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Why do Newborns Babies Cry?

Why do Newborns  Babies Cry?

The sound of a newborn baby crying can be such a shock to the system if you haven't had much to do with babies. It can feel impossible to stop the crying, adding to the stress of a new baby.

Many baby books advise that babies cry for hours a day and there's not a lot you can do about it. We don't think that advice is very helpful!

In our experience and research in most cases you can actually do a lot to calm newborn crying, which makes life with a baby far easier.

There are 2 essential skills to calming crying:

  • Identifying the reason your baby is crying

  • Learning techniques to calm crying (and help your baby fall asleep).

Identifying the reason your baby is crying

If you know why your baby is crying, you are much more likely to be successful with your calming. Here are the most common reasons newborn babies cry:

She's hungry

Your baby may show signs she is hungry, such as fussing or grizzling, opening her mouth, making noises, and rooting around for your breast if you pick her up. So you may quickly learn to feed her before she gets really upset.

Until then, checking to see if she's hungry is a good first step when your baby cries. Food might not stop her crying right away, but let her keep eating if she wants to. She'll stop once her stomach is full.

Sticking to the feed/awake time/sleep routine also helps you know when your baby is hungry, as you will feed her when she wakes. So if she is crying at any other time, chances are it's not hunger. If you feed your baby when she's not hungry, she may end up over-tired or with a sore tummy from eating too much.


  • Feed your baby!

She's tired (or over-tired)

This is the next most common reason babies cry, and the one most new parents most often miss. If your baby is fed and has been out of bed for 45-60 minutes or more, then she will be getting tired and ready for bed.

If you are observing your baby's behaviour, you will spot a tired sign or two before she starts really crying. These include jerky leg or arm movements, glazed stare or grizzling. However if you miss these early signs your baby is tired, she is likely to start really crying within 5-10 minutes and may seem impossible to calm down.


This is the next most common reason babies cry, and the one most new parents most often miss. If your baby is fed and has been out of bed for 45-60 minutes or more, then she will be getting tired and ready for bed.

The more over-tired your baby becomes, the harder she will be to get to sleep. Some over-tired babies go past crying, and become hyper wide awake...staying awake for hours. This is not good either, as your baby will be missing essential sleep she needs.


She needs a clean nappy

Some babies let you know right away when they need to be changed. Others don't mind when their diapers are soiled — it's warm and comfortable to them. (Parents are often surprised when they pick up their infant and find she's been sitting in a dirty nappy and never made a sound.) Either way, this one is easy to check and simple to remedy.


  • Change your baby's nappy.

  • It can also help to use an Embe or SwaddleMe wrap, so you can keep her top half wrapped while you change her nappy, as newborns often hate the cold feeling of being undressed.

She's too cold or hot

Newborns like to be swaddled and kept warm. As a rule, they need one more layer than you need to be comfortable. So when your baby feels cold, like when you remove her clothes to change her, she'll express her discomfort by crying.  

However be careful that you don't overdress her, since she's less likely to complain about being too warm than about being too cold and won't cry about it as vigorously. Overheating is one of the main risk factors for SIDS.

If your baby is too hot, she will look red and feel hot or sweaty to touch.


  • Check your baby's temperature by feeling on her ears or chest. If she feels cool to the touch, add another layer of clothing or a blanket.

  • Babies generally aren't bothered by cold hands, even if it bothers you!

  • If your baby is red or sweaty, take a layer off.

  • Use natural fabrics such as merino wool and cotton, as these breathe and allow your baby to cool down more easily if she gets too warm.


Some babies are really bothered by wind, and others far less so. One indicator of wind is a baby that was settled in bed then starts crying after 5-10 minutes.


  • Try picking your baby up, have a firm cuddle with some pressure on her tummy, and chances are that last little burp will come up. Read about burping techniques.

  • Try some gripe water if your baby often has trouble with wind, or see your chemist for other options.

  • See the Baby Whispering DVD for a range of burping techniques demonstrated.

  • Swaddle your baby firmly and walk round with her resting on your shoulder.

  • However we find that often wind is blamed for a crying baby when it's far more likely to be tiredness.

She wants a cuddle

Babies need a lot of cuddling. They like to see their parents' faces, hear their voices, and listen to their heartbeats, and can even detect their unique smell (especially Mum's milk).

