It has been ten long minutes, or thirty or ninety, and the crying has not ceased. To make things more complicated, it may be more than one thing. It is awkward at first as I learn her language and then what to do. I found changing to a clean diaper is generally the best first step. (Earplugs can help. Our daughter has lung capacity and volume that seem largely disproportionate to her small frame!)
One evening, our daughter was startled awake by the dog and realized she had a wet diaper and was hungry. She had been clusterfeeding on the hour for the last four hours so mom and I were tired and asleep. Not any more. Since we were exclusively breastfeeding and not yet using a breastpump there are limits to the assistance I can provide. I learned early she was reluctant to feed when wet. So, I walk through the list helping where I can: diaper, comfort and calm, feed, soothe to sleep.
Other times it may not be obvious. One evening she had been sleeping but kept crying. We checked her diaper (sticking a finger under the diaper cover) and she was dry. She had fed recently and was already burped. She had been sleeping. We became worried and started to take off her diaper to check her temperature. Then we noticed some dried blood and pus on the inside of her diaper cover. For us, her shrinking cord stump rubbed at the diaper cover’s elastic waistband causing irritation and a very slight open wound. Unfortunately, there was little to do other than clean it, be patient and be careful not to irritate it further.
Remember, keep calm and keep looking. Ultimately your child might just want your companionship because they are scared, unsure or lonely. While it may not immediately stop the crying, it may lesson it. I believe children and adults are more alike and more capable then society generally stereotypes them to be. Sometimes (usually!) it’s not that complicated.
Special Note: If your baby cries inconsolably, incessantly for more than two hours, contact a medical professional. What ails your child may be beyond your reasonable ability to address. There is no shame in that as you do what you can and honor your limits. This is not about ego; it is about your baby’s health.