Why do newborn babies cry?

All newborns cry, and they will do it frequently in their first 6-8 weeks. When you think about it, it's the only way babies this young can communicate their functions and needs. The only way, too, that a baby can exert any control over their environment. And while they might screw their faces up and look like they are in pain, your baby's crying is largely just a way to express themselves.

It is thought that all babies have different temperaments and responses to their environment. These will change as they get older, but remember you can't spoil a baby in their first six months by responding quickly to their cries. In fact, this is a good way to reduce your baby's overall periods of crying, and you will help them learn they are in a safe and secure environment.

When do newborn babies cry?

Although a baby will cry whenever they feel the need, their intensity and their frequency tends to increase in the evenings. It is thought that this is a general response to fatigue since your baby is more likely to be up and awake during times when you are.

Remember that this is all a new experience for your baby, so they can get overstimulated and unsettled pretty easily.

What's my baby trying to tell me?

Your baby could be trying to tell you any number of things, or they could be crying just because they feel like it. Making those noises and flailing their limbs is pretty much all they can control at this point, so try and see it from their perspective.

Generally, however, the reasons babies cry are either functional, an indicator of discomfort or expressive. Some of the things your newborn's crying might indicate include:

  • Hunger
  • Wind or passing stool (or issues with either)
  • Hot or cold temperature
  • The need for burping
  • A dirty nappy
  • The need for love and attention
  • Fatigue
  • The need to express themselves

and less often

  • Pain or sickness.

What can I do?

Firstly, don't panic. Most babies cry on average three hours a day. Sometimes they cry for no apparent reason, and no matter what you do, they don't stop. This is sometimes referred to as colic, but there are strategies you can use to deal with this type of crying.

Your wellbeing with a crying child, especially a first child, is important too. Try not to lose your patience; if you find yourself getting frustrated or disappointed with an inconsolable infant, remove yourself from the room for a few moments, or share the load with family or a friend.

With love, attentiveness and a lot of patience, you'll be able to get through the crying together, which itself should peak around 6 to 8 weeks. Come this point you will also be better able to interpret your baby's needs. If the crying persists in its frequency and intensity, or you suspect there might be something else at play, seek support and advice from your doctor, paediatrician or nurse.

Remember that if you remain calm, smile and keep a relaxed tone of voice, your baby is likely to sense this. Trust that the older they get, the less they will cry, and before you know it you'll be able to reason with them (to a degree!).