7 Different Baby Cries and What Does They Mean

7 Different Baby Cries and What Does They Mean

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts
They say that a mother and her baby share a special bond. A bond formed without words but mostly through intuitive understanding. However, when a baby starts crying, even an experienced mother becomes helpless. Though the different newborn cries may seem similar, there are stark differences amongst them. Decoding your baby’s cries can get tougher each passing day! Babies communicate through crying and making sounds that are hard to decipher. Parents tend to categorise cries of the baby either as a sign of hunger or of wetness. Here’s what you should know.

Video: Understanding What Your Baby’s Cry Means

 

The Dunstan Method of understanding baby cries was found by Priscilla Dunstan, an Australian mother. When listening to the sounds of her newborn’s crying, she discovered 7 sounds that all babies use while crying and they all mean different things! She tested her theory on different babies and found it to be true! While the theory still requires complete scientific backing, it is a great way to interpret what your little one is trying to communicate.

Reasons Why Babies Cry

Use the below expert-guide for understanding different baby cries. Also, watch the video below to hear all these baby cries and understand exactly how they sound!

1. Hunger Cry – ‘Neh’

If the cry of the baby begins with the sound of ‘neh’, it means that the baby is hungry. Usually, this sound is produced when the baby touches her tongue to the roof of the mouth and the sucking reflex is activated.

Solution: This is one of the best baby crying cues to detect hunger. The obvious solution to stop a baby from crying is to feed her.

2. Sleepy Cry – ‘Owh’

Feeling sleepy is one of the leading causes of a baby crying. When the baby is sleepy she is likely to cry ‘owh’ sound to indicate her drowsiness. Your baby crying at night indicates that she is tired. Often it is accompanied by yawns and rubbing of the eye.

Solution: A sleepy baby just wants to be put down in a comfortable position and allowed to sleep peacefully.

3. Uncomfortable Cry – ‘Heh’

A baby might be uncomfortable for reasons such as a wet diaper or is cold or itchy. Discomfort is one of the main reasons why newborn babies cry. In this case, the baby begins with ‘heh’, which is similar to ‘neh’ and can create confusion.

Solution: Try to understand the reason behind the baby’s discomfort and help her calm down. Also, check the room’s temperature.

4. Painful Cry – ‘Eair’

Pain could also be one of the reasons babies cry. A baby crying in pain will make a sound of ‘eair’ it usually means trouble in the lower abdomen resulting in gas. In such a case, the baby pulls up the knees to her chest or kicks her legs out.

Solution: Burp your baby through the day after feeds to ensure no gas builds up. You should hold the baby and gently tap and rub the back muscles for her to burp.

5. Not-feeling-well Cry – ‘Eh’

Understanding a baby’s cry that denotes feeling unwell is extremely essential, so you can help resolve the problem quickly. This cry is accompanied by an ‘eh’. It is a signal that means that the baby needs to burp.

Solution: Check if your baby shows any signs of illness or infection such as fever, breathing troubles, skin irritation, etc.

Note: The above points cover the five basic reasons of ‘why do babies cry?’ The below points fall outside of these, but could also be reasons why your baby cries, meaning you will need to pay closer attention to decipher the issue.

6. Bored Cry

Babies cry to express what they are feeling, which could sometimes be out of boredom. Your baby might cry to get your attention as she wants to be picked up or entertained.

Solution: Pick your baby up and bounce her in your arms while talking to her. If she calms down, she might have just wanted to be near you.

7. Colic Cry

Colic will cause your baby to feel extremely distressed. Usually, crying due to colic will be persistent, as your baby feels uncomfortable and is unable to rest. If you hear your little one wailing for hours on end and is generally irritable, it could be due to colic.

Solution: Try to soothe your baby by swaddling her or rubbing her tummy. You can also buy a curved bottle for feeding, which doesn’t allow for much air to enter her tummy while feeding. If you are unsure about how to deal with colic, consult a doctor for the right advice.

