in pain. First-time parents may find it difficult to tell if their baby is crying purely due to an unhappy disposition (some children take a long time to adjust to being in the world) or whether there is something genuinely wrong. Check her fever and be alert for any other signs of illness. Fever is the body’s natural response to fighting infection. Symptoms include chills, sweating and flushing. Since babies are unable to sweat, fevers are always of great concern. A fever above 38°C in a newborn less than 6 weeks old is a medical emergency. A baby’s temperature can also rise very quickly, therefore check her temperature consistently if you suspect that she is unwell. The cry of a sick baby tends to be distinct from other cries; if you instinctively feel that she ‘just doesn’t sound right’, don’t hesitate to call or see your doctor immediately. Sick babies may also be reluctant to feed because they are experiencing pain due to a specific disorder, such as inflammation of the middle ear. The cries of a feverish baby are often inconsistent, possibly presenting as unusual quietness, a weak-sounding cry or whiny low-pitched screams. If you are ever in doubt about your child’s health and her crying persists despite your best efforts, or if her crying sounds unusual, consult your doctor (Babycentre L.L.C., 2010; Dubinsky, 2010; Collins, 2003; Littlies Ltd, 2004).


Wants to be held

Babies need a lot of cuddling and parental reassurance. They are comforted on seeing their parents’ faces, hearing their voices, listening to their heartbeats and are even able to detect their unique smell. If your baby stops crying when you pick her up and give her your full attention, she is merely trying to express the need that she’ d like to be held close. Cuddle your baby as much as she wants, it is impossible to ‘spoil’ your child by holding her too much in the first few months of life. In order to give your arms some relief, place your baby in a front carrier or sling (Dubinsky, 2010; Collins, 2003).



Babies, especially newborns, are unable to regulate their temperature very well. Feel the nape of your baby’s neck to determine whether she is too hot or too cold. As a rule of thumb, your baby should be wearing one more layer than you are in order to be comfortable, but on a very hot day this may not be suitable. In general, newborns like to be bundled up and kept warm – but not too warm. Babies are less likely to complain of being hot than about being too cold, and are unlikely to cry as vigorously. When your baby is feeling chilly, such as when you remove her clothing or change her nappy, or clean her bottom with a wet wipe, she may protest by crying loudly (Collins, 2003; Dubinsky, 2004).


If your baby is in a room that is too hot and stuffy or in a room that is too cold, she may become irritable and begin to cry. Ideally your baby’s room should be maintained at a temperature of around 18°C (


Something small

Babies are highly sensitive and can become bothered by something as difficult to notice as hair that has become tightly wrapped around their tiny finger or toe and is cutting off their circulation. Doctors refer to this painful situation as a ‘hair tourniquet’ and it is one of the first things they look for if a baby is crying inconsolably. Some babies are also extra sensitive to the fabric which their clothing or tags are made of, possibly making them scratchy and uncomfortable (Dubinsky, 2004).



Teething can be very painful as each new tooth pushes through your baby’s tender gums. On average, the first tooth breaks through between 4-7 months. If your baby appears to be in pain and you are unsure why, try feeling her gums with your finger for the presence of the hard nub of a baby tooth on its way in. The most common signs of and discomforts associated with teething are increased saliva production that irritates your baby’s delicate skin, resulting in ‘drool rash’, crankiness, crying, wakefulness, diminished appetite, finger-sucking, gum-rubbing, slight fever, and loose stools with a consequent nappy rash. Teething may sometimes be mistaken for a cold because the excess ‘drool’ collects in the back of the throat, sometimes causing your baby to cough and produce a rasping breathing noise. Some babies tend to suffer more with teething than others, especially if several teeth are erupting at the same time. Alleviate your baby’s pain and low grade fever with the use of paracetamol in appropriate doses. Ease their local gum discomfort with a cool teether or gently massage their gums with your finger (Leary, 1990; ParentTime, 2002-2010).



