Understanding your crying baby

When your baby is screaming their lungs out, you don’t always know what to do. Is it pain, fatigue, discomfort, colics? Here are few tips to help you understand.

My baby is 12 weeks old and every night he cries as loud as he can! His face turns red and contorted and he pulls his arms and legs towards his stomach. My husband and I don’t know what to do anymore, nothing reassures him and nothing calms him. Is he sick? Is he in pain? Is that what they call colics? What can we do to help him?”

This kind of concern, questioning, is very common. I hear it regularly! How to react? What to do?

We don’t like hearing our little babies screaming like that. The first step is identifying the cause of his tears. Some reasons are more obvious than others but it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your baby hungry, thirsty? If you are breastfeeding, did you offer him the breast?
  • Is he feeling lonely? Are you always close to him? Being close means physically and mentally, for example by holding him is a sling or co-sleeping with him. It is important to remember that a few weeks ago, you baby was constantly in contact with you. The sound of your breath, your heartbeat and your smell are everything that he knows. His birth was only a move towards the outside world. He is still looking for his landmarks.
  • Is your baby irritable or uncomfortable? Babies can be irritable for many reasons. A lot of babies suffer from a stiff neck after birth. This stiff neck is related to the rotations and movements of birth. A visit to the osteopath or chiropractor could swiftly resolve the situation.
  • A regurgitating baby can also be very irritable.
  • Also, if you were smoking during pregnancy, your baby may have an addiction to nicotine and experience withdrawal. That is not easy for him.
  • Could your baby be in a growth spurt? Those growth spurts, occurring around the third day, third week and third month of life last between 24 and 48 hours and are very demanding for parents because their baby always wants to be held or breastfed.

You don’t identify with any of those situations? Have you heard about colics? Having colic pain is not a disease but a temporary discomfort. Baby colic remains a mystery to the medical and scientific worlds. It can appear on the second week of life and disappear around the sixth month. Your baby is showing colic symptoms: he cries, screams loudly and nothing can calm him, his face is red and contorted, his arms and legs are folded towards his stomach, his tummy is hard and, finally, his terrifying crises are reoccurring every day around the same time. There is no known cause for this discomfort and, unfortunately, there is no cure either. Many things can be tried to help you through this very intense period. For more information, I suggest to read Mysterious colics.

Finally, if you’ll allow me to give you a little advice, do not hesitate to seek help if you are tired or out of patience. Hearing a baby scream can make us vulnerable and it is easy to loose patience. Don’t wait to loose control with your child, hire a trusted babysitter, go for a walk and come back when you will be calm and ready to face this short moment. Remember that this situation is TEMPORARY! Crying is a way for a child to express himself. There can be a thousand reasons why a baby cries. The important thing is to try to understand the reasons behind his crying and to identify the cause. Sometimes we find it, sometimes we don’t. In general, babies atop crying when they find their landmarks. Always think about when he was in your belly and give him a similar feeling: warmth, smell, positions, noises, etc. If you need to, talk to a perinatal specialist or a health professional.

Karine Bergeron

Karine Bergeron is a doula who studied nursing and is currently completing additional training in prenatal care. As mother to little Laurence, volunteer for L’entraide maternelle, breastfeeding godmother and prenatal class teacher, it’s with joy that she dispenses her wisdom for Bergeron is passionate about prenatal care and ready to share all her knowledge to help you enjoy life’s greatest gift: becoming parents. To find out more or ask questions, go to and look for her in the “Équipe” section.

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