Being new parents is both wonderful and difficult. You get home from the hospital with your miracle, ready to rock at parenting. And your newborn baby starts wailing. You try to calm your baby to no avail, and you ask yourself the million dollar question of sleep-deprived first-time parents: Why do babies cry? How do I calm my crying baby?
For my husband and me, it was a struggle. I mean, as first-time parents, we had no idea what we were doing, and Ollie cried a lot!
Our nights of desperation taught us how to handle a crying baby. And here’s all we learned in our journey!
I’m sharing with you the most common reasons why babies cry, and the tried and tested ways to soothe your crying baby!
Why do Babies Cry: Top 10 Reasons
#1 Babies Cry When They Are Hungry
Yes, everyone knows this, right? But, why do first-time parents usually get so confused about this?
The truth is, sometimes it isn’t that simple. When Ollie was in the NICU, he took breast milk every 3 hours, and most of the time he was immediately calmed after we offered him either the breast or the bottle.
The confusing part was those few times when he was so hungry he took a little longer to calm down. At first, I figured he might be crying for something else because I was trying to offer him food and he wouldn’t take it. But, as the NICU nurses taught me, sometimes it takes a few moments for a hungry baby to eat.
Another reason why hunger in newborn babies is so confusing is that they sometimes stop feeding because they need burping, or they have the hiccups. When this happens, parents may think that their baby is full, and we may find our babies crying a short while afterward, believing it’s impossible that they are hungry because they just ate.
Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, so if you’re breastfeeding, odds are your baby may be hungry even if it seems like you fed her just a short while ago.
Formula is heavier, and thus your baby will feel more full for a longer period of time. But, even if it seems like she shouldn’t be hungry so soon, try offering her the bottle.
#2 Babies Cry When They Are Tired
Your baby might not be hungry, she might be sleepy!
So, why do babies cry instead of just going to sleep? Because they may not understand that they are exhausted. They are just feeling the discomfort, but without knowing how to actually… go to sleep!
Having a sleep routine is important because your baby will understand that a short while after feedings, she gets to sleep. And she may be expecting that.
However, babies need a lot of sleep. So always be aware of clues that your baby may be tired, see if she’s yawning frequently. Hold her close and sing to her, or try swaddling her!
#3 Babies Cry When They Need a Diaper Change
This is simple to solve! Some babies have more tolerance to
I’m not going to expand this one, it’s pretty straightforward!
#4 Babies Cry When They Need to be Held
Babies often cry because they need to be held. Think about it, your baby just spent 9 months being in mommy’s tummy. So she may feel lonely quite often.
Hold your baby as much as you can. Rock her, sing to her, or you can even baby wear!
Babies are generally calmer and in a better mood when they are feeling safe and reassured in mom or dad’s safe arms. In fact, holding your baby has many proven benefits that go far beyond helping her soothe.
#5 Babies Cry When They Are Too Cold or Too Hot
My mom has a great mom story.
My sister was a newborn baby, and I was around 1 year old, and we went to the doctors’ office. It was early summer or late spring, an intense sun was constantly shining outside… and for some “unknown” reason we were crying non-stop.
That did it. We stopped crying right away! (For a few minutes at least.)
As a rule of thumb, your baby should be fine by wearing just one more layer than what you need to wear to feel comfortable!
#6 Babies Cry When They Needs to be Burped
When babies feed, they also suck air, and they can feel very uncomfortable because of it.
Of course, every baby is unique, but if your baby cries often after being fed, maybe a little burping is all she need!
#7 Babies Cry When They Are Uncomfortable
Your baby may be feeling uncomfortable, even though you may not notice why. Even the tiniest of things can cause this.
Loose hair that tangles in your baby’s fingers, toes, or gets in your baby’s diaper can loop around her skin and make her uncomfortable. A warm bath can help you get rid of small things that can be painful.
They aren’t always small, though. When Ollie was around 4 months old (he looked like a one-month-old because of his premature birth), he spent one entire afternoon and evening crying as if he were uncomfortable.
We checked everything, we had just changed his diaper, he was full, he didn’t need burping and he was well-rested (at first, at least).
We found nothing out of the ordinary, and we decided to give him a bath. When we opened his diaper we found the cap of his binky inside.
Needless to say, we felt like the worse parents in the planet and we triple checked that we didn’t leave anything in his diaper from that day forward!
Things like this can happen when you haven’t slept for weeks or months, and you’re overwhelmed by being a new parent!
#8 Babies Cry When There’s Too Much Going On (Overstimulation)
When babies are overstimulated they just need some quiet time with mommy or daddy. In a calm environment without loud music or visitors.
It’s completely normal that your friends and family want to meet your newborn baby, or that you want to show her all the toys she has.
