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12 reasons why your newborn might be crying, and how to soothe them

It can be tricky to decipher exactly what your baby wants in the beginning. As you grow with your baby, you'll start to recognize what certain cries mean.

why is my baby crying

Congrats, mama! Your baby is here. But with a newborn comes new learning experiences, and that can be overwhelming for anyone. Babies, especially newborns, have limited ways of communicating—which means crying is a normal part of infancy. Infants may cry as much as one to three hours a day, in fact.

It can be tricky to decipher exactly what your baby wants in the beginning. As you grow with your baby, you'll start to recognize what certain cries mean.

As always, it's good to check with your pediatrician if you're worried, but if everything checks out, here are some reasons your newborn may be crying.

1. They're hungry

Most newborns eat about every two to three hours around the clock (and sometimes more), and crying can be a sign of hunger. This may make it harder for the baby to settle down during a feeding. Look for these hunger cues before the baby starts crying to make feedings a bit smoother for you, mama:

  • Licking lips
  • Sticking tongue out
  • Rooting (moving jaw and mouth or head in search of breast)
  • Putting their hand to mouth repeatedly
  • Opening mouth
  • Fussiness
  • Sucking on everything within reach (fingers, toes, toys)

2. They're tired

Newborns are asleep for most of the day and night (all that nonstop growing can really wear a baby out!). On average, they sleep eight to nine hours during the day and eight hours at night, waking up every few hours to eat.

Finding a consistent sleep schedule early on can help your baby differentiate day from night and get them into a routine. If this routine is altered in some way, that could be the reason your baby is crying. Here are some behaviors to look for that indicate a sleepy baby—before they start crying:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Yawning
  • Looking away
  • Fussing

For more tips on newborns and sleeping, learn about newborn sleep patterns: what to expect + when to rest.

3. Their diaper is dirty

There's a good reason why so many experienced parents check their baby's diaper first thing when they start fussing: A crying baby is a sign that their diaper might need to be changed. A dirty diaper can cause irritation from poop or urine over time, making baby a bit uncomfortable.

Diaper rash, a common skin irritation for babies, presents as red patches on the area under (or near) your baby's diaper. But don't worry, mama: Diaper rash usually clears up within a few days with at-home treatments like ointments, air drying and more frequent diaper changes.

However, if the diaper rash doesn't go away after a few days of at-home care, you may need to talk to your baby's provider. Sometimes, you'll need a prescription medication to treat diaper rash.

Here are some ways to prevent diaper rash:

  • Change diapers often.
  • Rinse your baby's bottom with warm water as part of each diaper change.
  • Gently pat the skin dry with a clean towel or let it air dry.
  • Don't over tighten diapers.
  • Give your baby's bottom more time without a diaper.
  • Consider using diaper ointment regularly.
  • After changing diapers, wash your hands well.

4. They need to be burped

When babies are feeding, they take in air, which can build up in their bodies and make them uncomfortable. You may then find yourself with a fussy, squirmy baby. If your newborn is crying and they just finished being breastfed or bottle fed, try to burp them for a few minutes. This will help relieve that pressure and make the baby feel more comfortable.

5. Something is chafing or rubbing their skin

A baby's skin is very sensitive, especially for newborns. Diapers or clothing may start to chafe and rub, which can cause discomfort and lead to your baby fussing or crying. If you notice red rough skin on your baby, particularly in the diaper area, the material may be too tight or rough.

As always, if you're concerned about any rash or skin irritation, talk to your child's health care provider.

6. Overeating

Sometimes a baby can indulge a little too much. Newborns who are bottle feeding may be more likely to overeat because the milk may flow more freely from a bottle than a breast. Overfed babies can experience stomach pains, gas, spit up or vomit that could cause discomfort.

If you are worried that your baby may be overeating, try filling their bottle a bit less, cutting about half an ounce at a time. Feed them, give them a minute or two to see if they are still hungry, and then feed them another half ounce—that way they have enough time to realize they're full.

7. They want to be held

Sometimes your baby just wants to be near you, mama, and that's a good thing! Try holding your baby with some skin-to-skin contact. The warmth from your body, your heartbeat and your smell will help calm them, creating comforting sensations similar to the womb.

Don't worry about holding your baby "too much," mama. During the fourth trimester, when you and your baby are growing and learning the ropes together, it's common for babies to seek the comfort they had in your womb. Holding them recreates those familiar comforts.

