Why Is My Baby Crying?

It is hard sometimes to work out the needs of your baby. It can be extremely difficult and stressful if your baby wails for hours on end, and won’t calm down.1

However, you need to understand that your baby is fully dependent on you, and crying is just the baby’s way of communicating their needs and ensuring a response from you. Learning the right techniques can help soothe an upset, unresponsive baby who regularly cries inconsolably.2


How To Interpret Your Baby’s Cries?

According to experts, crying is the primary manner in which babies communicate, and are graded signals with increased pitch or intensity indicating greater distress, but not the precise cause.

Different cries can mean different things. You may able to correctly guess your baby’s need, based on the sound of their cry. Here are some general guidelines for understanding the different types of crying :3


1. Learn The ‘Hunger’ Cry

Hunger is one of the most common reasons why your baby will cry, especially if s/he is a newborn. The younger your baby is, the more likely it is that they are hungry. Unless you have fed your baby recently, you can try feeding your baby to soothe their cries.

Type Of Cry: Your baby’s hunger cry can begin quietly and slowly, but gradually it builds in volume, becoming loud and rhythmic.


2. Learn The ‘Fussy’ Cry

Your baby can be really fussy at times, and may keep crying out of anger and irritation. Some of the reasons for this type of crying include:

Your Baby Needs To Be Held

Your baby needs a lot of cuddling, physical contact and reassurance to comfort them. Swaying and singing to them, while you hold your baby may give them added comfort.


Your Baby Has A Wet/Soiled Diaper

A wet or soiled diaper may cause discomfort to your infant, which may be a cause of their crying. However, some babies do not seem to mind, unless their skin feels irritated.

Your Baby Is Tired

Sometimes babies become frustrated, when they cannot fall asleep. Babies often find it hard to get to sleep, particularly if they are exhausted.


Your Baby Is In Pain

Healthy babies, who often cry persistently or fuss a lot, are described as having ‘colic’. The term applies to any healthy, well-fed infant, who cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks.

Your baby may become flushed and frustrated, and refuse your efforts to comfort them. Some people may associate colic with tummy problems, or an allergy/intolerance to something in your breast-milk or due to formula milk.


Your Baby Is Too Cold Or Too Hot

You can check whether your baby is too hot or too cold, by feeling their tummy. Do not be guided by the temperature of your baby’s hands, or feet. Keep the temperature of your baby’s room at about 18 degree C.

Your Baby Is Over-Stimulated

Lots of interaction with visitors, may over-stimulate your baby and make it hard for them to sleep. Environmental sources, such as music or light can also be responsible.


Type Of Cry: Your baby may cry in a mild, intermittent way when they are upset. The sound of fussy cry differs from a hunger cry, but like the hunger cry, it can grow in volume.

3. Learn The ‘Teething’ Cry

If a baby usually cries a lot, but has become unusually quiet; this may also be a sign that your baby is unwell. Teething may also be a reason, for your baby to be more upset than usual. Babies can be restless and irritable in the week, before a new tooth comes through.

Type Of Cry: If your baby is unwell, they will probably cry in a different tone, from the one you are used to. It may be weaker, more urgent, continuous, or high-pitched. Thus, picking up on the baby’s pattern of crying, will help you to identify their needs.

When Should You Worry About Your Baby’s Cry?

If you have tried everything and nothing seems to comfort your baby, then it could be a sign that your baby might be ill. A very high-pitched crying, up to three times higher than a normal infant cry, that persists, or in some cases very low-pitched crying that persists, can be associated with severe or chronic illness.

This type of crying is markedly dissimilar from any normal infant cries, and is not to be confused with the excessive crying, often identified as ‘colic’. Seek medical attention as soon as you can if your baby:4

  • Has a weak, high-pitched continuous cry.
  • Seems floppy, when you pick them up.
  • Takes less than a third, of their usual amount of fluids.
  • Passes much less urine than usual.
  • Vomits green fluid.
  • Passes blood in their stools.
  • Has a fever of 38 degree C or above (if they are less than three months old), or 39 degree C or above (if they are between three and six months).
  • Has a high temperature, but their hands and feet feel cold.
  • Has a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby’s head).
  • Has had a fit.
  • Turns blue, mottled or very pale.
  • Has a stiff neck.
  • Has difficulty breathing, breathes fast or grunts while breathing, or seems to be working hard to breathe.
  • Has a spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body (this could be sign of meningitis).

Calm A Crying Baby

It is very important for the parent to keep calm, while the baby is crying. Never make the mistake of shaking the baby, as this may lead to ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, each year about 1,000 children die from Shaken Baby Syndrome. The blood vessels in a baby’s head cannot tolerate the impact of shaking, and can lead to death, brain damage, mental retardation, seizures, or blindness.

Nobody knows your baby as well as you do! If your baby does not appear sick, and you have tried everything, and he or she is still upset, consider letting the baby cry it out. Crying won’t hurt your baby, and sometimes it is the only way.

However, if you feel that something is not right, it is advisable to call your general physician, mid-wife or health visitor immediately. You can also keep a record of how often and when your baby cries, as this may help you identify the times when you need extra support.5