But when your baby finds herself the center of attention in crowded or loud places, she may be uncomfortable and missing the soothing environment of mom’s womb.
#9 Baby Colic
If your baby’s crying for no apparent reason. It could be baby colic. Baby colic is described as intense crying, as if in pain, for more than 3 hours a day, at least 3 times a week, and for more than 3 weeks.
Your baby will eventually grow out of it. But it is a tough challenge of early parenting. You can read how we dealt with Ollie’s baby colic by clicking here.
#10 Babies Cry If They Are Not Feeling Well
If your baby is feeling sick, crying is a normal consequence.
Call your doctor if your baby has a fever, vomit, a stuffy or runny nose, cough, or if you notice a change in her stool.
A baby’s cry because of illness is more high-pitched an urgent than her normal cry. However, as you get to know your baby you’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll know if something is wrong.
Identifying Your Baby’s Cries
Although each baby is unique, there are general guidelines concerning your baby’s cries. Here’s a quick guide so you can have a more informed guess of why is your baby crying.
Pro tip: Look for body language as well, your baby cries with her whole body, so pay attention to what her arms, legs, face, and expression are telling you.
How do Hungry Babies Cry?
When your baby seems to move her head to one side and the other, while opening and closing her lips (as if looking for mommy’s breasts), along with a repetitive low-pitched cry… you guessed it! Your baby is probably hungry!
What About a Nasal, Whiny Cry?
If your baby is uncomfortable or tired, she may whine mildly at first, and build up a nasal cry more and more intense as time passes by and the situation remains the same.
How Do Babies Cry When They Are Overstimulated?
Super fussy! If your baby has had too much of a situation, she may jerk her head in a quick motion, ball up her fists and whine loudly.
If she also doesn’t seem to want to be held by anyone, or if everything you do seems to be bothering her, she may just need a little alone time! I mean, at one time or another, we all do!
What If Your Baby Is Crying As If In Intense Pain?
If your baby is closing her fists, and screwing her face as if in pain while screaming at the top of her lungs for no apparent reason, she may have baby colic.
When babies need to be burped they cry similarly, but is usually less intense. Much less intense!
Last But Not Least… What If Your Baby Is Whimpering?
A soft, weak cry, along with a whimper could be a sign that your baby is sick. Of course, is usually accompanied by symptoms. When a baby is sick, she seems less energetic, and so does her crying.
How to Calm a Crying Baby
Ah… the million dollar question! All new parents want to know why do babies cry and how to soothe a crying baby!
There is no 100% guaranteed method, but if you’ve already tried feeding your baby, changing her diaper, going to a quiet environment, putting her to sleep, and all to no avail, there are a few techniques that help to calm a crying baby.
Swaddle Your Baby
Babies love to be snuggled. It brings them back to when things were much easier for them in mommy’s womb.
You can swaddle your baby by wrapping a blanket tightly around her, with some technique!
- Lay the blanket on a safe, flat surface. Place your baby with her arms stretched in the direction of two opposite corners of the blanket. Make sure that the corner that’s above your baby’s head is folded into a tiny triangle so that no blanket will actually visible below her head.
- Pull the left side over and tuck the blanket under your baby around her waist. Make sure that her hips have freedom of movement. This is extremely important since iron holding your baby’s hips could cause hip dysplasia.
- Pull the bottom corner up to your baby’s shoulder, and tuck it neatly under it.
- Pull the right side over and tuck it under your baby. She should be safe and warm in a tight blanket pouch.
Play a Constant, Soothing, Sound
Play some white noise or soft music at a low, quiet volume.
White noise or the noise of a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine, are similar to the sounds your baby heard inside mom’s womb. By returning to a safe and familiar sound, your baby will feel more at peace.
Rub Your Baby’s Tummy
Try soft, circular massages in your baby’s tummy.
Apply a few drops of baby oil or lotion and sing while you rub your baby’s tummy and stimulate the digestive process while eliminating any gas. Keep it short and sweet.
Let Your Baby Suck on something
Understandably, one of the most intense needs of young babies is the need to suck. It is, after all, a natural reflex which feeds them. So, by sucking, they may feed calmer even when they are not hungry.
You can offer your clean finger or a dummy to your baby. So that she can suck on it for a little bit until she is calm and relaxed.
I left the best for last!
Try skin to skin contact, holding your baby in a vertical position, close to your body after feeds. Or wrap your baby to your body while you walk around the house.
It is proven that skin to skin releases stress in babies (and parents!), helps your baby with the digestion, maintains her temperature, and deepens the bond between mommy/daddy and baby.
I highly recommend it!
That’s a Wrap
The art of decoding baby’s cries is difficult and stressful, but don’t worry, it’ll pass!
The cry of a baby, c
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