Skip to content

Health & Baby

Font Size

Soothing Your Crying Baby

By
WebMD Feature

Babies cry. That's a fact of life. But as a parent, you want to do whatever you can to make your bundle of joy, well....a bit more joyful. And let's face it, a crying baby doesn't do much for your nerves either.

Some babies cry more than others, but they all do cry, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care. Why? "Simply put," says Pantley, "babies cry because they cannot talk. Babies are human beings, and they have needs and desires, just as we do, but they can't express them...their cries are the only way they can say, 'Help me! Something isn't right here!"

Your Crying Baby: What's He Trying to Say?

Babies have individual temperaments, just like adults do, says pediatrician Myron Rosen M.D. of Baylor Medical Center at Garland.

As you get to know your baby, you'll become the expert in understanding your own baby's cries, Pantley says, "Over time, you'll recognize particular cries as if they were spoken words." In addition to these cry signals, you often can determine why your baby is crying by the situation surrounding him. Some of the reasons for a crying baby are:

  • Hunger: If three or four hours have passed since his last feeding, if he has just woken up, or if he has just had a very full diaper and he begins to cry, he's probably hungry. A feeding will most likely turn a crying baby into a contented one.
  • Tiredness: Look for these signs: decreased activity, losing interest in people and toys, rubbing eyes, looking glazed, and the most obvious, yawning. If you notice any of these in your crying baby, he may just need to sleep.
  • Discomfort: If a baby is uncomfortable--too wet, hot, cold, squished-- he'll typically squirm or arch his back when he cries, as if trying to get away from the source of his discomfort. Try to figure out what's causing his distress and solve the problem.
  • Pain: A cry of pain is sudden and shrill, just like when an adult or older child cries out when they get hurt. It may include long cries followed by a pause during which your crying baby appears to stop breathing. He then catches his breath and lets out another long cry.Check your baby's temperature and undress him so you can check his body for any obvious sources of pain or discomfort.
  • Overstimulation: If the room is noisy, people are trying to get your baby's attention, rattles are rattling, music boxes are playing, and your baby suddenly closes her eyes and cries (or turns her head away), she may be overwhelmed by all that's going on around her and wants to find some peace. Take her out of the situation and spend some quiet time together.
  • Illness: A weak, moaning cry may indicate that your baby is sick. This is his way of saying, "I feel awful." If your baby seems ill, look for any signs of sickness and call your healthcare provider.
  • Frustration. Your baby is just learning how to control her hands, arms, and feet. She may be trying to get her fingers into her mouth or to reach a particularly interesting toy, but her body isn't cooperating. She cries out of frustration, because she can't accomplish what she wants to do. All she needs is a little help.
  • Loneliness: If your baby falls asleep feeding and you place her in her crib, but she wakes soon afterward with a cry, she may be saying that she misses the warmth of your embrace and doesn't like to be alone. Cuddling her back to sleep should do the trick.
  • Worry or fear. If your baby suddenly finds himself in the arms of Great Aunt Matilda and his happy cooing turns to crying, he's trying to tell you that he's scared. He doesn't know this new person, and he wants Mommy or Daddy. Explain to Auntie that he needs a little time to warm up to someone new, and try letting the two of them get to know each other while you hold your baby in your arms.
  • Boredom. Your baby has been sitting in his infant seat for 20 minutes while you talk and eat lunch with a friend. He's not tired, hungry or uncomfortable, but he starts a whiny, fussy cry. He may be saying that he's bored and needs something new to look at or touch. Turning his seat so he can see something new or giving him a toy to hold may help.
  • Colic. If your baby cries inconsolably for long periods every day, he may have colic. Babies with "colic" will cry for several hours a day, usually in the evenings, says Rosen. They are fine at other times of the day, and they eat and grow well. No one knows what causes colic, says Rosen, but one theory is that it is a way for the baby to "vent" after a long day of new experiences and stimuli. Just like adults, babies have differing abilities to tolerate new experiences. Whatever the cause of colic, you'll be happy to know that it doesn't usually last past 4 months of age, Rosen says.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
Mother with baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
 
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.
 

mother holding baby at night
ARTICLE
mother with sick child
QUIZ
 
baby with pacifier
VIDEO
Track Your Babys Vaccines
TOOL
 
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Slideshow
Woman holding feet up to camera
Article
 
Father kissing newborn baby
Article
baby gear slideshow
Slideshow