When to take crying seriously
Fever in babies
A fever is an abnormally high body temperature of 38C (100F) or above. A baby that has a fever will have a hot forehead and is likely to cry, be fretful and seem unhappy. If you think your baby may be unwell, take their temperature a high fever may cause a baby to have a seizure. Call your doctor if your child has a convulsion and, if it lasts more than 5 minutes, call an ambulance.
Bringing down a fever
If your baby has a fever, taking steps to reduce it will help them feel more comfortable and may prevent a convulsion. Remove your baby's clothes and give them plenty of cold drinks. If your baby is over two months old, give them the recommended dose of paracetamol. If the fever doesn't drop and your child is over six months old, give them the recommended dose of ibuprofen too, repeating doses of both drugs every four hours.
Feeding issues are a common source of crying in young babies and may include a reluctance to feed, constant hungry crying, and swallowing too much air, leading to vomiting. If your baby has feeding problems, and isn't gaining weight at the expected rate, consult your doctor.
A specific type of feeding problem is reflux, which is the movement of your baby's stomach contents up their oesophagus toward their mouth, resulting in them bringing up their feed. If your baby cries and fusses during and after feeding, keep your baby upright while feeding and don't bounce them around for 20 minutes after a feed. Have a break from feeding when your baby becomes fussy, then re-offer the feed after 15 to 30 minutes, trying shorter feed times if they've been long and difficult.
This is a bulge or swelling beneath a baby's skin, which often sticks out when they cry. Umbilical hernias are caused by muscle around the belly button not closing completely and are quite common, whereas inguinal hernias are more serious and occur in the groin or scrotum. Some hernias heal on their own, whereas others can require surgery. If you're concerned, consult your GP.
Some babies may cry due to an allergy to the proteins found in breast milk or infant formula (often known as colic), They may also have an extreme sensitivity to pollens, dust mites, bee stings, certain foods in mother's breast milk and medicines that are normally harmless. See a doctor if you think your baby has an allergy or is crying inconsolably. An allergy (particularly a milk allergy) can often be addressed through a different brand of infant formula or altering your diet.
Ear or urinary tract infection
If your baby starts crying more than normal, they may have an ear or urinary tract infection. Ear infections tend to happen after a cold and are often accompanied by a fever and you may see bub pulling or tugging at their ear. If your baby has a fever and cries while urinating, it may be a urinary tract infection. Always see your GP or early childhood nurse if you think your baby has an ear or urinary tract infection.
Call an ambulance if your baby's vomit is yellow-green or if the vomiting is accompanied by:
- Flat, dark red spots that do not fade on pressure
- Has refused feeds for more than 3 hours, (babies under 3 months) or more than 6 hours (babies 3 months and over)
- Abnormal drowsiness
- Sunken eyes and/or dry tongue
- Black or bloodstained faeces
This article was written by Joanna Bounds for Kidspot, Australia's parenting resource for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. Sources include The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, SA Government's Parenting and Child Health and Raising Children Network.