Long before a baby learns to talk, he cries in order to communicate his needs and desires. His cries can often mean he is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable, and the infant will wail to get your attention.
However, as a new parent, how do you know what your baby is crying for? Surely, it can be frustrating and difficult initially to figure out what might be causing the little one discomfort. Many parents would agree—a baby’s sobbing is enough to break one’s heart.
But fret not. According to experts, there are incredible facts about your baby’s cries that allow you to understand what they actually need. Many would not be aware that each crying sound—whether it’s whimpering, whining, screaming—could mean something. Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care, wrote on her website in an article titled How Do I Calm My Crying Baby?, “Over time, you’ll recognize particular cries as if they were spoken words.”
Here are some ways to decipher why your baby is crying and the hidden cues behind it:
1. A Calling Cry
A baby who has been by himself for quite some time will cry continuously for 5 to 6 seconds. Then, he will stop for 20 seconds, waiting to be picked up. This cycle will repeat until he grabs his parents’ attention and they respond.
2. Crying Due to Hunger
This can begin with a low-pitched rhythmic continuous cry, albeit the crying will get hysterical if the baby isn’t fed. Other than that, the baby might also rotate his head repeatedly, make smacking sounds with his mouth, clench his fists, or put his fingers into his mouth, according to parent educator Catherine Watson Genna, as reported by Today’s parent.
3. Crying Due to Pain
The cries will be sudden, loud and piercing, or constant and monotonous. Occasionally, it turns hysterical as the pain intensifies. The baby may also pause to catch his breath after long cries, Pantley explains on her website.
4. Crying Due to Sickness
In this situation, a baby will whimper softly. The cries will also be monotonous, but unlike crying due to pain, it’s like a moaning sound, Pantley notes. As the baby is sick, he is generally too weak and doesn’t have the energy to make loud noises. However, this means that the baby should be taken to a health care provider or have his/her temperature checked.
5. Crying Due to Tiredness
Pantley notes that if a baby is tired and can’t fall asleep, he will show decreased activity and interest, and look “glazed.” Additionally, he will start yawning. These obvious signs show that he really wants to go to sleep.
6. Crying Due to Discomfort
When a baby is uncomfortable due to reasons such as a wet diaper or being too wet, hot, or has a tummy ache, he will try to squirm or arch his back while crying to indicate that he is facing discomfort. Pantley states that once parents notice this, they should take necessary actions to find the source of distress and solve it.
7. Crying Due to Colic
During this time, the baby is inconsolable, and he will wail intensely for a long period of time every day. The cries last several hours per day and typically occur at the same time each day. Thankfully, babies usually grow out of colic when they are 4–5 months old, according to Pantley.
Studies by Priscilla Dunstan, an internationally recognized parenting expert, states that babies (up to 3–4 months old) of every race, color, and culture produce five basic sounds just before crying.
1. “Neh” sounds when they are hungry.
2. “Eh” sounds when they are going to burp.
3. “Owh” sounds when they are sleepy or tired.
4. “Heh” sounds when they are feeling uncomfortable.
5. “Eairh” sounds when they have gas in their tummy.
Apart from decoding your baby’s cries, you can discern what he really wants through assessing the situation surrounding him.