My baby is crying excessively

It is normal for babies to cry and this may be for many reasons – because they are hungry or need a nappy change. You can try these simple comfort methods to see if the crying stops. Sometimes babies cry because they are uncomfortable or are unwell. This may be due to colic, reflux, constipation or infection amongst other things (see below). Sometimes the crying can feel like it’s become too much, and if this is the case, click here for more information on what you can do.

Below are some things to look out for if your baby is crying that may suggest they are unwell.


If your child has any of the following:

  • Becomes pale, mottled or abnormally cold to touch
  • Becomes stiff for a prolonged period or has rhythmic, jerky movements of arms or legs that does not stop when you touch it (a fit/seizure)
  • Becomes extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction)
  • Becomes floppy or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
  • Is going blue around the lips or has difficulty breathing
  • A rash that does not disappear with pressure (see the "Glass Test")

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • Has a temperature above 38°C / 100.4°F (but fever is common in babies up to 2 days after they receive vaccinations)
  • Becoming increasingly sleepy and not consistently waking for feeds
  • No wet nappies in the last 8 hours
  • Has a dry mouth or sunken fontanelle (soft spot on the head)
  • Is getting worse or you are worried

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

  • None of the above features are present
  • Continues to feed well
  • Has plenty of wet nappies

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

Conditions that can cause a baby to cry excessively:

Reflux

  • Some degree of reflux is completely normal in babies as the muscular valve at the end of the food pipe, which keeps food in the stomach, is still developing. Reflux may cause your baby to bring up milk after a feed, and can also give him/her hiccups. As long as your baby is growing normally and is not showing any marked signs of distress, there is no need to worry.
  • More severe reflux can cause your baby to cry and be sick, often after feeding. The long name for severe reflux is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). This means that when your baby's tummy is full, food and stomach acid flow back up their food pipe causing discomfort and pain.
  • If you have tried the measures described above and seen no improvement, see your GP. They will review your child’s symptoms and ask you about the formula you have used, and may possibly prescribe an antacid designed for babies.
  • Click here to watch a video on reflux by Best Beginnings.

Infection

Your baby may be vomiting because they have an infection. This is usually associated with a temperature above 38°C / 100.4°F. Although the most likely cause is a viral infection, other causes include urinary tract infections or very occasionally a more serious illness such as meningitis or sepsis. Signs of a serious infection include:

  • becomes pale and floppy going blue around the lips
  • is fretful or excessively miserable when touched
  • becomes difficult to rouse
  • is finding it hard to breathe
  • develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the Glass Test)
Your child needs urgent help if any of these features are present - go to the nearest hospital emergency (A&E) department or phone 999.

Colic

Colic is the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It's a common problem that affects up to one in five babies.

Colic tends to begin when a baby is a few weeks old. It normally stops by four months of age, or by six months at the latest.

Looking after a colicky baby can be very frustrating and distressing, but the problem will eventually pass and is usually nothing to worry about.

Signs and symptoms of colic include:

· Your baby often starts crying suddenly. The cry is high-pitched and nothing you do seems to help.

· The crying begins at the same time each day, often in the afternoon or evening.

· Your baby might draw their legs up when they cry.

· Your baby might clench their hands.

· Your baby's face might flush.

· The crying can last for minutes or hours. A baby with colic cries for 3 hours a day or more.

· The crying often winds down when your baby is exhausted or when they have passed wind or poo.


For more information click here.

Constipation

Formula fed babies are more prone to constipation because formula can be harder to digest than breastmilk. A breastfed baby is far less likely to get constipated.

Signs of constipation may include:

· Crying and discomfort, irritability or pain before doing a poo.

· Dry, hard, pellet-like poo that is hard to pass.

· Foul-smelling wind and poo.

· A hard belly.

Try not to worry too much if your baby becomes constipated. It's likely to happen now and then. Simple things you can try at home if your baby is constipated include:

· Gently move your baby’s legs in a bicycling motion to help move the hard poo along.

· If your baby is drinking formula, give them extra water in between feeds, but don’t dilute the formula. Make sure that you are using the recommended amount of milk powder when making up a bottle. Too much powder can dehydrate your baby, causing constipation.

If your baby is in significant pain despite doing this, you should take them to see your GP who may decide to start them on treatment.

Self Care

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between.

Self-care

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Local Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health Visitors

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School Nurses

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GP (General Practitioner)

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

NHS 111

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Accident and Emergency

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
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