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Don't Understand Why Baby Is Crying?

Dr. Kalpesh Patil 90% (63 ratings)
M.Ch - Paediatric Surgery, MNAMS (Membership of the National Academy) (General Surgery) , DNB (General Surgery), MBBS
Pediatrician, Pune  •  13 years experience
Don't Understand Why Baby Is Crying?

All babies cry sometimes. It's perfectly normal. Most small babies cry for between one hour and three hours each day.

Your baby can't do anything for herself and relies on you to provide her with the food, warmth and comfort that she needs. Crying is your baby's way of communicating any or all of those needs and ensuring a response from you.

It's sometimes hard to work out what your baby is telling you. But in time you will learn to recognize what your baby needs. And as your baby grows she'll learn other ways of communicating with you. She'll get better at eye contact, making noises and smiling, all of which reduce her need to cry for attention.


In the meantime, if your baby is difficult to soothe, she may be trying to say:

I'm hungry

Hunger is one of the most common reasons that your newborn baby will cry. The younger your baby is, the more likely it is that she's hungry.

Your baby's small stomach can't hold very much, so if she cries, try offering her some milk. She may be hungry, even if her last feed doesn't seem very long ago. It's likely that you will be feeding often and regularly in the first day or so to help your breastmilk to come in anyway. If you are formula feeding your baby she may not be hungry if she has been fed within the last two hours.

I need my nappy changed

Your baby may protest if her clothes are too tight or if a wet or soiled nappy is bothering her. Or she may not mind if her nappy is full and may actually enjoy the warm and comfortable feeling. But if your baby's tender skin is being irritated, she will most likely cry.

I'm too cold or too hot

Your baby may hate having her nappy changed or being bathed. She may not be used to the feeling of cold air on her skin and would rather be bundled up and warm. But you will soon learn how to perform a quick nappy change if this is the case.

Take care not to overdress your baby, or she may become too hot. She will generally need to wear one more layer of clothing than you to be comfortable.

Use sheets and cellular blankets as beddings in your baby's cot or moses basket. You can check whether your baby is too hot or too cold by feeling her tummy. If her tummy feels too hot, remove a blanket, and if it feels cold, add one.

Don't be guided by your baby's hands or feet, as they usually feel cool. Keep your baby's room at a temperature of between 22 and 25 degrees c depending on the weather.

If your baby is co-sleeping with you, contact with your body will elevate her skin temperature so she's likely to be warm. Is she is using a cot, place her down to sleep on her back with her feet at the end of the cot. That way she can't wriggle too far down under the blankets and become too hot.

I need to be held

Your baby will need lots of cuddling, physical contact and reassurance to comfort her. So it may be that she just wants to be held. Try a baby sling to keep her close to you, perhaps swaying and singing to her while you hold her.

You may be worried about spoiling your baby if you hold her too much. But during the first few months of her life that's not possible. Small babies need lots of physical comfort. If you hold your baby close she may be soothed by hearing your heartbeat.

I'm tired and need a rest

Often, babies find it hard to get to sleep, particularly if they are over-tired. You will soon become aware of your baby's sleep cues. Whining and crying at the slightest thing, staring blankly into space, and going quiet and still are just three examples.

If your baby has received a lot of attention and cuddles from doting visitors, she may become over-stimulated. Then, when it comes to sleeping, she'll find it hard to switch off and settle. Take your baby somewhere calm and quiet to help her to settle down. Read more on establishing good sleeping habits.

I need something to make me feel better

Be aware of changes in your baby. If she's unwell, she'll probably cry in a different tone to her usual cry. It may be weaker, more urgent, continuous, or high-pitched. And if your baby usually cries a lot but has become unusually quiet, it may be a sign that she's not well.

Nobody knows your baby as well as you do. If you feel that there may be something wrong with her, speak to your doctor and discuss your concerns. Call the doctor if your baby has difficulty breathing through the crying, or if the crying is accompanied by a fever, diarrohea, or constipation.

I need something. But I don't know what

Sometimes you might not be able to figure out what's wrong when your baby cries. Many newborns go through patches of fretfulness and are not easily comforted. The unhappiness can range from a few minutes of hard-to-console crying to several hours at a stretch, an almost constant state of crying that is sometimes called colic. Colic is defined as inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day, for at least three days a week.

Many parents find it very difficult to cope with a baby who has colic, and it can put a strain on the whole family. There is no magic cure for colic, but it rarely lasts for more than three months.

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