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My Crying Baby

crying babyCrying is one of the main ways that babies communicate their needs to us.

By responding to your baby when she cries, you are building a trusting relationship with her that will set her on a path of healthy development.

Reasons babies cry

There are many reasons why a baby may cry. Here are just a few:

  • Hunger
  • Need for sleep
  • Gas, colic, or needs to burp
  • Needs a diaper change or change of clothes (too hot or too cold)
  • Your baby just needs you to hold him or the opposite, needs less stimulation
  • Getting sick (fever, a reaction to a food, teething)

If your little one is crying and you do not know why, hold him and work your way down the list of possible reasons and chances are you will find something that helps

Getting to know and comfort my baby

As you get to know your baby, you may begin to notice that different crying behaviors are associated with different needs (hunger, pain, sleepiness). That will make it easier to understand what your baby is trying to tell you. You also may begin to notice cues your baby gives you that can help you understand what she needs before she starts to cry. For example, when a young baby is hungry, she may begin to suck on her hands, stick her tongue out, or turn her head from side to side. If you see any of these cues, you can soothe your baby before any crying begins.

You will soon learn what works best to soothe your baby in most situations. In general, the best response to a baby’s cry is to hold him and have him feel your touch and hear your voice as you talk or sing to him. This shows that he can trust you, that you are listening to him and trying to meet his needs. Remember, you cannot spoil a baby. Holding your baby and responding to his cries will make him feel safe and loved and help to build the confidence he needs to explore his world as he grows older.

Comparing my baby to others

Your baby may have many temperament traits that are similar to or different from your older children or other children in the family or the neighborhood. No two babies are the same.  Avoid comparing or creating expectations (positive or negative) about how your baby should cry or behave when she needs something.

When is my baby’s cry a concern and what to do about it?

Here are some times when your baby’s cry may suggest that professional help is needed:

  • Is your baby crying for hours or in a different way than usual?
  • Does she continue crying even though you checked all the reasons mentioned above?
  • Do you notice other changes, such as in eating or bowel movements, for example?
  • Are any other behaviors present, like touching a part of the body as if it hurts, trembling, or unusual eye movements?

These and other similar concerns may be reasons to take your baby to a pediatrician or other medical provider. When in doubt, most clinics have nurses who can respond to your questions by phone.

Am I a bad parent if I don’t know what to do when my baby cries?

Just the fact that you are reading this article demonstrates your interest in helping your baby, so NO, you are not a bad parent. All parents have moments when they don’t know how to interpret their baby’s cry or don’t know what to do. Be sure you are taking care of yourself and seek support from family and friends when you need it. Sometimes even a five minute break can make a big difference if you are feeling stressed when trying to soothe your crying baby.

Dr. David Anglada-Figueroa is a clinical psychologist with a passion for families and children and a spokesperson for First 5 Sonoma County. First 5 encourages parents to Read, Talk, and Play every day with their babies. For more information, visit and