After being fed, burped, and changed, many babies simply want to be held. You may wonder if you'll "spoil" your child by holding her so much, but during the first few months of life that isn't possible.

Infants vary a lot in how much they want to be held. Some demand a lot of attention, while others can spend long periods of time sitting calmly by themselves. If your baby likes the attention, pick her up, wear her in a front carrier or sling, or place her next to you in a bouncinette or lying next to you.


  • Cuddles!

  • Recognise that your baby wants close contact and cuddles, and put everything aside. Yes there are lots of other things that need doing, but you can get to them when your baby is calm or sleeping.

  • Try your baby in a sling or front pack.

Baby is over-stimulated

While newborns often thrive on attention, they can easily become overstimulated and have a meltdown. You may find that your baby cries longer than usual after spending a holiday with many adoring family members or has periods at the end of each day when she seems to cry for no reason.

Newborns have difficulty processing all the stimulation they receive — the lights, the noise, being passed from hand to hand — and can become overwhelmed by too much activity.

Crying is their way of saying, "I've had enough." This usually happens when your baby is over-tired.


  • Use our information on Tips to help your newborn fall asleep.

  • Be aware that an over-tired or very over-stimulated baby may need a lot more help to wind down and fall asleep.

  • But persevere with your settling efforts, as you don't want her to get even more tired!!!

  • Take a look at how your baby became so over-tired, so you can try to avoid that situation in future.

She doesn't feel good

If you've just fed your baby and checked that she's comfortable (she can be troubled by something as subtle as a hair wrapped around her toe or a clothing tag that's poking her), but she's still crying, consider checking her temperature to make sure she isn't ill.

The cry of a sick baby tends to be distinct from the hunger or frustration cry, and you'll soon learn when your baby's cries "just don't sound right" and she needs to be taken to the doctor.


  • If you think your baby is hot from a fever, take her temperature and consult your doctor.

  • Follow the information on helping your baby fall asleep, as often some extra sleep will make your baby feel better!


Sometimes you might not be able to figure out what's wrong. Many newborns develop periods of fussiness when they're not easily soothed. These fussy periods can range from a few minutes of crying to full-blown colic.

Colic is defined as inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day and at least three days a week, for 3 weeks or more. Even if your baby isn't crying this much, these episodes may be really stressful and you will feel awful for your baby being so upset.


  • We believe that often Colic is diagnosed when a baby is actually just exhausted. If you continue to miss your baby's tired signs, she will become over-tired, and this snow-balls over days to become uncontrollable crying.

  • Swaddling and white noise are very effective with Colic.

  • Carrying your baby in a comfy wrap or carrier can be very helpful

  • Also see our information on Colic and helping your baby to fall asleep..

General solutions for a crying baby

  • The techniques to calm crying are generally the same as the ones we recommend to help a baby fall asleep. Click here for details.

  • If your baby is really tired or worked up, it will take some time for your calming techniques to work and you may need to combine many of the techniques outlined in the above article. Be confident you can learn the skills to calm your baby...even if it can feel impossible and horribly stressful at times.

  • Know how to recognise when your baby is tired, as you can then avoid much of your baby's crying.

  • We highly recommend you watch The Happiest Baby DVD if you want to learn techniques to calm your baby's crying. Use effective swaddling, white noise and a dummy as the absolute minimum!

If the crying is really getting to you

If you know your baby's needs have been met and you've tried to calm her but she's still crying, take some time out so you don't get too exasperated:

  • Put your baby down in a safe place, such as her cot.

  • If you haven't tried white noise yet, do it NOW. Get your vacuum cleaner and leave it running under your baby's cot.

  • Call a friend or relative and ask for advice.

  • Make a cup of tea and eat some chocolate (or a healthy snack!)

  • Put on some music to distract yourself.

  • Give yourself a break and let someone else take over.

  • Go for a walk in the garden & get some fresh air.

  • Take deep breaths.

  • Remind yourself that nothing is wrong with your baby and crying won't hurt her — she may just need to wind down and fall asleep if you have already used all your calming techniques.

  • Whatever you do, don't take your frustration out on your baby by shaking her.


Fortunately, babies (and their parents) are resilient and somehow manage to get through even the most difficult crying episodes. Take heart that by the time your baby is 8 to 12 weeks old, she'll be better able to soothe herself and much of the crying will stop.

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