crying baby

Crying as Communication

The first time you hear your baby cry is such an exciting and memorable moment. But when you are tired, and its the middle of the night, the crying is not so appealing.

It is useful to remember that crying is the way your baby communicates with you. When your baby cries he or she is saying I’m hungry, tired, hot, cold, wet, I need a cuddle, or I have a tummy ache. As you and your baby get to know each other, you will find you can tell the difference between some of these cries. By responding to your baby’s cries and what they need, your baby learns to trust you. This attention does not mean they will cry more often, or you will “spoil” your baby. Recent evidence suggests that babies will cry less and be less distressed because they know you will come.

Should I worry?

Sometimes babies become over-stimulated or over-tired. Crying is a way they shut out the world or reboot. At times, some babies can be difficult to soothe, and most babies have a “fussy time” of the day, even if they are healthy and normal. Please refer to the Soothing Baby page for some useful tips for these periods.

However, if your baby seems unwell, or you feel something is just not right, trust your instincts and consult a doctor. There are a growing number of bulk-billing after-hours medical services. Most Australian states and territories also provide an information line which enables you to speak to a health professional 24/7. In Queensland, this is 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) is available for advice 24 hours a day. If you are not in Queensland you cal call HealthDirect Australia on 1800022222. Families outside of Australia will need to investigate their local services.

Some organisations provide advice and offer education around settling your baby. One such organisation in Australia is Tresillian. Click here to visit their website. There are also support helplines you can call. Your GP or child health nurse is an excellent source of this information.

How to cope with a crying baby

Remember, it is reasonable to feel exhausted and upset by a baby who never seems to stop crying. Coping with a baby who always seems unhappy is hugely stressful, so try to make sure there’s plenty of support around. But if you’re getting very upset, you may find it helps to put her down somewhere safe or ask someone else to hold her and leave the room. Your baby will feel your stress and react to how you are feeling. A calm mother will soothe an upset baby more effectively than a distressed one. Never shake a baby, no matter how frustrated you feel – this is very dangerous. It could even be fatal.

Use all the support available to you, whether it be helplines, your partner and family,  or local sources of support such as mothers groups. Remember, as you and your baby get to know each other better, you’ll begin to learn what different cries mean.

Janice Rowe (BSW (Hons) BMid), Registered Midwife
Photo by Pattarawat Loharnchoon used under license from