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Babies cry for many reasons – most commonly 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 parents advice from ICON on what you can do.
Below are some things to look out for if your baby is crying that may suggest they are unwell.
Your child may require emergency treatment.
You should call 999 or take them to your nearest Children’s A&E where they can be assessed.
Your child does not need to be rushed to A&E but you should seek medical advice today.
If your child develops any symptoms in the Red Box above, click and follow advice for that symptom.
You child does not seem to have any symptoms of serious illness or injury.
You can get general advice on the NHS website or from your local Pharmacy.
If your child develops any of the symptoms in the Red or Amber boxes above, click on that symptoms and follow the advice.
Crying behaviours peak from 2 weeks to 4 months of age. This is a normal developmental process and is unrelated to the diagnosis of 'colic' or 'wind'.
Baby may be unsettled due to:
Advice for parents:
Click here to watch a video from ICON on ways to cope.
Click here to watch a video from ICON made specifically to cover way to cope during the COVID-19 lockdown.
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:
If any of these features are present your child needs to be assessed – check your child for Red or Amber features above and follow the guidance.
Colic can cause 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. Although the cause is unknown, it is likely to be due to intestinal discomfort like bowel cramping.
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:
For more information click here.
Difficulty having a poo (constipation) can be a cause of excessive crying in babies. However, the crying tends to stop once your baby has had a poo.
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.
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:
If your baby is in significant pain despite doing this, you arrange for them to be reviewed by your GP surgery who may decide to start them on treatment.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:
For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?
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.
All home educated children will have a named School Nurse.
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:-
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.
The clinical team in GP surgeries include doctors, advanced nurse practitioners and nurses who are trained to 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 surgery team will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.
You have a choice of service:
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.
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.
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.
Developed in Partnership with the Healthier Together Programme
Alder Hey Children's Charity