Baby crying: understanding and calming them

When faced with a crying newborn, one can quickly feel disarmed. It is not always easy to know the reason and to adopt the right strategy to appease it. Catherine Pierrat, psychologist and Pierre Popowski pediatrician-homeopath, give us their advice.


  1. Why is a baby crying?
  2. The different crying babies: what do they mean?
  3. Respond to crying and calm your baby
  4. Respond to your baby’s crying
  5. When crying becomes excessive

“Why is baby crying and how can I calm him down?”  This is one of the main concerns of young parents. Indeed, when faced with a small being unable to express themselves in words, one can quickly feel helpless when faced with the crying of their little one . And for good reason, the newborn can cry, even if it is full and clean. Catherine Pierrat, psychologist, and Dr. Pierre Popowski enlighten us on this delicate subject.

Why is a baby crying?

Let the young parents reassure themselves, the crying does not last forever and its intensity changes:

  • During the first four months, the crying is  physiological   ;
  • They tend to increase from the second weekof life;
  • They reach their maximum between six and eight weeks  ;
  • They decrease markedly at 4 months.

There are big differences between babies. This probably comes from the way the people who care for them interpret and respond to crying, ” says pediatrician-homeopath Dr. Pierre Popowski. Whether your baby cries little or a lot, know that crying is actually a language in its own right for the first few months of life . For Catherine Pierrat, ” crying allows children to communicate, express their needs and attract the attention of their parents “.

The different crying babies: what do they mean?

According to the psychologist, there are seven main messages that go through the crying:

  • I am hungry: it responds to a vital function which is to eat. These are tears that often start slowly, then increase in intensity if the need is not met. “The baby can also cry during breastfeeding if the mother does not have enough milk,” adds the pediatrician;
  • I am uncomfortable, my diaper is dirty or I am tight in my clothes:some children are particularly sensitive to this feeling while others are not;
  • I am too cold or too hot:sensitivity to temperature can manifest itself when changing diapers or when bathing and explain why the child is crying;
  • I need a hug:babies need contact, to be reassured and contained, and nothing better than a hug to soothe them. “Your child has been rocked for his entire intrauterine life ,” recalls Dr. Popowski;
  • I am sleepy:many infants have trouble falling asleep and go through a crying phase before sleeping. The crying is also accompanied by other signs such as rubbing the nose or the eyes…;
  • I do not feel well:it is often crying different by their intensity and their modulation which must alert the parents. It can be pain, over-stimulation, discomfort … These crying can be accompanied by other signs such as temperature, or vomiting. The crying of pain is often short, piercing, intense and very sharp;
  • I am bored:the newborn may need to interact with those around him through verbal and non-verbal communication, through play for example.

For Dr. Peter Poposwki, do not forget the tears of so-called  ‘ ‘ dysrhythmia ”  : ” They reveal the discomfort of infant who must adapt to the day / night rhythm. Crying predominates in the late afternoon and evening. These bouts of tears are difficult to calm or even inconsolable. Stress is no stranger to this phenomenon. ‘ ‘

The main thing is to be able to distinguish these tears in order to understand baby’s language .  

Respond to crying and calm your baby

Baby crying  can be disarming at first for young parents. Decoding and responding to them requires both a great sense of observation and experimentation . Besides, at the start, we can grope … Of course, we have the choice to answer them or ignore them. But by not paying attention to it,  the child risks stopping the communication and withdrawing, or else  increasing his crying in a disorganized manner, which will lead to escalation and nervousness.

Before getting there, here are three tips that may help you, according to Dr. Popowski (if you have already checked the diaper, given the meal, etc.):

  • Carry your child in your arms, baby carrier, sling, skin-to-skin. Physical proximity and reassurance are often the best ways to calm your baby. Some babies particularly appreciate being carried on the stomach, on the arm of their parent;
  • Swaddling is appreciated by some babies. The newborn does not control his movements well, this body which moves all by itself in a disorderly way can hinder it during its sleep. By wrapping it in a cloth, as is done in some cultures, it feels maintained and reassured;
  • A belly massagesometimes helps to evacuate the gases that bother him: away from meals, make concentric circles around the navel, counterclockwise.

” If the cries are  continuous more than 5 minutes after trying to calm him down in various ways, check that the baby is not ” over-fed ” , that he is not suffering from digestive disorders or other pathology. Do not hesitate to weigh it, take its temperature. Vomiting, diarrhea, rash, etc. can also alert you. The causes of crying can be varied: cough, pain (linked to GERD, etc.), hunger, thirst, heat, cold, noise alone can make them cry and wake them up at night or during a nap and require appropriate measures. ” , explains Pierre Popowski. This is the reason why you should know how to  consult the pediatrician., looking for an organic cause in the first place, ” he adds.


  • Chamomilla, if the crying stops when baby is walked or rocked;
  • Colocynthis: if your baby folds in half and is very irritable during crying;
  • Dioscorea: conversely, crying occurs while your baby is in extension, his arms and his head back;
  • Nux vomica: if your baby cries because he is bored, he needs to participate in family life;
  • Lycopodium: if your baby cries a lot, nothing seems to appease him, he constantly demands to eat;
  • Calcarea Carbonica: if your baby cries when his mother is not with him;
  • Borax: for crying out of vertigo, for example when the baby is put on the scale to weigh it.

Respond to your baby’s crying

Beyond observation and experimentation, intuition plays an essential role . The mother is biologically ready to meet the needs of her baby to have the appropriate answers. Parents therefore need to know how to listen to their body and their heart in order to interact with their baby. Responding appropriately is the first and most difficult communication challenge facing parents.

And if that doesn’t work, it’s essential not to feel guilty  : no, the baby isn’t crying because of you. Sometimes the infant may just want to cry, to express themselves. The main thing is to make him feel safe.

Note: certain serious pathologies such as autism can explain a  total absence of crying and are related to child psychiatry.

When crying becomes excessive

It is a priori difficult to determine exactly a frequency from which crying is said to be “excessive” . For the pediatrician, “throughout the day, the infant can build up tension and express it by crying .  This is why  it is difficult to say when the crying becomes excessive .

You should know that 8 to 25% of infants under 3 months have excessive crying of non-digestive origin . Among the different causes:

  • Post-vaccination persistent cry syndrome;
  • The pyelonephritis;
  • Tourniquet syndrome;
  • A burn ;
  • Corneal abrasion;
  • Dermatosis;
  • A torticollis;
  • The syndrome shaken children(often before 6 months);
  • A difficult pregnancy (anxiety, depression, professional stress, etc.);
  • The passive smoking…

But in the majority of cases, excessive crying does not have a specific cause identified.

Baby crying can also be related to a disturbed environment at this age :  parental concern, dysfunction of the family environment, lack of stability in the environment (noise, promiscuity, etc.). In this case, excessive crying is frequently accompanied by sleep disturbances.

According to Catherine Pierrat, ” when the baby’s crying seems unusual and different in its intensity and modularity, it  is best to consult the pediatrician, or pediatric emergencies. And if he continues to cry when the physical causes have been ruled out,  a consultation with a psychologist or a child psychiatrist can help identify another problem related to the mother-child relationship or family dynamics.


by Abdullah Sam
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