Why Babies Cry

Soothing a Crying Baby - Why Do They Cry

Crying is a natural event; crying is how babies communicate their needs to the world.

​Consider that crying for a new baby is not an emotional experience, it’s a physical one. It is the only way a baby can let us know they require attention. This is not surprising – remember, your baby is getting use to a whole new world during his first year of life outside the womb.

There are many reasons why babies cry. Use this checklist below to help you recognise your baby’s confusing cries. Within weeks you will come to understand a hungry cry, a cry of discomfort, a tired cry etc.

  • In a newborn, crying usually means a baby is hungry - Have you missed a feed? Remember to keep up with your feeding routine
  • Too hot or too cold - Place your hand on your infant’s chest and back to see if they feel hot and clammy, or maybe too cool
  • Lonely - Physical contact is essential in the first weeks. Cuddle your baby and settle back to sleep
  • Needs a nappy change - Always check your baby’s nappy. Generally, a newborn is only uncomfortable with a wet/dirty nappy if hungry
  • Unwell - Consult your doctor if your baby has a fever, poor appetite, is listless, very restless, or crying continuously, not responding to any form of comfort as he may be unwell

In an older baby crying can also mean:

  • Overtired, over-excited
  • Babies tire easily and constant attention can cause them to become unsettled and over-stimulated
  • Bored
  • Babies have a short attention span and infrequent interaction can cause them distress. Chatting to them and gently playing with them is important during their developing years
  • Wind /colic /upset tummy /reflux
If you sense your baby has problems bringing up wind or you suspect any digestive problems, talk to your health visitor or GP. Medication and supplements are available to assist with these problems.

Below are some ideas to help soothe a crying baby:

  • Gently rock baby in your arms
  • Gently rock baby in his crib
  • Play soothing music or just sing softly
  • Walk slowly with baby’s head on your shoulder and gently pat your infant’s back
  • As you rock and pat your baby say rhythmically and quite loudly ‘shush’ ‘shush’ ‘shush’
  • Involve your partner/husband – they also need to get to know how to manage their little one
  • Take baby outdoors for a walk in his pram or sling
  • Just sit quietly for ten minutes once baby is fed and swaddled for sleep
Babies are creatures of habit and although these are all methods used frequently by parents and carers, it is advisable to vary your soothing methods to avoid forming habits which baby could become attached to e.g. using a dummy, which we will discuss in another section.

​It can help to make noises similar to those heard while in the womb. Here are some of these noises listed below:

  • Noise of a vacuum cleaner
  • Washing machine
  • Hair dryer
  • The shushing sound is also very soothing to a baby and a way of you communicating to your little one that it is time to settle down and go to sleep
  • White noise - you can download a white noise app or purchase a white noise sleeping aid for example Ewan the SweetDreamer
Although it may be small consolation in the early hours of the morning when your infant is distressed and you are tired, most babies settle into a feeding and sleeping routine and cry less after three months.

Confusing as this all may seem, there are many mothers like you up in the small hours feeding their baby. The time will pass quickly and you will move on to another stage more confidently.​

Key Points To Take Away

  • Crying is one way babies communicate
  • Crying is a physical experience for a baby
  • Use the above crying checklist to see why your baby is crying
  • See above methods to soothe your crying baby
  • Babies are creatures of habit, if one technique does not work vary your soothing techniques
  • Make noises similar to those the baby heard in the womb
  • Remember, from around three months, baby cries less because generally feeding habits and sleeping routines are established