Seven reasons babies cry and how to help soothe them

Learning to understand your baby's cries can help make everybody happier. Here are seven reasons your baby may be crying and tips to help soothe them.

Babies can’t talk so one of the ways they communicate is with tears. If your baby’s crying, chances are they’re too hot, too cold, overtired, want a cuddle, a feed, or their nappy changed. 

Common reasons babies cry

A good way to help figure out what your baby is trying to tell you is to check off some common reasons your baby might be crying.

1. Is your baby hungry? Even if it's not 'time' for a feed, offer a breast or bottle to see if this helps. 

2. Does the nappy need changing?  If your baby still cries after a nappy change, check to see if their skin is red or irritated, as this may be causing discomfort. Use a nappy cream to soothe the area.

3. Is your baby too hot or too cold? Test your baby's tummy too see if it's too hot or too cold. If it's too hot (and they don't have a temperature), remove a blanket to see if that helps. If your baby is cold, add a blanket to warm them up. Your baby's room temperature should be between 16 and 20 degrees C. When it comes to dressing your baby, a good rule to follow is to add one more layer than what you're wearing. 

4. Is your baby tired? Just like adults, babies can find it difficult to sleep if they're overtired or have had too much stimulation. A dark or dimly-lit room, white noise machine and a soothing voice or lullabies can help to send your baby off to sleep peacefully. 

5. Does your baby have wind? If your baby is refusing a bottle and has a clean nappy but is still crying and/or arching their back, they may have wind or colic. If you’re concerned speak to your GP for advice on how to treat this. There are also some over-the-counter treatments so check with your pharmacist. 

6. Does your baby need a cuddle? It's a big wide world out there. Sometimes your baby needs close contact to feel safe and secure. Swinging, patting gently on the back or bottom can offer reassurance. Your smell and heartbeat are also of comfort to your baby. If you find that your baby is much calmer when held, consider using a baby sling. 

7. Is your baby teething? If your baby seems to be crying for no reason, emerging teeth may be causing pain. Other indications of teething can be sore and red gums where the tooth is coming through, your baby chewing on fists or blankets, or rubbing one or both their ears. 

Parent holding crying baby

If you’re worried…

New parents tend to worry that their baby’s cries are an indication of something more serious. Usually they’re not but if your baby's cries are unusual for them (they may become weak, strident, continuous or extremely high-pitched), then this may be an indication all is not well.

If you think that something isn't right, call your GP, maternal and child health nurse, or a trusted helpline such as Healthdirect for advice. 

If your baby has diarrhoea or is vomiting, or has a rash, call your GP or take your child immediately to the closest emergency room. Alternatively, call 000.

For health advice: www.healthdirect.gov.au or 1800 022 222 

 
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