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When your baby cries, it is a way of communicating something to you and or ensuring a response from you. It’s sometimes hard to work out why your baby cries and which need your baby wants you to take care of, but as your baby grows he’ll learn other ways of communicating with you. Here are some reasons why your baby cries, and what you can try to soothe him/her:
Hunger is one of the most common reasons why your baby cries, especially if he’s a newborn. The younger your baby is, the more likely it is that he’s hungry. Learning to recognize the signs of hunger will help you start feeding your baby before the crying stage. Some hunger signs to watch for in newborns include fussing, lip smacking, rooting (a newborn reflex that makes babies turn their head toward your hand when you stroke their cheek), and putting their hands to their mouth.
- Wants to be held
Your baby needs 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. Crying can be their way of asking to be held close. Swaying and singing to her while you hold her may give her added comfort.
When you hold your baby close she may be soothed by your heartbeat, the warmth of your body and your smell. You could try putting her in a baby carrier* to keep her close to you for longer spells.
- A dirty diaper
Some babies let you know right away when they need to be changed. Others can tolerate a dirty diaper for quite a while. Either way, this one is easy to check and simple to remedy.
- Needs sleep
Sometimes it is hard for your baby to get to sleep, even if they’re very tired, because of external stimulation. For example, lots of attention from doting visitors may over-stimulate your baby and make it hard for him to sleep. Instead of nodding off easily, he may fuss and cry. Try taking him to a quiet room before bed to help him calm down and switch off.
- Too cold or too hot
If your baby feels chilly, like when you remove his clothes to change a diaper or clean his bottom with a cold wipe, he may protest by crying. You can check whether your baby is too hot or too cold by feeling his tummy. Don’t be guided by the temperature of your baby’s hands or feet. It’s normal for them to feel cold sometimes.
Use sheets and cellular blankets as bedding in your baby’s cot. If his tummy feels too hot, remove a blanket, and if it feels cold, simply add one. Take care not to overdress your baby, or he may become too hot. He’ll generally need to wear one more layer of clothing than you to be comfortable.
- Not feeling well
If your baby’s unwell, he’ll probably cry in a different tone from the one you’re used to. It may be weaker, more urgent, continuous, or high-pitched. If he usually cries a lot but has become unusually quiet, this may also be a sign that he’s not well.
Colic is uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby. Your baby is considered colicky if he’s younger than 5 months old and cries for more than three hours in a row on three or more days a week for at least three weeks (phew!). Colic isn’t a disease and won’t cause your baby any long-term harm, but it’s a tough thing to go through for babies and their parents.
Thankfully it is most of the time just a phase that your baby cries. It is very common and it will pass. As your baby grows, he’ll learn new ways of communicating his needs to you. And when this happens, the excessive crying will soon stop.
On a final note, nobody knows your baby as well as you do. If you feel that something’s not right, call your GP, midwife or health practitioner. Health professionals should always take your concerns seriously. Call your doctor straight away if your baby is persistently crying and has a fever, is vomiting, has diarrhea or constipation.