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Different Baby Cries Meaning: Types of Baby Cries and What They Mean

different baby cry meaning

New parents often wish they had a magic baby translator—especially when their little one is crying all through the night. Though you might start to figure out different baby cries meaning sooner than you think, it isn't always easy when you're sleep-deprived and dealing with a little one who won't calm down!

That's why we're here to help - learn about the most common reasons for baby crying, how to tell the difference between types of baby cries, and how to calm them down so you can both get some sleep. First, why do babies cry in the first place?

Baby Cry Analyzer

Type of Cry



Usually high-pitched tone, demanding energetic cry. Your baby is hungry.


Usually crying will stop when you play with the baby. Stimulate your baby. Talk softly with him/her. Rub your hand on your baby's tummy.


Usually starts with a long moan followed by a long pause without a breath. Check for a wet diaper, teething, or tight clothing. If the baby has gas, massage your baby's tummy. Check for constipation.


Usually crying will increase when you try to stimulate the baby. Change position. Speak softly or rock your baby. Lay the baby on your chest so it can hear your heartbeat. