13 Ways to Recognize & Distinguish Your Baby’s Cries

A crying baby can be one of the most frustrating and frightening experiences for first time parents. It’s important to remember a crying baby is normal, and that it’s the only way a baby has to communicate. In fact, you should want your baby to cry so that you can attend to your baby’s needs. However, for most people the sound of a baby’s cry is unpleasant and often times first time parents’ panic at the sound of their crying baby.

There are differing opinions about letting a baby “cry it out.” In my opinion, leaving a baby alone to cry does not support a baby’s feeling of security in its strange new world. Oftentimes, babies that are left to cry work themselves into frenzy, making it harder for you to calm them or distinguish what’s wrong.

Nowadays, the conventional wisdom is that it’s impossible to “spoil” an infant by attending to its every cry. In fact, doing so may make baby less likely to cry (we’ve all seen and heard the toddlers who yell at their parents – and everyone else – in order to get them to just listen). Young babies aren’t able to manipulate situations, so there’s no way you can spoil them by attending to their needs. After all, why wouldn’t we parents want to shower our babies with unconditionally abundant love?

Here’s a list of 13 reasons why babies cry and the actions you can take to stop your baby’s cries and immediately give them the loving care and safe baby handling they deserve.

Babies usually cry because of the following…

1. Hungry – Feed your crying baby.

2. Wet or soiled diaper – Change your baby.

3. Pain – from a diaper pin, too-tight diaper, elastic band or clothing.

4. Excess wind – Burp your crying baby.

5. Too hot or too cold – Check the back of your baby’s neck or chest area to gauge body temperature and adjust clothing or room temperature accordingly. Your crying baby may be clammy or sweaty if hot and their hands and feet could be slightly bluish if they are cold.

6. Over tired – Try to establish a regular sleep routine and arrange visitors around waking hours.

7. Over stimulated – Stop playing with your crying baby or allowing too many people to handle her. Calm your baby with music or loving touch and encourage rest or sleep.

8. Lonely or bored – Hold your crying baby and give it your undivided attention.

9. Sucky – Let a crying baby suck on your finger or her own fingers or thumb, give her a pacifier or a breast.

10. Anger – Go to your baby quickly if it cries. If you leave a baby crying too long, it will get angry.

11. Scared – perhaps a loud noise or unfamiliar person made your baby cry. Reassure you baby with loving touch. Place your crying baby close to your heart so they are comforted by your familiar heartbeat.

12. Unwell – Rock and sooth a crying baby. If your baby’s skin or eyes look dramatically different, his cries don’t “sound right”, your baby has rapid or shallow breathing or a high fever, and you are worried call your pediatrician.

13. Colicky or crying for no apparent reason (Colicky babies cry for 3 or more hours per day) – Cuddle and sooth your crying baby by playing soft or rhythmical music, sway her, rub her tummy and/or give her skin-to-skin contact. If you are no longer breastfeeding, it is important to note that sometimes a baby can be colicky because they are lactose intolerant. Check with your doctor or homeopath to find out if your baby is allergic to the brand of baby formula you are using.

When the crying starts, quickly run down the above checklist and make sure the baby’s needs are met and there’s no apparent injury. Many times, the baby will calm simply by:

1. Picking up your baby, holding it close to your body in a soft curve, and walking with it or rocking it.

2. Calm your baby with music and slow dancing with your baby by holding her close to your heart.

3. Holding it in a front carrier next to mom’s or dad’s heartbeat (some say babies that are “worn” frequently this way may cry less overall).

4. Loving touch with light massage, stroking your baby’s back or rhythmically patting his bottom.

5. Talking in a soothing, calming voice, and/or giving it a finger, its own hand or a pacifier to suck.

6. Singing lullabies to your crying baby.

Above all, trust yourself with your baby. You and your baby are just beginning to know each other in your baby’s first year. Especially if you are a first time mom, the dramatic lifestyle change and lack of sleep is enough to through you off balance.

The old saying, “mother knows best” is still very appropriate. No matter what advice you read, you must trust your internal mothering instincts first and foremost. However, if a crying baby becomes overwhelming for you, get daddy, a friend or relative to take over for a few hours while you take a break. A simple nap or coffee with a girlfriend will do you a world of good.

Copyright (c) 2006 Deborah Torres Patel