Why Babies Cry: 7 Common Reasons And What To Do About Them

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why do babies cry

It is absolutely exhausting for a new parent to figure out just why their baby may be crying. After all, babies cry for many reasons throughout the day and it all sounds the same: LOUD!

What if I told you there is a way to tell why babies cry so you can learn how to respond and soothe yours?

Do you have a difficult time recognizing if your baby is too hot or too cold?

Have you checked the diaper, fed, rocked and tried everything, but your baby is still crying?

Have you cried tears of desperation because you didn’t know how to ease your baby’s pain?

In this post, I am going to show you 7 common reasons why babies cry and exactly what to do about them.

If you apply what you read, soon you will be soothing your baby like a pro!

Sure, there will still be times when you’re at a loss for what to do, but those occasions will be far and few in between.

Why Babies Cry: 7 Reasons And What To Do About Them

Let me start by saying that crying is how babies communicate. Crying is their words to express everything they feel, think, want or need.

I used to think I needed to shush every fuss my infant made. I am not a fan of letting babies crying it out, so I wanted to avoid that at all costs.

Slowly, however, I learned that to intently listen to my baby`s wails in my arms is beneficial, because if I listen and understand, I am more likely to be able to respond and help.

And knowing is half the battle. (even GI Joe knows that).

why do babies cry
This is what you want, but that`s not what you have?

1. Hunger

This should be one of the first guesses when your baby starts crying, especially if you breastfeed. Keep in mind that human milk is digested pretty fast and it is possible that your newborn gets hungry sooner than you`d think.

Usually, other signs accompany the cry for food and by recognizing these, you can avoid the screaming disaster.

Kelly from kellymom.com says:

Babies should be fed when they indicate hunger. Crying is a late indicator of hunger – breastfeeding is much easier for both mom and baby if mom is able to pick up on baby’s earlier hunger cues

Often, babies start out just making short little fussing sounds, giving you a heads up that their belly is empty.

Some babies are more demanding and downright shout for you to get moving.

After all, babies are aware that without food they can`t live. 

Their instincts tell them that they are hungry but taste no food, so they’d better call loud enough for a fast response.

Hungry babies start sucking their hands, make smacking noises or turn their head side to side trying to find something to latch onto (called rooting).

These are surefire signs that your little sweetie is ready to eat. This type of cry is also immediately silenced by receiving food…(now enjoy the quiet for a few minutes!)

why do babies cry
Food, food and more food!

2. Tiredness

Another fairly common reason for infant crying is simply being peopled out!

Think about all the external stimuli a baby receives on any given day: lights, noises, new faces,  unfamiliar sensations, unknown places just to name a few.

They have to shut the world out often in order to recover and process life.

When a  baby is irritated, fussy and ready for a snooze, he often cries very forcefully just like when he is in pain, but if you look closely, there are no tears.

Others clues that signal tiredness are your little one rubbing her eyes and yawning.

These usually precede the loud cry and with time, you`ll learn to notice them and start for the crib before things escalate.

See, I told you knowing is half the battle!

why do babies cry
Yawning, rubbing eyes, time for bed!

3. Pain

There are many different sensations your baby will experience and you can fine-tune your ear to know which one you are hearing.

Crying because of pain sounds usually very sharp with lots of tears, often leaving a baby breathless for a few seconds, depending on the level and duration of pain.

The full force screaming is often accompanied by flexed limbs and closed eyes.

Gas Pain

If your baby has gas pains, she may kick her legs and then pull them back up again in order to get rid of the air bubbles.

You can gently push on her belly and get an idea of whether your touch is making things worse.

Trying a massage, burping or going from standing to sitting a few times quickly will help relieve the cramping.

Want to know my go-to solution for preventing tummy problems and ensuring a healthy gut? Check out Gerber Soothe Probiotic Drops! This product is amazing and I swear by it.

Gerber Soothe contains a probiotic named L. Reuteri which is a clinically proven probiotic to create healthy gut flora. (You can read about why this is important here.)

I only found out about this when I had my third baby, but I wish I had known sooner.

I gave him  5 drops of Gerber Soothe every single day for several months to establish healthy gut bacteria and cut down on belly aches.

He was THE BEST baby in the universe. I kid you not.

He barely had belly aches and never cried from pain during the first 2 months!

To be fair, I do think it was a combination of his personality, my experience, and confidence as a third timer, as well as the drops.

So who knows, these drops may change your life too!

Another product I love is the Infant Simethicone Drops which works by dissolving the air bubbles in baby’s tummy.

It’s more of an immediate relief, so you can give the Gerber Sooth each day and do the Simethicone as needed.

I am not a medical professional, this is purely my opinion and experience. Always consult your doctor about what to give your baby.

why do babies cry
Nope, not working for me!

Food sensitivity and allergies

My second baby was miserable after every feeding and consistently had awful bellyaches. I was starting to despair and run out of solutions.

I didn’t know about Gerber Soothe back then so I can’t say how things would have turned out had I been using it.

My sister advised me to stop eating dairy for two weeks and see if it improved his symptoms.

Now it was my turn to be miserable without cheese and ice cream, but I will say, after about a week I was able to tell a huge difference and after the full two weeks my little son was a different baby.

Whenever I accidentally ate dairy, we were back to the terrible bellyaches. In a few days, as his body got rid of it, he improved again.

It was plain as day to see that the diet change helped, so I was more willing to continue my diet just to keep him from being in so much pain.

