Why Do Babies Cry?

Five Basic Reasons

After studying cries, sounds, and motions of more than 100 babies globally, experts discovered a universal pattern and identified the different types of cries a baby uses to communicate feelings, such as alarm, hunger, thirst, discomfort, colic, fear, etc.

All these emotions and feelings can be placed into five basic categories:

Hunger

Behavior: When hungry or thirsty, babies will cry energetically in demanding tones. Although not intense at first, the cry becomes more rhythmic in time. The baby also shakes its head and waves it arms, gently kicking. The baby may also clench its fists and try to suck its wrists if its hands are placed near its face. Its body is not stiff.

Solution(s):

  • Breastfeed or give the baby its bottle.
  • If older than four months, offer the baby water.

Boredom

Behavior: When bored, a baby often begins moaning, which can turn into screams if not attended to or stimulated. The baby will also shake its head, move its arms and gently kick. It will not clench its fists, try to suck its wrists when placed by its face or stiffen its body.

Solution(s):

  • Pick up the baby – your presence alone provides a response.
  • Cradle the baby in your arms and walk or dance while cuddling its body.
  • Play music or a selection of nature sounds. Turn the washing machine on or let water run for a few minutes. Babies enjoy rhythmic sounds.
  • Quietly sing, talk or read to your baby.
  • Offer your baby a rattle or an appropriate and safe toy that makes noise.
  • Soothe and comfort your baby with a warm bath.
  • Massage your baby's body, hands and feet. Lovingly stroke its face while talking or singing softly.
  • Lay your baby face down, massaging its tummy with one hand and stroking its back with the other to provide stimulation.
  • Always check for signs of illness, such as a raised body temperature, swollen gums, etc. Consult with your doctor immediately to determine the appropriate treatment.

Discomfort/Pain (Annoyed)

Behavior: When in discomfort or pain, a baby will give out a long, drawn-out whine and then pause while holding its breath. The baby will then pant in short bursts before whining again. It will also shake its head, wave its arms, kick, clench its fists and try to suck its wrists if placed near its face. The baby's body will stiffen and may pass gas or produce intestinal noises.

Solution(s):

  • Check to see if the baby's diaper is dirty and change it on a soft, comfortable mat. Check for diaper rash.
  • Make sure the baby's clothes are not too tight and that the baby is not uncomfortable; make sure the baby's toes are not bent or pressed by its clothing.
  • If you suspect gas, it's a good idea to burp the baby or gently massage its tummy.
  • If the baby exhibits signs of constipation, it is recommended to stimulate its anus with a damp sponge.
  • Check that the baby's surroundings are comfortable.
  • Give the baby a pacifier, ring or another appropriate teething item.
  • Lay your baby face down, massaging its tummy with one hand and stroking its back with the other.
  • Soothe your baby with a warm bath.
  • Always check for signs of illness, such as raised body temperature, swollen gums, etc. Consult with your doctor immediately to determine the appropriate treatment.

Tiredness/Sleepiness

Behavior: When tired, the baby will wail or whimper softly. Crying may increase with stimulation. The baby may wave its arms and kick gently. The baby will not shake its head, clench its fists, or try to suck on its wrists when near the face. The baby's body will not stiffen. The baby may rub its eyes.

Solution(s):

  • Place the baby in a proper position if it is lying down.
  • Place the baby in an appropriate rocker or rock the baby back and forth while holding it in the fetal position.
  • Play music or a selection of nature sound. Turn the washing machine on or let water run for a few minutes. Babies enjoy rhythmic sounds.
  • Read your baby a story or speak to it softly.
  • Hold the baby in a comfortable position, cuddled against your body or chest so that it can hear your slow, relaxed breathing to calm the baby.
  • Massage your baby's body, hands and feet. Lovingly stroke its face while talking or singing softly.

Nervousness/Stress

Behavior: When stressed, your baby will release an intense, short scream that fluctuates. This is most likely to happen in the evening. Your baby will appear to be inconsolable, shaking his head, opening its mouth often and waving its arms. The baby will also gesture and frown, clench its fists, suck its wrists when placed near its face, and stiffen its body. The baby may pass gas or produce intestinal noises.

Solution(s):

  • Take the baby into a quiet room or in a place with dim atmospheric lighting; talk to your baby quietly and rock it while holding it in the fetal position.
  • Place your baby in a warmed blanket. This will provide feelings of security and comfort.
  • Hold the baby in a comfortable position, cuddled against your body so that it can hear your slow, relaxed breathing. This is a soothing mechanism.
  • Give your baby a quiet, warm bath. The water's temperature will calm your baby.
  • Massage your baby's body, hands and feet. Lovingly stroke its face while talking or singing softly.
  • It is recommended you avoid or eliminate any lactose (lactic proteins) from your baby's diet by either choosing lactose-free formulas or by modifying the mother's diet when breastfeeding. Your baby may suffer from lactose intolerance. Always check with your pediatrician first before making any long-term dietary modifications.