Typical causes of crying

Why is my baby crying?

There are many reasons why babies cry. They may be hungry, choking at the breast, having tummy pain, or needing to be burped. They may be overstimulated, tired, anxious, hot, or cold. Sometimes it is hard to know the reason. Mothers should check first for signs of hunger as this is the most common cause of crying. If that is not the problem, they should try to calm the baby. Most problems end in a few minutes or the baby will give a clue as to why she or he is upset, allowing mothers to fix the problem. Sometimes babies never seem happy, even after breastfeeding and while being held, or they will settle only when breastfeeding, sleeping, or using a pacifier. In these cases, the baby may be sick or may not be getting enough milk.

Consider using our quick assessment tool, “Why is my baby crying?” to guide you through this concern.

A) The causes of crying

There are a number of reasons babies become unhappy and cry. These reasons can be placed in one of the following categories. 

1) Normal babies 

Normal babies will cry from time to time and for short periods. This is normal as, unlike children and adults, babies who are not comfortable because of hunger for example, cannot fix their problem and have trouble communicating their needs and resort to crying.

They will cry when:

2) Babies in need of more nuturing

Babies need care. When they are not cared for, they may cry. Babies may cry when: 

3) Underfed babies

Babies who are underfed are more likely to cry and may do so for extended periods.

4) Sick babies

Sick or allergic babies may be in pain or distressed and may cry. 

B) Discovering the cause of the baby's crying

Sometimes it is hard to understand why a baby is unhappy. If you are unsure, try to calm the baby and check for hunger signs as hunger is the most common reason for crying. It the baby is not hungry, most problems end in a few minutes or the baby will give you an idea of why she or he is upset, allowing you to fix the problem. If the baby does not settle, there may be something wrong.

The timing of the crying can also help to identify the cause.