Why Is The Baby Crying? | Here’s What To Do

Especially as a new parent, it can be very difficult to decipher and properly help our crying babies. Even veteran parents can be found scratching their heads at times trying to figure out “Why is the baby crying?”.

A baby who cries is perfectly normal and to be expected. This truly says nothing about you as a parent. Parenting is a brand new challenge and there is a learning curve when it comes to babies crying.

The reason some people are so good with babies, even crying babies, is always a result of experience and practice. There are many things to learn about your baby and their needs in order to help them stop crying. 

“The first task for new parents or caregivers and their babies is bonding,” says Jay H. Homme, M.D., a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “Early on, holding them makes them feel safe and loved. It allows them to be more independent later on.”

Crying is our baby’s main way of communicating their needs and wants. Sometimes what they are asking for is obvious obvious and sometimes it’s tricky to figure out. 

The cries can be for something physical or emotional, but when our babies cry it’s best to respond quickly, try to find out the cause, and don’t always assume its hunger!

“Babies need to learn how to fall asleep on their own, they need to feel safe and secure in their own cribs. But they also need us to comfort them when they’re distressed. The first set of goals won’t be met unless we also bear in mind the second.” -The Baby Whisperer

Take this wisdom into consideration when deciding how and when to help your crying baby.

In order to help our babies feel safe enough to be independent we have to meet their cries with loving attention. 

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Recognize The Two Baby Cries

Our babies have many cries that say specific things (according to some) but there are two cries that every parent can distinguish between easily and it’s very helpful to recognize them. 

Those are the complaining whine and the distressed cry.

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A baby who is fussing a little and complaining may very likely fuss calmly or play for a minute then fall asleep. 

A distressed baby probably won’t be able to settle down on their own and will need your help to calm down. 

When baby cries, especially in the first 6 months go check. If you have a monitor, take a good look. The one time you decide to let them cry-it-out you’ll likely discover a dirty diaper or that they are stuck on something or anything to make you feel absolutely terrible. 

The First thing to ask

Where is your baby in their schedule? 

Don’t have your baby on a schedule yet? Read about baby schedules to help your baby get into a daily routine that will allow you to quickly recognize what the cry may be related to.

If you have your baby on a “feed-wake-sleep” structure, you’ll know rather fast whether they are hungry, tired, or wake time-related. 

Is your baby waking up from their naps too early?

Try keeping them in their dimly lit room and do the happy hold to put them back to sleep. Read more about reasons for early waking in this post about baby schedules.

Is your baby hungry?

Feed your baby if they just woke from a nap or night sleep. 

If your baby is crying but it’s not their routine feeding time, try the other possibilities on this list first before feeding again. This can prevent overfeeding which leads to gas, stomach pain, and increased spitting up. 

Does your baby have trouble falling asleep on their own?

…or falling asleep then waking when they’re put down?

See The Happy Hold post to learn how to gently put your baby to sleep for naps and bedtime with little to no crying.

Start over

  • Check their diaper (any redness?)
  • Check their clothing (undress and redress them, any crumbs or hairs in their clothes?

Try different calming positions

  • Try the happy hold
    Big, vigorous bounces for big cries, slow the bounces down as they calm down. Match their stress with bounce intensity until they calm enough to hold them still.
  • If you’re sitting, try standing 
    For some reason, a baby loves a cuddle buddy who stands
  • Change holding position
    • Belly on arm (superman hold) 
    • Upright 
    • Laying Down 
    • Sitting on your lap
    • Laying over your shoulder
    • Looking out
  • Stop holding them all together
    Let them lay down without being touched or only holding their hands or face. Try different seats or bouncers.
  • Hold their hands together as you bounce
    Sometimes they get more upset right before they realize how much they love it.

Bodily Needs

  • Are they hot or cold?
  • Burp the baby
    Be sure to do this properly after every feeding. Try different burping positions!
  • Pump baby legs to get rid of trapped gas 
    Bring the left elbow to the right knee and vise versa. You want their knees to press into their belly gently but enough to let the gas escape.
  • Try baby gas drops
  • Skin to skin
    Body to chest, face to face, hold hands, etc.
    You could also try having a bath together, combining warm water and skin-to-skin.
  • Give a baby massage
    Place them on their tummy over a pillow and gently massage their backs, legs, calves, etc.
  • Give them a pacifier or teether
    Babies love sucking and a pacifier can be a great soothing aid to avoid mama herself becoming a pacifier! 

Change the scenery

  • Make it calm, cool, dimly lit, quiet
  • Try a different room
  • Change the lighting

Try some distractions

  • When old enough to play with toys, give them one or change the one they have
  • Calm music
  • Bring them to a window or give them something interesting to look at
  • Sing! 
    Sometimes music itself isn’t enough. My daughter would only settle when I actually opened my mouth and sang!

And finally, feeding

If your baby won’t settle with a change in activity and all the above options have been tried you should feed them. 

You don’t want to try this first because if they are not hungry it may still satisfy them for a moment but cause more trouble in the end. Overfeeding causes gas and belly trouble so be sure to burp the baby after every feed even if they fall asleep. 

Any Other Reason?

  • Is your baby getting sick? 
  • Any signs of a fever?
  • Have they begun teething? 
  • Are they frustrated about something?

What to do when you reach your limit

You can always put your baby down in a safe place and take a 5-10 minute break if you’re getting frustrated. Keep in mind that crying is not about you and not all crying can be easily consoled. Walk away when safety is a concern as shaking a baby can be fatal. 

  • Ask for help
  • Give yourself a moment to breathe
  • Listen to music 

If you live in the United States, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has a free help line. You can call Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264, toll-free).


It’s not easy to be a baby. The best thing you can do when things are falling apart is try to stay calm and don’t take their crying personally. 

Excessive crying can mostly be avoided if you follow a predictable routine that will meet all of your baby’s needs before they have to scream and ask.

Download a free printable reference list of all the tips mentioned in this post. 

Breathe. You can do this.

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