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Learn to decipher baby crying

Hailey Avatar By: Hailey | Last updated February 13, 2019

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There’s nothing more heartbreaking for a parent than to hear his child cry and not know the cause of it or what he can do to make it stop.

Babies cry for numerous reasons. Since they can’t talk, they have to express themselves anyway they can, and that’s usually through screams, crying or whimpers. Here are the most common types of cries and what they usually mean:

A nasal, breathy, intermittent cry: Your baby usually cries like that when he is tired and sleepy. The cry may be accompanied by closed eyes, rubbing of the eyes and yawns. You can try to swaddle your baby, gentle rock him or sing him a lullaby.

A repetitive, rhythmic, desperate cry, which is usually low pitched. Who doesn’t get cranky when they’re hungry? Why should your baby make an exception? If you recognize this type of cry, it probably means your little one is hungry. Other signals to look out for are putting their fingers into their mouth or rooting for the breast.

A continuous and whiny cry which seem to get more and more intense might indicate your baby is uncomfortable for one reason or another. The first thing you should check is obviously his diaper. There will be another signal as well, if the thing that makes him uncomfortable is ‘number 2’. Another reason why your baby might feel uncomfortable is the need to be burped. If the crying starts right after he’s been fed, that’s definitely a possibility, but there are other situations in which your baby swallows a lot of air, which may cause him that same need (hiccups, sucking a pacifier and others). Use your technique of choice to get him to burp.  

A loud cry or even scream, accompanied by all kinds of body movements, such as back arching, bringing the knees up to the chest, squirming, etc. can indicate a baby who’s in pain. He may have stomach problems, colic, gas problems and so on. Colic episodes for instance, can last for hours, until the baby is approx. 4 months old. Colic is tricky and the best thing you can do is to adjust the baby’s position so that he won’t feel so uncomfortable. You can try to lay him on his tummy, push his legs up to his chest (if gas is what’s bothering him).

A low volume cry which can be intermittent may simply mean your baby is bored. It’s his way of asking for attention. In this case, all you have to do is pick him up and play with him or talk to him. Of course, you shouldn’t do that right after his first whine. Give him a chance to calm down on his own first.  

A weak, helpless and low-pitched cry, sometimes nasal and accompanied by other symptoms, may mean the baby is sick, especially if the crying lasts longer than usual. Look for others signals such as diarrhea, fever, vomiting, lack of focus, constipation, rashes. A visit to the pediatrician may be necessary.