Why Babies Cry

Babies can’t just tell you what they want but they do wear their hearts on their sleeves!  No missing it when Baby’s unhappy!  Here’s a list of what they might be trying to tell you and what you can do about it!

  • Reasons Babies Cry:

    Babies don’t know how to self-soothe so they depend on us to get them through their unsettling times. We don’t want unhappy moments on a plane in particular so let’s look at what usually disturbs the little ones and what we can do about it.

    Crying can mean many different things. It can show hunger, boredom or need for attention, anger, discomfort, or pain,. The number one reason for crying in an infant is hunger. Babies have tiny tummies and need to be fed often. A newborn can cry up to three hours a day. Fortunately by 12 months old, that decreases to one hour a day.

    The interesting and challenging part of being a new parent is to distinguish between the various cries of the baby and what exactly each signifies. In time, every parent will come to know what needs the baby has by the tonality of the cry.


    This is one of the first things you think of when a baby cries. Babies need feedings constantly. To avoid getting to the crying stage, learn to read the signs your baby shows when they are getting hungry. Signs that babies are hungry include:
    — moving their heads from side to side
    — opening their mouths
    — sticking out their tongues
    — placing their hands and fists to their mouths
    — puckering their lips as if to suck
    — nuzzling again their mothers’ breasts
    — showing the rooting reflex (when a baby moves its mouth in the direction of something that’s stroking or touching its cheek)

    Gas – Burp or Fart:

    Babies can have a difficult time feeling comfortable or going to sleep if they have painful gas. They either need to burp or fart. Let’s take the burp first. Here’s some great tips for releasing a resistant burp. 1) Gentle Bouncing: This technique works wonders for clearing gas. Hold your baby close while you bounce on the balls of your feet. Gently rub your baby’s back, up and down his spine. Baby will automatically straighten his posture, which clears a path directly from tummy to mouth. 2) The Pendulum: Handle baby with care! Sometime gas can get trapped near the opening of the esophagus, in the bubble of the stomach. The best way to free it is to gently sway your baby like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. Firmly, but gently, grasp baby around the ribs, just under the arms. Keeping him close, rock him from side to side. Imagine the baby is on a pendulum and his feet are at the end making a smile. This side-to-side motion will allow the gas to work itself over and up the esophagus, and out of your baby’s mouth with a satisfying burp.  To encourage eliminating gas from the other end (farting), try this simple technique. Put baby on their back, holding their feet, and moving their legs in a gentle bicycling motion. You can also lay them on their back and gently push their knees up to their belly in a rocking motion. Distract them by cooing or singing sweetly. Make sure they don’t have a waistband that is too tight. You can also infant gas drops from the drugstore.


    What babies need to sleep well

    Unfortunately, getting enough sleep is not a simple process for babies or young children. Parents can play a key role in their child’s success in getting enough rest.

    1. Recognize early signs of tiredness. Later signs might indicate a baby is already overtired. Once overtired a baby will find it difficult to fall asleep. Signs include yawning, pulling hair, rubbing eyes, fussing. For a more complete review of sleepy signs and additional information, go here. (Tired signs and sleep info.) http://www.babycareadvice.com/babycare/general_help/article.php?id=32&p_id=9
    2. Provide an opportunity to sleep in an environment that is conducive to sleeping.  If there’s too many distractions, lights are too bright or things are noisy, it may prove very distracting. Try to create a calm environment by replicating home. White noise, humming, stroking and loving gazes may help.
    3. Provide baby’s sleep associations. These are the things you do typically when it’s sleep time. They can include nursing or a bottle, rocking, a pacifier, patting their back, singing etc. Without these routines, baby may have a hard time falling asleep and will approach being overtired. You may consider walking up and down the aisle stroking your baby’s back. Following sleep routines as best you can are key to lulling your child off to a restful sleep.
    4. Keep sleep associations consistent throughout baby’s entire sleep. The absence of baby’s sleep associations during light sleep increases the risk of waking too soon from sleep. That can increases the risk becoming overtired.

    Over Tired vs Over Stimulation

    An overtired baby often becomes very clingy and demanding. They may not want to you be seated but want you to walk around. They can be fussy either way. The more tired they become, the more cranky they will become. We’ve all seen it: screaming, throwing themselves backward, hitting, throwing, refusing everything including food. They are crying when you hold them and crying when you are not. And they just can’t fall asleep. Here’s some ideas that you can trip to get baby to sleep:

    1)      Swaddling – If baby is young enough, they feel comfort being bundled up. Try putting them on their side after being wrapped up.

