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How to Figure out why Your Baby is Crying

Eva Benmeleh, PhD
January 3, 2019 . 3 min read

1. Reasons your baby may cry

Perhaps one of the greatest struggles parents face with their infants is the fact that it will be months before they and their children will begin speaking the same language. Until then, an infant’s language is crying – it is the only way he or she can communicate important needs and emotions. During this time, it is normal and understandable for parents to feel distressed as they attempt to bridge this communication gap and meet their new babies’ needs. Although every baby is unique, this guide may help you figure out why your baby is crying, just by listening to the sound and watching his or her movements.

2. It\’s time to eat!

Your baby may offer indications, such as sucking on his or her hand or rooting around for mother’s breast, both before and during crying if he or she is hungry. It is better to feed your baby before hunger turns into crying because it can make it more challenging to sooth him or her, but if it’s too late, watch for those behaviors alongside an urgent cry with steadily repeating notes. If you think your child is hungry, act quickly to keep your infant from feeling further distress.

3. Ready for rest

Similar to most adults, your baby may find that the feeling of being exhausted is just too much to handle. Unlike you, though, he or she may need help getting to sleep, so if your baby begins with a low cry that becomes stronger in volume and tone, while also rubbing his or her eyes, it may be naptime or bedtime. Once babies have reached this point, it may be more difficult to get them to sleep, but they definitely need a parent’s soothing presence and help.

4. Too much stimulation

If an object or person becomes overwhelming for your baby, perhaps because of bright colors or too much action, he or she may turn away from it and begin to fuss and then cry. This situation indicates that your baby is overstimulated and needs to be taken to a calmer, quieter place, with lower lights, so that he or she can calm down.

5. Fear

Just like anyone else, your baby can be startled and scared from time to time and may respond with a screech (much like a parent’s scream) and look surprised. If you notice these behaviors or saw the object or event that frightened your child, your strong embrace may help restore their sense of safety and calm. You might also try rocking to relax your baby.

6. Tummy troubles or colic

A less apparent and less appeasable cause for your baby’s cries may be gas or colic. If your baby cries intensely and steadily while fidgeting, raising his or her legs, or arching the back, it may indicate discomfort related to these issues. In the case of gas, your baby likely won’t stop crying until the gas has been relieved and the discomfort is gone. You can implement several strategies to prevent this situation, or try an infant massage or other methods to relieve it.

7. Just for cuddles

Sometimes, your baby just wants to cuddle with you and will let you know with a cry that is softer than the others. Although this may not always be a convenient need to attend to, holding your baby is important as you bond with him or her, and it will quickly quiet your infant.

Sources:

  • La Leche League.
    Murkoff, H
  • & Mazel, S
  • (2008)
  • What to expect when you’re expecting
  • Workman Publishing
  • New York
    Shelov, S
  • & Altmann, T.R
  • (2009)
  • Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, 5th Edition: Birth to Age 5
  • American Academy of Pediatrics.

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