Why Do Babies Cry (And How to Comfort Them)

Why Do Babies Cry and How To Comfort Them

Updated on January 22nd, 2021 // by Katie Griffin

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Babies are gorgeous, sweet, cuddly bundles of joy.  They also are loud.  Like, “Oh my gosh, what is happening?” loud.  We all know that babies cry, however nothing quite prepares you for how startling and puzzling those wails can be.

While new parents were once encouraged to let baby cry it out, research has shown that babies who are made to feel safe and secure quickly cry less often and for shorter times. With this in mind, let’s discuss why do babies cry and share some tips to help you quickly care for your baby’s needs.

Why Do Babies Cry – Communication

Why do babies cry- communication

Going from in insulated, warm and cozy womb to the hustle and bustle of this world is a shock worth crying about!  And it turns out those tears are baby’s main communication cue for us as parents.  But what exactly is your little one trying to communicate?  A simple way to process your babies needs is to think of the acronym T.E.A.R.S.

T = Tired.  Is your baby in need of a nap?

E = Eat.  Does your baby need to eat?

A = Air.  Does your baby have trapped gas? (Try burping for upper gas or bicycling their legs for lower gas.)

R = Reassurance.  Often your baby just needs physical reassurance that he is safe.  Holding, rocking, speaking, singing, and babywearing can all help to reassure your baby.

S = Stimulation.  In a world full of loud noises, bright lights, and strange smells, it’s easy for your new baby to become overstimulated and unsettled.  The uncomfortable sensation of a wet or messy diaper, a sideways sock, or an itchy shirt could cause crankiness.  On the flip side, baby could be bored and desire a bit more stimulation.  Try picking baby up and cooing with her, or take her for a walk outside to offer a change of scenery.

Why Do Babies Cry (And How to Comfort Them) – The Five S’s

Why do Babies cry - Harvey Karp 5 Ss

Sometimes your baby will continue to cry even when all his basic needs are met.  He’s been fed, diapered, changed into comfortable clothes, and he’s not sleepy.  But still baby continues to cry!  A helpful method developed by Dr Harvey Karp provides 5 easy-to-try soothing techniques known as the “The Five S’s.”  The idea is to recreate the womb environment to help a distressed baby (and parent) find some peace.

Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Five S’s

#1 Swaddling

Swaddling is a simple way to recreate the snug, cozy feeling of the womb.  It also decreases your a newborn’s startle reflex and helps baby to sleep longer.  (Learn more about the Moro or startle reflex here.)

#2 Side or Stomach Position

Try calming a fussy baby by holding him on his side or stomach across your arm or over your shoulder.  This creates a gentle pressure on baby’s tummy, and the position also makes it less likely that he’ll trigger the startle reflex.  Remember, however, that the back is the recommended safe position for actual sleeping.

#3 Shushing

In the womb, baby heard the non-stop sound of your heart beat and the steady whooshing of blood.  “White Noise” type of sounds such as moderate shushing in a baby’s ear, a fan, clothes dryer or static on a radio can mimic the familiar sounds of the womb.

#4 Swinging

During your pregnancy, baby was constantly on the move with you.  Your baby felt every movement you made, and was passively rocked, jiggled bounced for nine months.  Gently rocking, jiggling and bouncing can help recreate that safe, womb-like feeling.  (Be safe and NEVER shake your baby.  Be sure to support the head and neck and always keep motions small.)

#5 Sucking

Babies have a natural instinct and need to suck, even when they’re not hungry.  Sucking is soothing for a baby, and it’s often the key to finally calming your fussy bundle of joy.  Consider using a pacifier, or if you’re in a pinch, let baby suck on your clean fingers (1,3).

Why Do Babies Cry (And How to Comfort Them) – Babywearing

Why do babies cry - babywearing

Babywearing is the use of carriers, slings, and wraps to keep your baby close to you while you remain hands-free.  It’s another simple way to recreate the sensations of the womb, and is also a great bonding technique to help mom, dad, and all caregivers connect with baby (2).

There are so many varieties of baby carriers, slings and wraps.  Look into the different options and learn the safest and most comfortable babywearing style for you.  Not only will you keep your little one close, but you’ll look good doing it!  They now come in so many styles from cool, to beautiful, funky and chic.  It’s taken off as fashion statement all its own! (If you’re still pregnant, the Kopa® PREPARED online course includes an entire class about babywearing!)

Why Do Babies Cry – Colic & GER

Sometimes even the best tricks of the trade don’t work and a baby continues crying.  This can leave parents feeling helpless and desperate.  Some wonder if their inconsolable baby might have a medical condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux (GER).  This can be determined by your health care provider.  As a rule of thumb, GER symptoms occurs throughout the day and night directly following feedings.  Babies with GER tend to show signs of back arching, spitting up, and may have sour breath.

Colic is defined as three or more crying episodes a week that last for three or more hours at a time. It usually begins around three weeks of age and subsides around three months of age, and affects from 10-15% of all babies.  Although there isn’t a definitive answer as to the cause of colic, there is a higher chance of colic in premature babies and those exposed to tobacco and nicotine in utero. (1)

Either way, if you suspect colic or GER, talk with your pediatrician to learn the options of care for your baby.

Ask For Help

During the challenging times of figuring out your babies cries, try to remember that this is a short phase.  You will get through this.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help and reprieve if the struggle of soothing a chronically fussy baby becomes overwhelming.  There is absolutely no shame in putting your baby down in a safe place as you take a few steps away and regain your composure. Reach out to family, friends or other parents for help. Raising babies can be tough work, but in the end, oh so very worth it.

Kopa Birth’s online childbirth classes allow you to prepare for a natural childbirth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class to learn more about preparing for a natural hospital birth.


(1) Simkin, P., Whalley, J., Keppler, A., Durham, J., & Bolding, A. (2016). Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Minnetonka: Meadowbrook Press.

(2) Newborn Intensive Care: What Every Parent Needs to Know, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)

(3) Karp, Harvey.  The 5 S’s for Soothing Babies.  Retrieved from https://www.happiestbaby.com/blogs/baby/the-5-s-s-for-soothing-babies

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Meet Katie Griffin

I’m a registered nurse, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, and the mother of 7. I help women realize their dream of a natural, intimate, and empowering hospital birth.

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Updated on January 22nd, 2021 // by Katie Griffin Babies are gorgeous, sweet, cuddly bundles of joy. They also are loud. Like, “Oh my gosh, what is happening?” loud. We