Babies learn from the world around them and develop as a result of stimulation, but sometimes they have difficulty processing it all – there is too much light, too many sounds, and they are passed from one person to another. The result is crying, a baby’s way of saying she has had enough. Take your upset baby to a serene spot and allow her to vent or place her in a darkened room, with calming music playing. For older babies, sit with your child on her bed and read to her in a low soothing tone. In contrast, other babies prefer constant activity and have an endless interest and curiosity about the world around them. Often the only way to stop these more outgoing children from crying and fussing is to stay active. This can be very exhausting for parents. Try placing your baby in a sling, front carrier or backpack, so that she can accompany you while you do your household chores, visit the store or frequent other public places. Plan fun-filled outings to child-friendly places, such as the playground, zoo or children’s museum (Dubinsky, 2004).



Thirst may be the cause of your baby’s excessive crying, especially if the weather is particularly hot or he is bottle-fed. Give your baby frequent drinks of cooled, boiled water that has been placed in a sterilised bottle or on a spoon (Collins, 2003).


Tummy troubles



Colic is inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy newborn with bouts of fussiness and irritability. It is a fairly common condition, affecting 2 out of every 10 babies. Colic has no known cause, making it difficult to diagnose and define. Some theorists believe that it is the result of trapped wind or gastrointestinal spasms, as the infant’s body adjusts to digestion in the first few weeks of life. Colic generally occurs in infants between 3 and 14 weeks of age and although it is harmless, it may be highly distressing for parents or caregivers. Colicky babies tend to cry intensely and furiously, for several hours per day, sometimes lasting for as long as 4-6 months. Although crying can occur at any time, it is generally worse in the late afternoon and evening, and can disrupt your baby’s sleep. Your baby may appear to be uncomfortable or in pain. Babies may arch their backs, draw their legs up to their tummies or curl up, become red in the face, or pass wind. The main problem with colic is the stress and anxiety it creates in the home environment. Research has shown that colicky babies are able to thrive, despite the crying. If you are finding it stressful and upsetting trying to comfort an inconsolable baby, utilise your support resources and take some time out. (See methods below for soothing crying babies) (Bupa, 2009; Collins, 2003; Dubinsky, 2004).



If your baby begins to fuss and cry immediately after eating, she may be experiencing some type of tummy pain. Many parents find the use of over-the-counter anti-gas drops for babies or gripe water (made from herbs and sodium bicarbonate) particularly helpful. Seek your doctor’s advice before trying these remedies. The occasional bout of gas pain can make your baby very miserable until he works it out. If you suspect gas, try to eliminate it by placing your baby on her back, holding her feet, and moving her legs in a gentle bicycle motion. Alternatively, gently move her knees up towards her belly in a gentle rocking motion (Dubinsky, 2004).


Tight clothing

If your baby is wearing pants, especially those with a snug fitting elastic band around the waist, try pulling the waistband away from her abdomen. Sometimes the pressure of tight-fitting clothing hurts her tummy (Dubinsky, 2004).


Other causes of abdominal pain

Other causes of abdominal pain in babies include reflux, stomach flu, dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, constipation and intestinal blockage (See Common intestinal problems).

·       There is a theory that while a baby’s digestive system is maturing, some may have an intolerance to certain substances, such as lactose (milk sugar), which are passed on through breastfeeding or formula milk. If your baby is bottle-fed, speak to your health adviser about changing the brand of formula you use. If you are breastfeeding, you could try eliminating dairy from your diet to see if this eases her symptoms.

·       GORD, or Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease, is associated with excessive crying in some babies. Symptoms include difficulty sucking and vomiting (Bupa, 2009).



During the first few months of life, you will get to know your baby’s unique personality; whether she is more easy going or demanding, and how best to calm her. Temperament refers to the characteristic ways in which people respond both emotionally and behaviourally to environmental events. Two aspects related to your baby’s temperament that may influence the frequency and intensity of her crying behaviour are irritability (how easily or intensely she gets upset over negative events) and soothability (the ease with which she is able to be calmed after becoming upset) (Schaffer, 2002).


