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Why is my baby crying?

Babies usually cry because they’re trying to tell you something – for example “I’m hungry”, “I’m sleepy”, “I want a cuddle!”. On bad days, your baby’s cry might even be: “I’m just crying because I feel like crying!”.

It sounds simple, but when you’re getting to know your baby and everything is so new, it can be anything but. You’d do anything to soothe your little one – if only you knew what was wrong.

We’ve put together our top 10 tips for why your baby may be crying and some tricks you can use to help soothe them. A crying baby is stressful for any parent – so if you’re having a day when it’s driving you to tears, check out parents’ tips for getting through those first few weeks.

Tip#1: Are they hungry?

Your new-born baby has a tiny wee tummy – so even if you feel like you’ve just fed them, your baby may be crying because they’re hungry again. Feeling hungry is the number one reason your newborn will cry, especially if they’re only a few days or weeks old.

Your baby will often give you signs that they want to be fed– like opening their mouth, or stretching. You can find out more on the signs your baby wants to be fed here.

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Tip#2: Do they need sleep?

Just like us, babies get grumpy when they’re tired. And newborns need a lot of sleep – often more than 16 hours per day.

As you get to know your baby, you’ll start learning the signs that your wee one is getting tired and that it’s time to pop them down to sleep. They might start doing things like rubbing their eyes, pulling on their ears, or getting fussy.

Something you can try to prevent your wee one getting over-tired is to try putting them down for a nap every 2 hours or so during the day. It can also be a good idea to have naps when they go down.

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Tip#3: Do they need their nappy changed?

Your baby will usually let you know if their nappy is wet or dirty – so if they're crying, it’s a good idea to check their nappy!

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Tip 4: Do they want to be cuddled?

One of the loveliest parts of being a new parent is snuggling with your baby – your baby loves it too. They love to feel your heartbeat against them, the warmth of your body, and even your smell.

To soothe them, you can move about gently, sway or even dance. If you want to move around, your Baby Box sling is perfect as it lets your little one snuggle into you while you’re on the go.

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Tip 5: Do they need to be burped?

If your wee one has just been fed and has had a big cry, it may be because they have wind stuck in their tummy. Gently pat or rub them on the back to burp them.

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Tip 6: Are they too hot or cold?

Babies usually need one more layer than adults to feel comfy. If you’re just at home, you usually don’t need to add much more than that.

To check if your wee one is crying because they’re too hot or too cold, feel their tummy or the back of their necks.

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Tip 7: Is there too much going on for them?

In those first few days, your house will often be full of family and friends who want to come meet your little pride and joy.

When there’s a little too much going on, your baby can get overwhelmed and they may get upset. Sometimes all that love is just a little too much and you may need to take some special time out together.

Try taking them to a room for a cuddle, or get some fresh air by going for a short walk with the pram.

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Tip 9: Does your baby need a change of scene?

Sometimes when your baby is crying a lot, it can be a good idea just to get a change of scene – both for you and for baby.

Try going for a walk together with the pram, or going for a drive. Having something new to look at will distract your baby and calm them down. If you’re lucky, they might even pop off to sleep.

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Tip 10: Does your baby feel unwell?

If your baby is feeling unwell, they may tell you about it by crying. Their crying may sound higher-pitched or urgent - or you may just have a gut-feeling that something is wrong.

If your baby keeps crying and you’re not sure why, check their temperature with the digital thermometer from your Baby Box. If it’s 38 degrees or higher, call your GP, NHS 111 or contact your GP out-of-hours service – there will be a phone number on your GP's answerphone.

Even if your baby’s temperature isn’t high, you’re the expert on your baby. If you feel like something’s not right, contact your GP, midwife or health visitor.

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Tip 11: My baby is still crying. What other things might help?

  1. Taking a bath together can help soothe your little one. It also means you have time to relax and get clean for the day– win win!
  2. Sucking can be soothing for babies. Let your baby suck on a clean knuckle, or if you’re breastfeeding, give your baby your nipple to suck on to calm them down.

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What the parents say

You pick it up as you go along

Those first few days, I found myself wondering why anyone had let me leave the hospital with this little baby – I had no idea what I was doing! I would panic when he cried, and was worried I’d forget everything I’d been told at the hospital.

After a week or so, we started to get into a rhythm where I felt like I knew the signs he was hungry, or it was time to change his nappy. Every day it’s different but now we’re in the swing of things.

Kathy - Edinburgh

Sometimes you both just need a few minutes of time out

“One day, he kept crying and crying. I had done everything I could think of, and nothing helped. I was exhausted, and I just didn’t know what to do.

I rang mum, she said just to take a wee time out. I felt so guilty, but I was at the end of my tether. I put him down in his cot where I knew he was safe, and told him I’d be back soon.

I went to the kitchen to splash my face and took a couple of deep breaths. It was only a minute or so, but it made such a difference – when I came back, I felt so much more calm. It was much easier to settle him once I’d had a little break.

Julia – Dalkeith

What the professionals say

If you’re worried about your baby’s crying, ask your health visitor or public health nurse to check them over so you know everything is fine. If nothing is wrong, that’s likely just how your baby is at the moment.

You’re not doing anything wrong, it’s not your fault, and it happens to lots of people. Over time, they’ll become more settled.

Crying is stressful for any parent, and it’s that much harder when you’re exhausted. Talking to new parents and family and friends who’ve been there can really help. You can also find local support groups to meet other parents going through the same thing.

Last updated: 5 Feb, 2020