Decoding baby cries

Decoding baby cries

By Dr. Celeste Gomez


My husband and I are new parents to a 1-week-old baby boy. My husband gets very anxious once the baby cries and I myself get rattled on what we have to do. Can you give us tips on how to properly tend to a newborn baby who cries non-stop, especially at night? – dazed and confused first-time parents


Wow, congratulations to you! As they say, having a baby is like loving the second time around! It is a lot of work, but also pays off instantly once your baby gives you a cute smirk, or a hearty smile and laugh!  

The first three months of a baby’s life revolves around a certain routine, and once developed and figured out, it becomes quite predictable. The main difficulty is that newborns can’t express exactly what they want or need.  Crying is your baby’s main form of communication—and you need to decode it!

Here are five tips on “troubleshooting” your newborn’s cries.  Answer the following questions in their proper order as follow:

1. Is my baby hungry?

Most of the time, babies cry when they are hungry. The cry is usually loud and sometimes shrill. Their cry is usually accompanied by their head turning from side to side with mouth wide open trying to search for the mother’s breast. Check the last time your baby has fed.  If it has been around 2 to 3 hours, then your baby is most probably hungry and ready to feed. If your baby just fed within an hour or less, proceed to the next question.

2. Did my baby poop or pee? Do we need a diaper change?

Babies can feel uncomfortable with fluids against their skin. A newborn has a great sense of touch; the wet feeling of poop or pee can be disturbing for them, consequently triggering a loud cry. Most newborns poop and pee a few minutes after each feeding, so this is quite expected! A quick peek inside the diaper is all that is needed. If the diaper is dry and your baby is still crying, proceed to the next question.

3. Is my baby gassy? Does my baby need to burp?

If your baby is still crying even after feeding and diaper change, then there is a big possibility that your baby is gassy and needs to be burped. Place your baby on an upright position with the tummy against your chest. Your chest’s body warmth while pressed against his tummy is soothing to your baby, and helps move the air up to facilitate burping. If your baby is still crying, proceed to the next question.

4. Is my baby sleepy and likes to be held/carried/swaddled?

Sometimes, babies cry just because they are about to sleep and would just like to be held up, cuddled or swaddled in an airy blanket or cloth. Newborns especially love to be rolled up just like how they were inside their mother’s womb for 9 months!

If all of the answers are no, you can consider other unusual circumstances that could cause your baby’s incessant crying. Try to check position of limbs if any legs or arms are twisted or pinched. Check for blockage at nose—mostly due to boogers or a cold.  Check for other sources of discomfort such as insect bites, small wounds, or itchy rashes. With the help of your pediatrician, you can also assess for possible colic in the newborn brought about by the kind of milk taken, or other external and internal factors.