Decode Your Baby’s Crying

Once your new baby settles down in her crib for the night, you can switch on the monitor and (finally) get yourself into bed. But when the nighttime sobbing begins, you’re up again, sleepily trying to understand what your baby’s crying means. Don’t worry if you’re feeling confused, as deciphering your infant’s whimpers -- and shrieks! -- takes a little practice. Read on for tips on what her cries mean and advice on what to do when you hear the sobbing start.

Baby crying tip number 1: Don’t panic.
Your baby’s crying is very normal and expected -- newborns can howl up to four hours a day! Try not to take tears personally; crying is the only way your baby can communicate with you. However, if your infant is under 4 months old, her nighttime crying is probably a call to be fed.

Baby crying tip number 2: Know that noise is normal.
Because babies have a longer active (or REM) sleep state, they won’t enter many periods of deep slumber. Your new baby might make all kinds of noises during this phase (squeaks, a scream, and some crying) and might even wake herself up. When you hear her squawk over the monitor, wait a few minutes before going to her, since she may fall back to sleep on her own.

Baby crying tip number 3: Pay attention to the cries. After some experience, a new mom can often distinguish a hunger cry from one that means “I’m mad” or “I’m uncomfortable.” A hunger cry is often short and low in pitch, rising and falling over time. A cry of discomfort can be loud and screechy (she might have a full diaper, gas pains, or her clothing could be itchy or pinching in some way).

Baby crying tip number 4: Don’t rush in.
Sudden nighttime crying is often just a one-off shriek or two, unrelated to hunger or a wet diaper. Again, wait a couple of minutes before going into her room. Your baby’s crying may just be a way of letting off steam. The cries may also be for comfort, as a way of settling down for the night. Unless she’s weeping hard, hold off on getting her.

No mother wants to hear her baby crying, but discovering what nighttime tears really mean can be of great comfort to a new mom. Soon your new baby will sleep through the night without making a peep, and you may be tempted to rush in to see why she’s so quiet.