Crying, Age 3 and Younger - Prevention

The following tips may help you care for your child and lessen the amount he or she cries.

General tips

  • Recognize and respond to your child's cry and other signals (whimpering, wiggling, and facial expressions). Do not worry about spoiling your child. Young children cry for a reason and are not trying to manipulate parents or caregivers. It is harder to find the cause of crying and takes longer to soothe your child when he or she has been crying for a long time. Babies younger than 6 months use crying as their way to communicate. As a young child learns other ways to communicate, he or she may use crying for attention. If you think your child's crying is related to behavior problems, many parenting books and classes offer suggestions for behavior modification in these situations.
  • Keep a regular routine for your child's meals, naps, and play times. This will prevent your child from getting overtired or overstimulated.
  • Carry your child in your arms or in a soft pouch infant carrier so your child is close to your chest. Studies have shown that young children carried for about 3 hours each day cry much less than those who are carried less. Being carried gives your child the pleasure of physical closeness and may help you be more in tune with his or her needs.


Feeding tips

  • If you breastfeed your child, watch how your own diet affects your child's behavior. For example, does your child have gas or cry more after you have eaten certain foods? The medicines you take can pass in your breast milk to your child and affect him or her. If you smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco, the nicotine can pass through your breast milk and may make your child fussy or irritable.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough to eat but is not overfed. Make sure the nipple opening of the bottle is not too large or too small.
    • If your baby gulps during bottle feedings, the nipple hole may be too large, causing your baby to swallow air when sucking.
    • If your baby struggles with the bottle during feedings, the nipple hole may be too small, causing air to be swallowed when sucking. When a baby struggles for nourishment, he or she may become frustrated and may even stop eating before being satisfied.
  • Burp your child often during feedings. Adding solid foods to your baby's diet at a young age (unless you have been told to do so by your doctor) may cause problems. Solid foods are harder for a young child to digest and may cause a food intolerance. This might make you think your baby has a food allergy when he or she does not. You may be able to avoid some food intolerances if you wait to add solid foods until your baby is 6 months old.
  • Make sure your child's sucking needs are satisfied. Sucking can help a child relieve stress without crying. Some young children need to suck as much as 2 hours a day. If feedings are not enough to satisfy sucking, use a pacifier.
  • If you think the formula may be the problem, talk to your child's doctor before changing formulas or brands of formulas.


Safety tips

  • Do not leave your child unattended in a place where an injury may occur, such as on a changing table, in a high chair, or in a crib with a side rail down.
  • Keep tobacco smoke out of the home and away from your baby. Even secondhand smoke may make your child fussy. Secondhand smoke increases a child's risk for respiratory problems compared with young children who are not exposed.
  • Try to stay calm. Young children are very sensitive to their parents' frustration and fatigue. Try to sleep whenever your child does, even during the day, so you will have more energy for those times when he or she is fussy. Take some breaks from the care of your child. Ask a friend or neighbor to babysit some evening while you enjoy some free time.
  • Never shake your baby! Place your child in a safe place while you go into another room, relax, and calm yourself. Or ask someone to help you.

Check with your doctor about giving your child acetaminophen before immunizations are given. Some doctors suggest this to decrease discomfort after a shot.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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