The truth is, all babies cry, and little ones cry for all sorts of reasons. Newborn babies will commonly cry for two to three hours a day. And while it’s normal, whenever a baby cries, it can be distressing for everyone involved.
Sometimes, babies just cry for crying’s sake, but often, it can be that they’re trying to tell you something.
Common reasons babies cry
Let’s run through some of the reasons babies cry, and what you can do to help soothe them.
We can all relate to feeling a little ‘hangry’, and babies are no different! Even if you feel like you’ve only just fed them, their tummy is only small and they have a lot of developing and growing to do, which uses up a lot of energy!
Try to use paced feeding and feed responsively according to their hunger cues. These cues make it easier to know when your baby needs a feed before they start to cry. They include…
- rooting for your breast
- licking their lips
- putting their fists in their mouth
- becoming agitated
A tired baby is often a grumpy and irritated one – just like adults! If your baby is crying and seems to be getting overly upset over small things, the chances are that they’re tired and could do with a snooze.
To get them to sleep before they become overtired and teary, you can look out for the following sleep cues…
- rubbing their eyes
- staring blankly into the distance
Does your baby need their nappy changed, are they overstimulated or being irritated by a loud noise, or are they too hot or cold?
There are lots of environmental factors that can make a baby cry. So, always make sure they’re comfortable and that their surroundings aren’t too overwhelming.
Sometimes little ones can feel a bit lonely or bored, and they just want to be cuddled in close to you! Babies love feeling secure and one-on-one time with their parents is key. So, if they seem fussy and are crying, distracting them with some playtime or reading them a story could help turn their sobs into smiles.
Feeling in pain or unwell
Consider whether your baby need to be winded, are teething, or are they just feeling under the weather?
Remember that you know your little one best, so if you do think they’re in pain or unwell, trust your instinct and don’t hesitate to seek advice from your health visitor or doctor. Keeping a diary of how much and when your baby cries can be helpful if you ask a doctor for advice.
They’re picking up on your emotions
Babies are very intuitive. If their parents are feeling a little run down and stressed, those emotions can easily be passed on to their baby.
Why is my baby crying so much?
If you’ve ruled out all the above points and your little one is still crying, the reason for their upset could be colic.
Colic commonly affects babies from a few weeks old to around four months but can still happen up to six months of age. The NCT defines it as repeated episodes where your baby cries excessively and inconsolably, despite otherwise being healthy. These colic episodes can last for over three hours per day, over three days per week, and for at least one week. Another reason for your baby inconsolably crying could be that they’re going through what’s sometimes called the period of PURPLE crying – a perfectly normal stage of development that’s sometimes mistaken for colic.
PURPLE crying is a stage of crying that can last up to five hours a day. It has nothing to do with the colour purple, and is short for:
- Peak of crying – Your baby is crying more often each week. They will cry the most in month two, then this will reduce into months three to five.
- Unexpected – Their crying can be on and off, with no clear explanation as to why.
- Resists soothing – Despite your best efforts to comfort and reassure them, your baby may not stop crying.
- Pain-like face – A baby in this stage may appear to be in pain with their facial expression, even when they’re perfectly fine.
- Long lasting – Their crying can continue for as much as five hours per day, or longer.
- Evening – Your baby will cry more in the late afternoon and evening.
How to cope with a crying baby
Talking to other parents about how they cope during times when their baby cries can let you know that others are going through the same thing – and you’re not alone.
Remember that if you become overwhelmed or feel like you can’t cope when your baby cries, it’s perfectly ok to pass them to someone you trust or put them down somewhere where they’re safe and have 10 minutes out to allow yourself to calm down.
No matter how frustrated or upset you feel, you should never shake your baby. If you feel like you need some additional support to cope when your baby cries, you can ask your health visitor about local support resources.
How to soothe a crying baby
If you’re looking for ways to soothe your crying baby, the following points may help turn sobs into smiles:
Small babies have short attention spans. So, if you can distract them while they’re crying, there’s a good chance that they’ll soon forget why they were crying in the first place! You could try popping on some music, taking them into another room or the garden for a change of scenery, or using a rattle or toy to grab their attention.
Shush and sing to them
You don’t have to have an amazing voice to sing to your baby. Remember that they love your voice and find it soothing. Sometimes a quiet, whispered lullaby will do the trick. Other times, the sillier the song the better!
Let them suckle at your breast
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you may find that letting them suckle will help them relax, even if they don’t feed. If you’re not breastfeeding, try giving them a soother to suck on.
Play some white noise
If you’re wanting your baby to settle down to sleep, white (or pink) noise can help to calm them and stop them from crying.
Go for a walk or drive
Most babies find motion soothing, so going out for a walk or a short drive can help settle them. Try not to stress if they wake up when you stop – at least they’ve had some sleep and you’ve had a little break too!
Carry them close to you
Using a sling to carry your baby close as you sway gently and rock them from side to side or practising some skin-to-skin contact can help babies to feel safe and secure.
Give them a warm bath
Some babies find bath time relaxing and calming, whereas others will cry even more during a bath. Try it out and see if it works for your little one!
Give them a comfort object
Some older babies and toddlers love having a cuddly toy to snuggle with when they’re a little upset. They can also be great to soothe cries when you’re out and about or in an unfamiliar environment.
Why babies cry – FAQs
Why is my baby crying in their sleep?
Babies have different sleep patterns to adults, and they can alternate between non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement sleep, which is the active phase of sleep where dreams, movement and sometimes tears happen.
If your little one is crying in their sleep, try leaving them for a moment or two and see if they settle themselves before you go to soothe them.
Why is my baby’s cry high pitched?
A cry that’s very high-pitched, sharp, short, and loud usually indicates that a baby is in pain and can be associated with severe or chronic illness. If your baby’s cry is high-pitched, seek advice from your doctor.
Why is my baby’s crying raspy?
If your baby’s cry sounds raspy or barky, they could have croup. As well as an unusual sounding cry, they will typically also have cold-like symptoms, including a cough, runny nose, and high temperature.
When do babies stop crying?
All parents go through hard times with crying, but it can be reassuring to know that by the time little ones hit the six-month mark, they gradually begin to cry less.
As they get older, they’ll be able to communicate how they’re feeling more easily. And while there will undoubtedly be tears at some point during every stage of their development, the difficult phase of constant crying during their early months won’t last forever.