A distinction needs to be drawn between ‘normal crying’ and when ‘normal’ cranky behaviour becomes ‘high need’. High-need babies seem to cry purposelessly, for prolonged periods of time, and this interferes with their sleep, settling and feeding. These babies appear to be discontented and unhappy, respond inconsistently to the usual methods of comfort, and constantly demand physical contact. Difficult infants and toddlers are extremely time-consuming, energy-draining and exhausting, possibly eliciting negative feelings in their over-wrought mothers, placing a strain on the parental relationship, and creating anxiety and fatigue in the family, including in themselves (Leary, 1990).


Why do some babies fuss?

·       Human happiness is largely dependent on the ability to adapt to change, to seek pleasure rather than pain, and to adapt to or modify unpleasant experiences. In utero, your baby has a smooth continuum of experiences; she is in continuous motion, at a constant temperature, she is lulled by the sounds of her mother, and her needs are constantly and automatically met. In contrast, the birthing environment and the subsequent adjustment period are less secure. This is when ‘fussy’ tendencies possibly begin, because of the conflict between wanting comfort and to feel good versus the inability to achieve these results independently.

·       Some babies become cranky because they are unable to adapt to or block out unpleasant stimuli, while others seem to be endowed with a stimulus barrier, e.g. they may block out unpleasant noises by falling asleep. This process is known as adaptability. In high-need, unsettled, or challenging babies this barrier tends to be more permeable (Leary, 1990).


Fussy babies who cry for apparently no reason are difficult to understand and therefore difficult to cope with. However, temperament can change and one factor that determines whether it does is the ‘goodness of fit’ between a child’s temperamental style and parental child rearing methods. For example, children who fuss a lot and find it difficult to adapt to new routines, often become less cranky and more adaptable over time if their parents stay calm while insisting they comply with rules, but also exercise restraint and allow their children to respond at a more leisurely pace. In other words, this caring, sensitive, yet demanding form of caregiving is a good fit for temperamentally difficult children or those who display problem behaviours (Schaffer, 2002).


Separation anxiety

Many infants who have formed primary attachments begin to show obvious signs of discomfort when separated from their mothers or other significant attachment figures. Separation anxiety usually appears around 6-8 months, peaks between 14-18 months, and gradually becomes less intense and less frequent throughout infancy and the preschool years. Even older children and adolescents may display signs of anxiety and depression when separated from their loved ones for lengthy periods of time (Schaffer, 2002).


Although separation anxiety is normal, it may be highly distressing for parents when their child cries and clings to them when they are about to leave. Toddlers may even follow their mothers to the door, while whining and pleading not to be left behind. To cope with the upset of leaving a crying child, do not make too much of the situation. Remain calm, provide a distraction such as a favourite toy, say goodbye quickly and leave. Lingering and providing your child with lengthy hugs will only exacerbate the situation because they send out alarm signals to your child. Invariably they will stop crying within minutes of your leaving. Knowing you will always come back provides your child with the reassurance that she is not being abandoned and provides her with a sense of confidence and independence (Collins, 2003).




·       Talk soothingly to your baby or sing or hum with your baby’s head against yours. Babies tend to find the voice of their mother or father very comforting.

·       Gently rock your baby to-and-fro or hold her firmly against your body to offer warmth and security. Holding your baby close to your heart beat is especially soothing. NEVER jiggle your baby too vigorously or shake her.

·       Place your baby in a stroller or sling and take her for a walk.

·       In desperate situations, place your baby in a car seat and take her for a drive. Avoid doing this too frequently because it is a difficult habit to maintain.

·       Burp your baby after every feed.

·       Cuddling and swaddling. Newborns show a definite preference for being snug and secure, reminiscent of being in the womb. Try swaddling your baby in a blanket, to see if she likes it. Some children find this particularly soothing while others may feel restricted and respond better to other forms of reassurance.

·       Place your baby across your lap and gently rub her back.

·       Place your baby in different positions.

·       Take your baby outside.

·       Place your infant in a quiet environment away from people and noise.

·       Play gentle music or sing a lullaby. While in your womb, your baby could hear the regular rhythm of your heartbeat, which is why many babies prefer being held close. Similarly, other regular, repetitive noises may have a calming effect.