Note: Babies can feel unwell/unhappy and still not cry. Check these signs that could mean your baby is unhappy even though he is not crying.

What Happens If You Can’t Figure Out The Reason For a Baby Crying?

If you have tried everything under the sun to soothe your baby and she still won’t stop crying, you’re probably wondering what to do. Frustrating as it sounds, it could actually be nothing. Some babies go through a stage of ‘Purple Crying’ where there is seemingly nothing wrong with them, but they cry for hours. You can try to soothe her, cuddle her, or distract her through play. If you are still worried and unsure about the cause, consult a doctor for an expert opinion.

How Can You Learn to Understand Newborn Cries?

Initially, it may seem like a tough task to understand why your little one is crying. However, as she grows older and becomes better at communicating, so will you at understanding the source of her distress. Hang in there, as it gets better with time. One way to easily decode her crying is by setting a routine. That way, if she cries at a particular step, it will get easier to quickly identify what is causing it and soothe her.

Things You Should Not Do When a Baby is Crying

Dealing with a crying baby is tough, and if you are unable to determine the reason, you might get impatient or irritated. In such cases, make sure you do not do any of the following.

1. Don’t Shake the Baby

Shaking a baby can cause damage to the brain, blindness, or in some cases, even death. No matter what you do, do not shake the baby, and inform any other caretakers of your little one not to do so either.

2. Don’t Hit the Baby

Remember, your baby may sense your frustration but will not know why you are hitting her. Do not hit the baby, and make sure nobody else is doing so too. This can cause lifelong scars and even physical damage to the little one.

3. Don’t Get Discouraged

There are going to be times when your patience is tested and you may feel like giving up. Know that this does get better, and you will be soon able to identify why your baby is crying. Hang in there, and continue soothing your baby. 

4. Don’t Deny Yourself a Break

If you’ve been trying to soothe your crying baby for a while and nothing seems to help, you might need a little break to clear your head. If possible, hand over the little one to a family member or caretaker while you give yourself some TLC. Take a shower, go for a walk, and get some peace.

How to Soothe a Crying Baby?

When mothers understand the meaning of the baby’s cry, it is easier to comfort her little one. Deciphering your baby’s cries is tricky in the beginning, especially the reason for the baby crying at night. But once you start listening closely, you will become an expert at interpreting the baby’s cries. Mothers should look for clues in different cries in babies, such as:

  • how long it has been since the baby’s last feed
  • if the baby’s diaper needs changing
  • if the baby has been sleeping adequately for the past few days
  • if the baby shows any symptoms of infection or allergy such as a skin rash, breathing problems, redness, etc.

FAQs

1. At What Age Do Babies Cry the Most?

Most newborns will reach their peak crying stage at 6 weeks. Post that period, the crying will decrease, and the baby will only cry for upto an hour everyday. Be patient, and all will be well.

2. Why is The First Cry of the Baby Important?

While in the womb, the baby is completely dependent on the mother to breathe, as the placenta exchanges gas from the mother to baby. Once the baby is born, the first cry indicates a successful birth, for life outside the womb, where the baby now uses her own lungs to breathe.

Soothing a crying baby is never easy but with attention to the sound and syllables of the cry, it can get better with time. Some simple tricks that work for many moms are massaging the feet and toes in a circular motion, blowing bubbles on the tummy, rocking the baby for some time, and singing or talking in a comforting voice.

References/Resources:

1. Soothing a crying baby; NHS; https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/caring-for-a-newborn/soothing-a-crying-baby/; August 2022

2. Crying baby: What to do when your newborn cries; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20043859; December 2022

3. Responding To Your Baby’s Cries; American Academy of Pediatrics; https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/crying-colic/Pages/Responding-to-Your-Babys-Cries.aspx; April 2021

4. Crying in infancy; Medline Plus; https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002397.htm

5. Colic; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colic/symptoms-causes/syc-20371074; April 2022

Also Read:

Baby Crying at Night
Is Crying Good for Your Baby?
When Do Babies Usually Start Crying With Tears?

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