Parenting Health Child Psychology and Behaviour

How To Decode Infant Crying - Know What Crying Actually Means

Ambili S Kartha
1 to 3 years

Created by Ambili S Kartha
Updated on Apr 22, 2020

How To Decode Infant Crying Know What Crying Actually Means
Reviewed by Expert panel

During the middle of the night, the sleeping baby may wake up crying inconsolably. It is a common episode every mother bumps into. Most often you can't figure out what your little one needs. You may change their nappy, offer milk, you will make sure your baby is not too hot or too cold, you may even try singing lullabies, and rocking the baby. But what if the baby is still crying? Baby crying, let it be newborn crying, infant crying, or toddler crying all the mothers would have thought at least once that life is so much easier if your little one could just tell you what they want instead of crying for hours.

But remember, crying is baby's way of communicating. The baby, obviously, cannot tell you the needs with words. Therefore, it relies on an array of whimpers, cries and all-out screams to get your attention. Interpreting baby cries and soothing a crying baby is not always an easy task. However, by using some tips and tricks, you may be able to find out the cause or reason of a baby crying.

Why Do Babies Cry?

Usually, the baby cries due to hunger, fatigue, dirty diapers or stomach pain. As their body is not mature enough to regulate temperature, getting too cold and hot also can make a baby cranky. However, when the newborn evolves to a toddler boredom, anger, and fear can also add to the list.

Tips To Decode Baby Crying?

There are some general guidelines to distinguish your baby's cries and emotions. Baby crying sound plays a significant role. Here are some tips for decoding baby crying and way to soothe a crying baby...


  1. Hungry:

    Whimpering that develops to short, sharp, intense cries, more or less rhythmic, that won't stop away until the baby is fed indicate hunger. The baby will also try to gnaw at its hand or peck at your breast. The crying increases as the baby get hungrier and hungrier.


    How to soothe:

    Respond to hunger cries quickly. The more your baby cries due to hunger he or she turns more difficult to soothe and feed. Try feeding your baby when you see hunger cues


  2. Too exhausted:

    Fatigue cry can start out slowly and low and eventually increases its intensity and tone. Fatigue cry is often misread as hunger cry. However, unlike the hunger cry, fatigue cry tends to be accompanied by rubbing of the eyes and yawning. The area around your baby's eyes gets red and puffy.


    How to soothe:

    When your baby is exhausted, he or she may be more difficult to soothe and put to sleep. Try breastfeeding him, rocking or swaddling him or whatever you used to do. Also, if the baby seems tired and restless in your arms, put him down in his crib. An overly tired baby sometimes just wants to be put down and allowed to sleep by himself
  3. Overstimulated:

    Sometimes the sights and sounds can become too much for your baby, especially when you are in a public place like the mall, exhibition, party, etc. Your baby may try to turn his or her head or body away from over stimulating sights or sounds and unexpectedly starts to cry.


    How to soothe:

    Try taking your baby to a less stimulating location. A dimly lit, quiet spot will help to calm the baby down


  4. Upset or surprise/ fear:

    Long and loud cry appears to come out of blue indicates the baby is upset or startled by a sound or light or some event that skipped your eyes and ears.


    How to soothe:

    Hug the baby and ensure he is protected in your arms. Take the baby away from that location.
  5. Dirty Diapers:

    A whiny, nasal, continuous cry (holding their breath in gasps) indicates baby is in pain or discomfort and need your immediate attention. Babies usually do this whenever the dirty diaper bothers them or if they need to change their position (if the way you holding them is not comfortable).


    How to soothe:

    Besides checking for a dirty diaper, look out for diaper rash or make sure the diaper elastic isn't too tight and irritating his or her skin. Take measures to get rid of the nappy rash


  6. Stomach pain:

    As the babies are more prone to gas formation, this type of cry is common among newborns, infants, and toddlers. This cry is characterized by the high intensity with a high volume, causing redness in the face, and will last until the pain is gone. Body movements include raising of legs to the tummy, clenching of the fists, arching of the back, and twitching also accompanies the cry due to stomach pain. Also, if you press it lightly on the stomach, it might feel a bit hard.


    How to soothe:

    Patting the stomach gently, lightly pressing the thigh of the baby to the stomach, helping the baby to burp by holding the baby tummy down, etc. will help to soothe the baby


  7. Boredom:

    Boredom usually occurs if the baby has been put down for a long time without interaction. Babies require continuous attention. Boredom cry usually will not be as loud as other cries. The boredom cry starts out as coos, then turns into fussing, then turns into offended crying.


    How to soothe:

    Boredom cry can easily transition to laughter with proper interactions
  8. Sick:

    Soft, continuous whines that are weak indicates the baby is sick. A sick cry will be of lower pitch than the "pain" or "fatigue" cry. This is because the baby doesn't have much energy to push up the volume.


    How to soothe:

    Breastfeed your baby. It will make him more at ease. If you suspect your baby is sick, be on the lookout for additional symptoms like temperature, rashes, diarrhea, etc. If needed, don't hesitate to contact your baby's doctor


  9. Anger:

    When the baby starts to scream, wave their arms, kick their legs and cry hard, it indicates he or she is very angry.


    How to soothe:

    Babies can be furious (more or less similar to a teenager!!!) until what they need is done. It is up to you how to deal the anger of the baby. You can completely ignore unnecessary demands or grant permission. Both have its own pros and cons


Did you like this blog? Did you find it useful? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below; we’d love to hear from you.


This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Apr 25, 2018

yes sometimes we mothers are at our wit's end ,and fail to understand the reason behind our baby's cries. this blog answers it all.. thank u so much for sharing this.

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| Apr 26, 2018

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| Oct 14, 2018

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| Oct 14, 2018


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