Know Your Baby’s Cries

baby cries

In this blog I am talking all about understanding your baby’s cries. I’m going to share with you what the different cries are, what they mean, what they might look like, so that you can feel equipped and understand how you can best respond to those cries. 

Let’s look at the different types of cries that you might hear from your baby or young child. 

Number one, you are going to find there are cries for a need, a cry when a need needs to be met. Now needs are necessities, not wants. Needs are things like genuine hunger, dirty nappy, hot or cold, needing comfort or a cuddle or reassurance. These are all needs. Sometimes, it’s sleep as well, a need for sleep. It’s in fact, the second most common reason babies cry is because they need to sleep and they don’t know how to get there. So they have a need and they cry to tell you because they need help meeting that need. They can’t quite meet that themselves. For instance, hunger, they can’t just go and get themselves something to manage the hunger. They need you. And the second one being sleep, they can’t just go to sleep. They need you.

The second one is wants. Wants are different to needs, but they can sometimes cross over. So sometimes your baby might cry, for instance, because they want milk, but you know they don’t need it because they just had loads. For example. So sometimes little ones cry for something they want, even when it’s not what they need. Children do the same. They’ll cry because they really want those sweets in the shop and you said, no. That doesn’t mean they need them. So not every cry is a need and that can be really hard to determine, especially in the nighttime, when your baby wakes and they cry out and you think, oh well they must need milk. What if they don’t? What if that’s not what it is? Because I can tell you, it’s not always, it’s not always what it is.

In the early weeks, in the first six months, there’s a good chance there could be a need for milk, but as time goes by, you’ll start to see that it’s not that. And sometimes they think they need it because they’re used to it, but actually, that’s not the thing they need. They just need help to get to sleep. The need for sleep is the second most common cry that babies do. So yes, being tired is another reason babies cry. Sometimes they will cry just in that agitated, fractious way because they’re tired. You also get cry for tantrums and anger, dissatisfaction, just sheer annoyance. It could be anger or crossness because something was not pleasing to them like a toddler was playing with a toy and another toddler came and took it away from them and they cry because they’re angry about that.

They’re not happy. They’re cross. And that’s a justifiable reason, but it could be less justifiable to the parent where perhaps they’re crying and it’s unreasonable that they should cry for that thing at that time. Again, we can get into meanings and details, but nonetheless, to the little one, the reality is they are dissatisfied. They are crying out of anger or having a tantrum is dissatisfaction cry. So that’s another kind of cry. We also have pain cry, so a type of cry when something genuinely hurts. Very common one in young babies is indigestion, digestive discomfort, reflux, the tummy gut pains and that can make it very uncomfortable when laying down and you can get pain cries for that, but also illnesses, ear infections, colds, congestion, tooth, teething, toothache pain in the mouth or pains from hurting themselves or from their baby vaccinations that they have. That can cause a sudden pain and so you do get pain cries as well.

Another kind of cry you might see could be fear. And in most cases with babies, in safe environments, the fear is only going to be maybe a sudden noise, something that happened or startled them that’s different and that maybe made them jump or that’s scary. That’s when you tend to get that cry of fear. There are probably lots of other categories we can go into, but these are the main ones. What we want to do is recognize the differences between them and how they show up because they’re going to probably need a different response. When you know what the cry is for, then you can better prepare your response to the cry. Identifying these in your own child is going to be key. You can start to look and you can start to observe and you can actually get to know them.

That is the power that you have as a parent. You get to know it. Does your little one scrunch up their eyes for a pain cry? Stare rapidly and wide eyed when it’s a fear cry? Do they get slanty eyes and look away when it’s a anger or a cross cry? These are comment traits and they may be true of your little one as well. So look out for those and also the sound. Pain cry is often high and really piercing and that’s how you know. You’ll start to spot and as a parent, you do get familiar with them and you start to go, oh, I know that cry. And that’s when you know what it’s for. Observe that, learn those as best you can. You won’t get it right all of the time. None of us do. But it can certainly give you a head start in knowing how to best respond to that cry.

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