Even though you fully expected your newborn to frequently cry, it can still be unnerving to hear your little one belt out a wail and not immediately know why. Understanding common reasons why newborns cry can help parents and caregivers narrow down what their baby needs and find ways to soothe them.
Common Reasons Why Newborns Cry
Here are some of the most common reasons why newborns cry and what you can do to help:
Even as adults, we get cranky when we’re hungry! Because newborns get hungry a lot, this is the most common reason they cry. Since their tummies are so small, they can’t hold on to too much for too long, so they’ll let you know when they’re ready for their next meal. Some signs that point to hunger are lip-smacking, reaching hands to their mouths, and rooting —which is a reflex that makes infants turn their head towards you when you gently brush their cheek.
Babies also cry when they’re overfed. If you notice they’re turning away from the breast or bottle, getting sleepy, or closing their mouths, they’re most likely feeling full. Remember that burping your baby mid-way or after a feeding can also help aid in comfort and digestion if they appear fussy.
They’ve Got a Dirty Diaper
Of course, because there are frequent feedings, there are also frequent poops! While some babies can tolerate a soiled diaper more than others, dirty diapers can be uncomfortable and irritating for newborns. A crying episode and a smelly diaper are all the signs you need to know that they’re ready for a change.
As brand-new parents and caregivers, instantly falling asleep may seem like an easy feat! But for your newborn, they’re still learning how to fall asleep, and sometimes they need a little soothing to get the job done. When newborns are in an active alert stage, you’ll see them darting their eyes around and trying out new motor skills, like kicking their feet or rotating their arms. All this movement can spark fatigue, which typically leads to the crying stage. Holding, rocking, or swaddling newborns can help them feel safe and secure so they can catch some zzzz’s.
They Want to Be Held
Your newborn is completely dependent on you for eating, sleeping, and changing out that dirty diaper, but they’re also dependent on your love and attention! Newborns often cry because they want to be held, hear your voice, smell you, or gaze into your eyes. The bonding process with a newborn is both beautiful and important for their development. Holding your baby might be all they need to ease their cries, but you can also try skin-to-skin cuddling. Skin-to-skin holding supports attachment, boosts their immune system, and can even regulate their body temperature. Need your hands free for sending emails, walking the dog, or folding laundry? Try wearing your baby in a carrier approved for newborns.
They’re in Pain
When a feeding, nap, or good cuddle just won’t soothe them, crying may point to some form of pain or discomfort. Ear infections, a bad diaper rash, or teething could cause excessive crying. If you sense that your newborn is in pain and any attempts to calm them don’t seem to help, be sure to contact your pediatrician for guidance.
Of course, newborns also cry for other reasons, such as being understimulated, overstimulated, too hot, too cold, gassy, or if they’re colicky. Being aware of the common reasons why newborns cry can help you meet their needs so they feel calm and comforted.