Baby Cries


In this article we’ll assume your baby is a beautiful little girl and even though your baby can’t talk, she is capable of giving you some clues so as to help you understand what she’s trying to tell you. Since she can’t exactly tell you in the same way you can tell her that you love her, she has to rely on an array of whimpers, cries and all-out screams to get your attention. But it is important to remember, all cries are not created equal.


Babies tend to have different cries to express different needs, desires or emotions. While you might be a natural at cracking the code on some types of crying, new parents benefit from a little guidance. To help you along this path, here are some “crib” notes to help clue you in to what your baby may be saying (or screaming):

1. The ‘I’m hungry’ cry

What to listen for: A rhythmic, repetitive cry, combined with other signals such as rooting for the breast or sucking her fingers.

The solution: Respond to hunger cries quickly so that your baby doesn’t get too worked up. If she’s upset and begins gulping air with her milk, she may trap gas or spit up, which will result in more crying.

2. The ‘I’m in pain’ cry

What to listen for: An ear-piercing, panicked, out-of-the-ordinary cry that comes on suddenly (usually in response to something painful, like a shot). Each cry lasts as long as a few seconds, leaving your baby breathless, and is followed by a long pause as your baby breathes and then repeats a long, high-pitched shriek.

The solution: If your baby is in pain, tend to her immediately. Pick her up and try cuddling or rocking her. If the pain is from gas, she may also bring her knees up to her chest and grunt. You may be able to comfort her by burping her or offering her a pacifier or your clean finger to suck on. The sucking reflex can be soothing remedy.

3. The ‘I’m tired or uncomfortable’ cry

What to listen for: A whiny, nasal, continuous cry that builds in intensity is usually your baby’s signal that she’s had enough (as in, “Nap, please!” — usually accompanied by yawns or eye-rubs) or is otherwise uncomfortable (“Clean diaper, now!” or “Can’t you see I’ve had it with this car seat?”).

The solution: Check for a dirty diaper, and help your baby get as much sleep as she needs (remember that newborns often need up to 16 hours a day).

4. The ‘I’m stressed out’ cry

What to listen for: Get ready for a fussy, whiny cry. She may try to turn her head or body away from over-stimulating sights or sounds.

The solution: When you recognize this cry, try moving your baby away from the noise, movement, visual stimulation or whatever it is that’s stressing her out. A calmer environment, white noise from a fan or vacuum cleaner or a recording of nature sounds, like ocean waves, may help relax her.

5. The ‘I’m bored’ cry

What to listen for: This cry starts out as coos (as baby tries to get a good interaction going), then turns into fussing (when the attention she’s craving isn’t coming), then builds to bursts of indignant crying (“Why are you ignoring me?”), alternating with whimpers (“C’mon, what’s a baby got to do to get a cuddle around here?”).

The solution: Pick your baby up or play with her and you should find the crying stops immediately.

6. The ‘I’ve got colic’ cry

What to listen for: Intense screams, accompanied by fidgeting movements. Colic often occurs in the late afternoon or evening, and the episodes can last for hours. It typically starts at around 3 weeks after birth and goes away by the time baby is 3 to 4 months old.

The solution: While it’s difficult to calm a colicky baby, you can try comforting positions (laying her on her belly on your forearm or across your knees, supporting her head and rubbing her back). You can also try laying her on her back and pushing her knees up to her belly for 10 seconds, then releasing and repeating, in hopes of getting the gas (thought to be a cause of colic) out of her.

7. The ‘I’m sick’ cry

What to listen for: Soft whimpers that are weak and nasal-sounding, with a lower pitch than the “pain” or “overtired” cry — as if baby doesn’t have the energy to pump up the volume. If you suspect your baby is sick, be on the lookout for additional symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor, such as fever, diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, rashes and anything else that seems out-of-the-ordinary for your baby. There’s no sadder cry that tugs harder at parental heartstrings than this one.

The solution: Babies occasionally get sick, and often it’s nothing to worry about. Still, it’s important to trust your instincts. If you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to contact your baby’s doctor.

Keep in mind that your baby may also cry out of discomfort, such as when her diaper is wet or soiled, if she’s too hot, if she’s lonely or if she’s simply bored and wants to move around.


Some newborn crying seems entirely unrelated to basic needs. In fact, 80 to 90 percent of all babies have crying sessions of 15 minutes to an hour that are not easily explained or decoded.

Most of these crying sessions occur in the evening. It may be that this is the most hectic and stressful time of day in the home – everyone’s tired, everyone’s hungry (and mom’s milk supply may be at its lowest level of the day), everyone’s done, done, done – and that goes for baby too.

Or it may be that after a busy day of taking in and processing all the sights, sounds and other stimuli in her environment, baby just needs to unwind with a good cry. Crying for a few minutes may even help her nod off to sleep.


It may seem like a lot to decode, but as your baby becomes a more effective communicator and as you become more proficient at understanding her, she will cry less often, for shorter periods, and will be more easily comforted when she does cry. Hang in there, it does get easier.

Meanwhile, having a repetitive routine can help. If your baby’s day falls into a pattern of feeding, a period of alert play and then sleep, knowing where you are in the cycle can help you determine quickly what your little one needs. If she has a full belly and an empty diaper, she may be ready for a nap or she may just need a cuddle.


There may be times when your baby seems inconsolable, especially if she has colic. Though it can be safely said that even hours of daily crying don’t seem to hurt a baby, it certainly does leave its mark on mom and dad. Listening to a baby’s screams can be irritating and anxiety-provoking, even when you love that baby with all your heart.

Objective studies show that it’s linked to a rise in blood pressure, a speeding up of heartbeats and changes in blood flow to the skin – in other words, it can take a physical and emotional toll. Here are a few strategies that may help you cope with the crying spell:

  • Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that the wailing won’t last forever. If it’s colic, it should typically resolve on its own by about 3 months.
  • Know your limits. If your baby’s crying is really getting to you and you’re worried that you might lose control, set your baby down in a safe place, such as a crib, and move into another room so you can calm yourself down and gather your thoughts. If you need extra help or just someone to listen, don’t hesitate to reach out for additional support from your doctor, a therapist a support group or crisis intervention service.