    2)      Newborns don’t like quiet. They like “Shhhhhhhh” in their ear, not too loudly but loud enough they can hear it. I read that clock radio static playing that near the bed or crib can help in a hotel although I admit I’ve never tried it.

    Babies have immature nervous systems and when they get over tired your attempts at soothing them may over saturate and inadvertently over stimulate them. Just regular activities trigger unexpected responses. Doing some of the strategies we already discussed about relieving gas can put your baby over the top so that they are inconsolable. Now is when you’ve tried everything, you take a deep breath and keep your patience, and just let it play out. Baby will eventually become exhausted and fall asleep.

    When babies get overstimulated they have certain characteristics you can look for. They may get flushed and movements become jerky. They may start to breathe faster. They may look a little out of it. The earlier you intervene, you may help minimize the session.

    First, observe your baby’s attempts at self-calming. They will try this on their own. They may make sucking movements. They might bring her hand to her mouth and, with your help, start sucking their finger or thumb. They may look like they are sword fighting which is called the fencing reflex: The head turns to the side, one arm and one leg extend, and the other arm and leg flex. This maneuver helps some babies start to settle down. Or, baby may shut out stimulation by staring into space or appear drowsy, and finally the episode will begin to pass.

    If baby needs more help, try holding their arms close to their chest while you talk gently to them in a sing songy type voice. Try a pacifier or use of their thumb or your finger.   “Shhhhh” in their ear. If you practice these you’ll find out which techniques work best for your child.

    This is interesting: By six weeks of age, your baby may be crying three hours a day. Crying diminishes to about one hour a day by 12 weeks of age. By understanding how over stimulation leads to crying – and how to help your baby manage out of it, the crying episodes and your reaction to them will become much more manageable and much less stressful.

    Wants to be Held:

    All kids are different. Some babies prefer not to be touched a lot. When parents try to hold them close they may push away or cry. But they still need to know that they are loved. Be sure to follow the cues your baby gives you about how they like to be handled. Look into their eyes and smile at babies who prefer that little bit of space. They’ll smile and gaze into your eyes. Play touching games with his hands and feet like “Pat-a-Cake” and “This Little Piggy Went to Market.” He will wiggle and squirm with delight as you play. If you have a front baby carrier or sling, they may like that close feeling of safety and comfort.


    If you are still baffled why baby is crying, look for something that could be irritating them such as a scratchy label, tight elastic waist or a hair or something tight or pinching. “Little things” can really annoy babies and experienced caregivers know to look for them.


    Even though we describe temperature awareness with babies as the Goldilocks Guide – not too hot, not too cold, but just right – when it comes to babies, temperature awareness is important and serious business.

    As a general guide, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing baby in no more than one layer more than an adult would use to be comfortable in the same environment. Baby’s head should be uncovered, unless baby weighs less than eight pounds and the room is cold or baby is in a cold environment.

    Parents and caregivers should touch baby’s chest, tummy or back to feel if baby is too hot or too cold. Baby’s tummy and chest should feel warm and dry, not sweaty or cold.

    Signs of Overheating

    A baby who is overly warm may have damp hair, a sweaty back and chest, red ears, a rapid pulse and sometimes fever. A layer of clothing should be removed and baby may need to be taken to a cooler environment or gently fanned.

    Signs of Chilling

    A baby who is not able to stay warm and is in danger of being chilled will become very quiet and still. Babies are not able to shiver like adults to generate heat. Babies that are too cold will not exert the energy it takes to cry. If you feel your baby’s hands and chest to be alarmingly cold, cuddle the baby to get warmer and then apply more clothes.

    Dirty Diapers:

    Nobody would want a dirty diaper! Be sure to bring several clean diapers, ointment and plastic bags for disposal. You cannot expect flight service to have diapers.

    Not Feeling Well:

    If baby just can’t seem to recover, they may be coming down with something. Use your judgment and remember that travel can tax the healthiest adult. You can find emergency information under the Safety pages if things become serious and unmanageable.


    If your baby continues to be fussy or in pain and you’re becoming perplexed, try feeling their gums gently with your finger.  You may find the hard nub of a tooth coming in.  Typically, the first tooth breaks through between 4 and 7 months, but it can happen earlier. Find out more about teething and how to ease the pain