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Crying and Unsettled Behaviour

All babies cry and have trouble settling sometimes. Understanding your baby’s signs and signals takes time. It’s okay not to have all the answers!

Crying baby held by father

Coping with an unsettled baby

It can be really stressful when you're trying your best but your baby is just not settling. Don’t despair! 

It can help to remind yourself of these facts:

  • Every baby is different and they don’t come with an instruction manual
  • Your baby’s temperament is what they’re born with and is not directly related to your parenting style
  • You will get lots of parenting advice that might be conflicting or overwhelming
  • Caring for your baby when they are crying or unsettled can be exhausting – making it even harder to come up with solutions!
  • You don’t have to know exactly what to do or make decisions on your own
  • Getting help, especially when you are tired or exhausted, is important for both you and your baby

Understanding your baby’s behaviour

Learning more about normal baby behaviour can help you to stay on top of the stress and understand your baby’s needs when they are crying or unsettled.

It is normal for your baby to cry and have unsettled periods every day

It is normal for your baby to wake up often during the night

Your baby cries for many different reasons – feeding, changing, settling

It is ok to need help with setting up routines around feeding and sleeping

Seek help if your baby’s crying is persistent and ongoing without any breaks

Seek help if your baby isn’t sleeping for long and keeps waking after short sleeps

Staying calm when caring for an unsettled baby

It can feel impossible to stay calm when caring for a crying or unsettled baby!

If you don’t know how to settle your baby it might feel like you’re not doing a good job. But that’s not true! Figuring out what your baby’s needs are will come with time.

Here’s some things that might help you when care for a crying or unsettled baby:

  • Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to try something different
  • Have a checklist of things you go through when they’re crying to help figure out what they need, e.g. Are they tired? Hungry? Sick? Need a nappy change? Too hot? Too cold?
  • Unsettled behaviour is sometimes a cry for comfort or attention – they might just want to be held
  • Your baby may prefer ‘active’ comforting e.g. rocking or being carried around in a sling or a pouch
  • Learn correct ways of wrapping your baby as this may help them settle and feel secure
  • If frequent waking and problems getting to sleep is an issue for your baby, seek help to set up a positive sleep routine
  • A calm family environment is positive for everybody and helps your baby to settle
  • If you feel like you are struggling and need a break, place your baby in a safe place and give yourself some time to calm down
  • Ask others, like family and friends, to help out if you are feeling overwhelmed
  • Never shake your baby as it can cause bleeding in the brain and brain damage

Caring for an unsettled baby can take a toll

It’s challenging to keep trying to understand your baby’s needs when they are persistently crying or unsettled.

If you notice any of the following, then it’s probably a good idea to seek out support:

  • Reduced confidence in your parenting and feelings of helplessness
  • Difficulty connecting with your baby and building a bond with them
  • Mental and physical health impacts eg. can’t concentrate, low energy, withdrawing from others, constantly worrying
  • Feelings of tiredness and exhaustion
  • Wanting to spend less time with your baby
  • Tensions building in your relationship with your partner

“My baby seemed to be crying all the time and I didn’t know what to do. It was good to be able to talk to someone to be reassured that it was not uncommon and look at methods to manage it”

- Julie, mum of a two month old

Support is always available

Here are some ideas about where you can go to get information and support:

It's important to get help when you need it

We're here for you to discuss issues with settling your baby or other parenting issues

This content was last reviewed 09/05/2018

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