And know that it is scientifically impossible to spoil a newborn!

8. They're too hot or cold

Newborns can't adjust to temperature changes like adults. They lose heat rapidly, about four times faster than an adult. When a baby is too cold, they use energy and oxygen to generate warmth. When they are too hot, they can risk overheating.

Keeping your baby at a steady temperature, neither too hot or too cold, can help them reserve their energy and use it elsewhere. This is particularly important for babies that are sick or premature.

Using wearable blankets, or sleep sacks, are a safer alternative to blankets if your baby is cold, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Using a wearable blanket can reduce the likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Be sure to watch out for overheating too. While you may want to bundle your baby up, be sure to dress your baby for the right environment. Signs your baby may be too hot are if they become red in the face or begin to breathe faster and deeper. It's important to note that not all infants are capable of sweating, so it's best not to look for that as an indicator.

Last thing: An ideal temperature for a home with a newborn is 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

9. They're overstimulated

Your newborn will see and hear lots of new sights and sounds: Sometimes this can be a bit overwhelming. If you notice your baby getting fussy or crying in a more chaotic environment, that's a sign that the baby is overstimulated. Find a calmer environment or put your baby in their crib. White noise, like ocean sounds or the sound of a fan, might also help your crying baby relax.

10. The "period of PURPLE crying"

If your newborn is crying very hard and seems inconsolable, and you've ruled out the options above, the first step is to touch base with your pediatrician to check that everything is okay. If your pediatrician confirms that there is no other cause for concern, then your baby may be experiencing the "period of PURPLE crying."

Don't be alarmed at the use of the word purple, it is an acronym that stands for:

Peak of crying
Unexpected
Resists soothing
Pain-like face
Long lasting
Evening

"The Period of PURPLE Crying" is a relatively new term, coined by Canadian developmental pediatrician, Ronald Barr, to describe a period of time when infants cry a lot. It has nothing to do with them turning purple (which would be an emergency).

This type of crying usually starts around week 2 and lasts for a few months. The child simply cannot be soothed during this period, though parents will try everything to relieve them. It may last up to 5 hours and begin during the late afternoon or evening.

In the absence of illness or injury, purple crying is normal—but very difficult for parents. For more, visit dontshake.org.

11. Colic

Colic is defined as crying for 3 or more hours per day, 3 or more days per week, for 3 or more weeks. There are many theories as to the cause of colic, which is more common for premature babies. It may be due to tummy troubles or even baby migraines. If you have a baby who cries a lot, talk to their health care provider. They can help determine if the cause is medical or developmental.

12. Pain

If none of the above reasons help your baby to stop crying, and you believe them to be in pain, seek medical help from your doctor.

It can be incredibly stressful when your baby won't stop crying. If you find yourself getting frustrated, put the baby down in a safe space and take a few minutes to breathe and take care of yourself—it's really good parenting to admit when you need a minute to calm down.

Remember that you are not in this alone. Your pediatrician is an invaluable part of your team, so do not hesitate to reach out to them (even at 2 am).

You are the most important soother your baby has; but sometimes, mama needs a little help.

Weighted sleep sack

weighted sleep sack

Created by a mama looking for a sleep solution for her own little one, this innovative weighted sleep sack with detachable swaddle wing uses the same principles of weighted blankets to bring security and comfort to babies to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

$79

Organic diaper balm

organic diaper balm

Diaper rashes require effective care—no butts about it. (Sorry, we couldn't help ourselves.) This quick-acting diaper rash cream is made with 92% organic ingredients, including zinc, green tea and marigold to boost skin resilience and seal out wetness and germs. Now that's a powerful bottom line.

$56

Bouncer

bouncer

Keep baby close while giving your arms a rest with the BABYBJÖRN Bouncer Bliss. The thoughtful, no-frills design rocks gently when baby kicks and wiggles–no batteries required.

$200

Diaper cleanser and moisturizer

diaper cleanser

In their first year of life, baby bottoms will endure 2,500-3,000 diaper changes. Leave their delicate skin feeling soft and smooth while protecting them from irritation with Noleo Diaper Cleanser and Moisturizer.

$16

Wooden teether

wooden teether

Calm and soothe baby's gums with this adorable boat wooden teether. Wooden beads make it easy for little hands to grab.

$15

A portion of this article appears in 'The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama.'

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Wooden doll stroller

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

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$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

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Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

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Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

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If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

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Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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In these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

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