Some babies may be sensitive to soy as well, or vegetables such as peas, broccoli, beans, etc (pretty much anything that can wreak havoc on an adult`s digestive system too).

So if your infant struggles with gas often, accompanied by severe pain and doesn`t seem to respond well to medicine either, you may consider changing your diet if you are breastfeeding or switching the formula if bottle-feeding.

You can read more about tummy aches here.


why do babies cry
Saddest little eyes ever!

4. Expressing Dislike

Yes, even the youngest babies have very particular thoughts on who should hold them or what feels comfortable, and they will express their overall preferences.

Dislike is the easiest to tell because they loudly protest.

This type of crying often occurs without tears, because they are really just mad and frustrated.

Sometimes it’s just a constant fussing type of cry that won’t let off till you solve the underlying problem.

The baby may cry loudly, but she is in emotional distress, not so much in physical, in which case tears are the usual sign.

I disagree with a popular line of belief that you can spoil a baby and you should just ignore certain cries.

I believe in treating an infant as a small human who is capable and intelligent from the very beginning.

I will listen and consider his view. I may not be able to always do as he wants, but I can definitely talk to him about it.

Let’s put ourselves in the baby’s shoes for a sec:

You just ate and drifted off to sleep…

You`re full and comfortable, then somebody turns on a bright light, starts to undo your diaper with cold hands and lifts you up and down, wiping you with something wet…

Or consider this scenario: you love looking at your surroundings and found that little spot of sunshine on the wall the most fascinating thing ever…

Out of the blue, somebody grabs you and holds you up. All of a sudden, you don’t know where you are, where to look, what to think or how to react…

If you cringe as much as I do imagining what your baby must feel in these situations, there`s a solution.

Try talking your baby through what you are doing to him, so he isn’t in the predicament of being treated as a little object rather than a person.

This change in perspective will do miracles in how you and baby relate to each other: mutual respect starts developing, making a foundation for your future relationship.

You can read more about this perspective here.

5. Being Too Hot or Too Cold

This one is tricky, because a cold or overheated baby may not signal how she feels as clearly as she does with the other above mentioned needs.

Of course, if given a bath, an infant will definitely visibly shiver if cold, and cry the same irritated cry as when expressing dislike.

Other than bath time, she may fuss and seem uncomfortable, but it`s easy to assume that something else is going on than simply not liking the temperature.


why do babies cry

The best way to check your baby`s temperature is to touch the nose and the back of the neck.

The temperature of those areas is a great indicator of how your baby feels.

Checking only the hands and feet may be inaccurate, as they could remain cold despite the fact that her nose and neck feels nice and warm.

6. Just because

Sometimes, babies just need to cry, because they want to let out their pent-up feelings and vent. (what, you too?)

We aren’t able to know exactly what they feel and think about during their early days, but they definitely have an emotional world and a stimulation threshold.

After you checked for all the possible reasons mentioned above and came up empty, it`s time to just listen.

Don`t be afraid to sit quietly, gently talk and rock your baby, while you listen to what he wants to tell you.

You may something like this:

“Sweetheart, it sounds like you need to have a nice long talk with mama about how you feel. I am here. I am listening.”

Sounds crazy? Well, when you have done everything and that cute little angel is still screaming her head off.

Won’t you try ANYTHING at this point?!

This approach just might revolutionize your parenting. 

Not only will it help you stay calmer because engaging in a conversation will keep you distracted from panicking, it will also aid in treating your infant as a real person from the very beginning.

Sure, this takes lots of confidence and practice.

With my first, I wish somebody had told me that crying doesn’t necessarily mean emergency. They need to cry so I can hear what they have to say.

It takes confidence that you will be able to figure your baby out so you don’t start panicking. I promise you will get better and better at it!

Make no mistake, babies are incredibly intelligent and if you pay close attention, you`ll notice how well they communicate and how much they understand without ever uttering a word.


why do babies cry
Listen and you will know!

I suggest breathing to calm yourself while you hold your crying baby and repeat this mantra:

“This is not an emergency. My baby is crying because he is telling me something.”

“I am his mother and I will understand him. I have ways to help him and I will figure out which one to use.”

If you can`t seem to get a grip on your frustration, definitely ask for help!

You can always let another person hold your little munchkin until you take a breather.

It`s okay to feel that way! Crying is exhausting and even stressful for a sleep-deprived inexperienced first-timer. (for a third timer too, who are we kidding?)

In these situations, taking a short break is all you need to be able to keep on keeping on. (make mental note for the future: she will be a teenager one day…)

7. None of these reasons

Sometimes you have done everything right and your baby still cries.

Babies cry. And yes, sometimes for no apparent reason or for reasons you cannot help any more than you already are doing.

Often times, even the most difficult babies seem to improve just with time.

A baby’s stomach starts making more enzymes as his body prepares for solid foods around 4 months old. Colic and belly aches tend to diminish around this time.

Babies also become more interested in the world so you can distract them a little more.

But based on my experience with 3 kids, the “little” years are tough and on some days there is no right answer.

Some days you just survive.

Other days you win and enjoy.

Accepting that this new phase you entered is like riding a roller coaster will help you ride out the ups and downs a little smoother.

Keep getting to know your baby and pay attention to these 7 common reasons why babies cry. Now you know what to do about it!

How do you soothe your baby? What method worked best for you?

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why do babies cry