Baby Crying: What’s Normal and What’s Not


Baby Crying:  What's Normal, What's Not


For new parents, the sound of a baby crying can be heartbreaking – and occasionally frustrating. Many first-time parents are shocked by how frequently their babies cry. But crying is your baby’s way of communicating with you. Since she can’t talk, she has to cry when she needs something or wants to share feelings with you. This means that crying isn’t always a sign that something’s wrong; indeed, if your baby cries, it means she’s communicating and developing normally. If you’re like most parents and find yourself worrying, though, here’s what you need to know about babies and crying.

 Why Babies Cry

Crying is the way babies communicate. In generations past, some experts argued that babies cried to manipulate their parents, but we now know this isn’t true. Instead, babies cry when they need or want something. In most cases, such as when your baby is hungry, wet, or injured, crying warrants immediate intervention. But babies also cry in response to change and unfamiliar environments. If you change your baby’s sleep routine, expect some crying. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong.


Types of Cries

Not all cries sound the same, and if you listen to your baby’s cries, you’ll begin to notice a clear pattern. Every baby’s cries sound slightly different, so the key is trust your parental intuition. If you’re struggling to tell the difference between types of cries, though, here’s a general guide from Dunstan Baby Language:

  • Sleepy cries typically start soft and intermittent, then become progressively louder. You may detect an “owh” sound in the cries.
  • Painful cries are typically loud and sound like screams. Your baby may begin hyperventilating and will quickly shed real tears. You may detect a slight “heh” sound to your baby’s sobs.
  • Hunger cries sound a lot like sleepy cries, and typically start as intermittent fussiness. Many babies make a slight “neh” sound when they cry in hunger.
  • Gassy cries are typically loud, but not as dramatic as the cries your baby makes when he’s injured or in pain. Listen for a “heh” or “eh” sound.


The subtle sounds in your baby’s cries may be hard to detect at first, but if you listen carefully, they really are there. If you’re interested in tracking the patterns in your baby’s cries, try keeping a notebook with information about each cry. If you can think of your baby’s cries as attempts to communicate or even as language, you may find you’re less stressed by crying.


When Crying Is A Problem

Pediatricians sometimes refer to a “crying curve,” which is a predictable developmental pattern babies’ cries follow. Crying tends to increase after the first two to three weeks of life, then reaches its most forceful peak between six and eight weeks. However, if your baby is crying non stop, this isn’t normal.  Many doctors with tell you there is nothing you can do about it but there’s hope.  Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5’s for soothing and calming babies have worked wonders for my clients with even the fussiest babies.  

Here’s how it works:

  1. Swaddle your crying baby with their arms down.
  2. Place your baby in a Side or stomach position. Remember always place your baby on their back to sleep.
  3. Shush into your baby’s ear (or use a sound machine) while she is swaddled in the side or stomach position.  
  4. Swing (or rather gently jiggle) your baby’s head using small, rapid movements while shushing, your swaddled baby in the side or stomach position.
  5. Have your baby suck on a pacifier (while doing the other 4’s)  for the icing on the cake.


You are the expert on your baby, and if you’re worried about her crying, talk to your pediatrician.


I want to hear from you!

In the comments below, tell me two things you’ve done to soothe your baby’s tears?

Which one worked better?

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