·       Some babies find the rhythmical sound of the vacuum cleaner or a washing machine soothing.

·       Massage your baby or gently rub her back or tummy. Babies who suffer from colic may sometimes be soothed by having their tummies rubbed, and it will help you feel better to know that you are doing something to ease their pain and distress.

·       Give your child a warm bath.

·        Newborns tend to have a strong sucking need. Allow your baby to suck a dummy or a clean thumb or finger. ‘Comfort sucking’ may help settle them, relax their stomachs and steady their heart rates.

·       Lie next to your baby on a bed with a firm mattress. Ensure that all pillows and loose covers are not in contact with her face. This may provide you both with some much-needed sleep (Babycentre L.L.C., 2010; Littlies Ltd, 2004).


Complimentary techniques for calming your baby

·     Hands on techniques. Some therapies, such as osteopathy, chiropractics and craniosacral therapy, use gentle manipulation to relieve the underlying problems that may be causing your baby to cry excessively.

·       Homeopathic remedies may be helpful in treating colicky babies. If your baby’s symptoms are relieved by applying firm pressure to her stomach, try Colocynth 30C. If your baby continues fussing, is impossible to please, and only improves on being carried, try Chamomilla 30C.

·       Make a recording of a rhythmic sound, such as your heartbeat or the ‘white noise’ of a vacuum cleaner, to help settle your baby (Collins, 2003).


Will I spoil my baby?

Picking up an infant as soon as she cries is not spoiling her, since she is reliant on her parents or caregiver for her basic needs and comfort. However, as your baby gets older, you may not feel the need to pick her up as quickly, especially if there is nothing fundamentally wrong – she is clean, has been feed, is not thirsty and is in good health. How quickly you pick up your baby to soothe her when she cries depends on your preferences and your own unique situation. The rule of thumb is to do what feels right for you and your baby (Collins, 2003).


Soothing techniques for moms

A baby’s constant crying will generally cause her no lasting harm, but can be highly stressful and upsetting for parents. If you have made every possible attempt to soothe and cheer up a seemingly unhappy baby, it is not unnatural to feel rejected, not to mention frustrated. Parents sometimes blame themselves and their parenting for a fussy baby, although this is rarely the case. If you have cared for your baby’s basic needs, provided her with every form of reassurance you can think of, and there is no physical cause for her crying, it is time to take care of yourself to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Remember that the best way to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself.

·       Take a deep breath and count to 10. Repeat a calming word or phrase, such as ‘Just relax’ or ‘Take it easy’. Imagine yourself in a place that is likely to induce calm and relaxation.

·       Place your baby down in a safe place, such as a crib or bassinet, out of earshot (provided that she is 6 months or older) and let her cry for a little, while you take a few moments to regroup in another room.

·       Play some quiet music and allow yourself to relax for 10 minutes.

·       Call a friend or relative for support, take a break and allow someone else to take over for a while.

·       Join a support group or mother-and-baby group, where you can share your feelings with other parents and discuss ways of coping with crying babies. When you are feeling frustrated, speak up to release the tension, whether it be to yourself, in a group, or to a friend or loved one.

·       Recognise your limits; if you are finding it too difficult to cope with a constantly crying baby, seek help. Contact your doctor or a local crisis intervention service for assistance.

·       Sometimes it may be helpful just to accept that babies have different temperaments and that some babies cry more than others. Remind yourself that crying, in and of itself, will bring your baby no harm; avoid wearing yourself out looking for reasons for the crying, blaming yourself, or offering endless unhelpful remedies.

·       Put your baby in a stroller and take her for a brisk walk. The exertion may help take your mind off the tears.

·       Bear in mind that this is a phase and it will pass. Being the parent of a newborn is difficult, especially one that cries a lot. Get help when necessary instead of allowing your emotions to build up. As your baby grows, he will learn new forms of communication, and as he does so the crying will stop (Babycentre L.L.C., 2010; Mayo clinic, 1998-2010).