The timing of crying

Why is the timing of crying important?

Babies will cry for different reasons and understanding the cause is key to stopping it. The timing of the crying can often give clues as to the cause. 

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

A) The timing of crying

A baby's crying needs to be addressed. Babies who cry can be normal, underfed, or sick or have needs that are not being met. Understanding the cause of the crying can be difficult when babies are not verbal. The timing of the crying can give clues as to its cause.

Crying can happen: 

  • Before feeds.
  • During feeds.
  • After feeds.
  • All the time.

B) Crying before feeds

1) Delayed feeds causing crying before feeds

A baby may start crying because breastfeeding has been delayed. Babies should be offered the breast as soon as they give the first hunger signs.

Common reasons for delay are:

  • Diaper changing before feeding: Consider waiting to change the diaper at least until the baby has had one breast and calmed down. Babies generally poop during feeds, so changing the baby’s diaper before a feed can make more work for you.
  • Using a pacifier: Pacifiers mask the baby’s hunger. By the time the baby finally drops the pacifier or you remove it, the baby may be very upset.

2) Forcing the baby to breastfeed

Some mothers push the baby to breastfeed when the baby is not hungry. This can cause the baby to become upset.

3) Latching problems causing crying before feeds

Babies who have significant latching problems will cry out of frustration and hunger if they cannot latch.

D) Crying after feeds

A baby may cry after breastfeeding because:

  • The baby has tummy cramps.
  • The baby has swallowed air and needs to be burped.
  • The baby is put down.
  • The mother does not offer the baby the second breast if the baby is hungry after the first one.
  • The baby doesn't need the second breast but is being pushed to feed.
  • The baby needs to breastfeed to sleep but is not offered the breast.
  • The baby is having the evening fussies.
  • The baby is still hungry.

E) Crying all the time

1) Normal crying

Normal babies are generally happy when they are fed and held, but all babies cry occasionally. Without understanding the cause of the crying, it may seem as if a baby cries all the time. 

However, they often gives clues as to what is bothering them. By identifying and solving the cause of the crying, babies can be settled. 

There will be times during the day when your baby is more likely to be unhappy, such as during the evening fussies or while having tummy cramps during or after a feed.

Also, babies need to be held and need a lot of care and will cry if this does not happen.

2) Abnormal crying

Many underfed babies cry most of the time. Some sick babies may cry excessively and should be seen by their health-care providers.

Babies who cry suddenly and severely may be in a health crisis and need immediate attention.