Why do babies cry? Essentially, to get your attention.
As your newborn can’t yet communicate with you with words, emojis, morse code, or any other method, crying is their only option.
Sadly, there’s no dictionary to help you interpret exactly what each cry means.
But you’ll soon become an expert detective—able to spot the tiny clues that unlock the meaning of a crying episode.
Here, we’ve got 12 possible reasons a baby might cry, along with some tips to help you soothe them.
In this article 📝
- Is it normal for babies to cry a lot?
- Why do babies cry? 12 possible reasons
- Why do babies cry for no reason?
Is it normal for babies to cry a lot?
In their first few weeks of life, babies really like to exercise their lungs.
It’s totally normal for a newborn to cry for as much as three hours a day.
The good news is that, typically, babies reach their crying peak around seven weeks old.
After that, it may start to ease off.
But why do babies cry so much when they’re newborns?
Well, as we mentioned above, it’s really their only way of communicating with you right now.
Whether they want to tell you they’re hungry, hot, or just unhappy, crying is all they’ve got.
And, of course, they’re still adjusting to being out in the world, rather than the safe, predictable environment of your uterus.
Soon (we know, it can’t come soon enough) your baby will learn other ways of showing their needs—starting with facial expressions and physical gestures, and moving on, eventually, to words.
And you’ll get ever better at understanding their language, too.
It’s a team effort.
Why do babies cry? 12 possible reasons
First, let’s look at some of the most common reasons babies cry day-to-day:
Yes, it’s the classic “feed me” cry.
You might start to recognize its unique sound, which can be rhythmic and low-pitched.
If you learn to interpret other, earlier signs that your baby is hungry, you might actually be able to start the feed before they begin to cry (win!).
Signs include: sucking on their hand, smacking their lips, and showing the “rooting reflex” (turning their head in search of your breast or the bottle).
We all get a bit cranky when we’re sleep-deprived, and babies are no exception.
Your little one might cry because they want to be put down for a nap, or if they can’t get themselves to sleep once they’re in their crib.
To soothe your baby to sleep, try swaddling them, rocking them in your arms, or singing a gentle lullaby.
And while we’re here: Why do babies cry in* their sleep?*
It’s likely to be their way of expressing whatever sensations they’re feeling in their body as they sleep.
If nothing in particular is wrong, they’ll probably stop crying after a while and keep sleeping.
If they’re crying because they’re in pain (from teething or illness, for example), they’re likely to wake up and cry more to get your attention.
3. Diaper change alert
Take a quick look in your baby’s diaper to see if it’s wet or dirty.
A change should make them feel more comfortable and, hopefully, stop them crying.
4. A good burp needed
Crying might mean your baby has swallowed some extra air, which has made them uncomfortable.
This can happen after feeding, sucking on a pacifier, a bout of hiccups, or even crying.
Talk about irony.
Burping them should sort this out.
Take a look at our tips on how to burp a baby.
5. Too hot or cold
Try removing a layer of clothing if it’s a hot day or adding one if it’s a cool day.
Your baby might simply be crying because they’ve gotten a little too warm or too cold.
6. They just want you
Your baby loves to be cuddled and held by you.
In fact, being close to you and interacting with you in this intimate way is essential for their brain development.
And it helps the two of you to build a strong bond together.
So, your little one’s cries may just mean: “I want to spend time with you.” ❤️
When your baby is in a new environment that’s a lot busier or noisier than they’re used to, this can lead to them getting overstimulated.
And how do they communicate this?
You’ve guessed it: crying.
If you can, take them to a quiet, familiar place where they can relax for a while.
This should help to soothe them.
8. They’re uncomfortable
If you can’t find an obvious source for your baby’s cries, check around for small things that could be irritating them.
Anything from a lump in their mattress, to a hair caught in their onesie, to a sunbeam reflecting onto the crib.
Okay, so those were eight of the most common reasons why babies cry.
Let’s now turn to a few situations that could cause extra crying and what you can do to help.
9. Feeding issues
Does your baby cry around feeding time?
And with breastfeeding, you could see if improving their latch will help them settle down.
Another reason for crying during a feed could be reflux, where your baby brings milk back up again.
Mild reflux is common but get in touch with your doctor if your baby seems really distressed.
Or if they have any other symptoms, such as refusing to eat at all, frequent vomiting, or not putting on weight.
Along with crying, signs that teething has begun include drooling (a lot) and chewing (anything they can find).
Try soothing their pain with a gum massage or by letting them chew on a teether toy.
Colic is still a bit of a mystery to doctors.
It’s a condition where your baby is otherwise healthy, but they go through super intense bouts of crying—for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, more than three weeks running.
No one is sure what exactly is behind the crying.
It could be digestive upset, allergies, or even headaches.
So, all you can do is try to soothe your baby and wait for the crying to pass.
Fortunately, there’s a time limit on colic.
It tends to peak around six weeks and stop completely when your baby is three to four months old.
If your baby is crying constantly and can’t be soothed, or their cries sound different from usual, it’s a good plan to get in touch with your doctor – especially if there are any other symptoms, such as a fever or vomiting.
They’ll be able to check your baby over and decide whether they need treatment.
Why do babies cry for no reason?
Even if you can’t find a specific reason for your baby’s cries, it’s likely that there still is one.
It may simply be their way of saying: “I’m a bit unhappy with life today.”
In that situation, you can try just being with your baby, holding them, and reassuring them.
And if the crying seems never-ending, try to find ways to soothe yourself, too.
Pop your baby in their crib and step into another room for a few minutes.
Take a breath, look out the window at the trees, send a message to a mama friend who knows what you’re going through.
You’re doing so well. ❤️
You might also be interested in:
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Baby Sleep Training 101
5 Things I Wish I Knew About Baby Sleep as a First Time Mama
13 Pieces of Advice That New Moms Need to Hear
10 Wine-Free Ways to Practice Self-Care as a New Mom
Diaper Rash: Info, Tips, Tricks, and More
How to Handle Separation Anxiety in Babies
How to Calm a Crying Baby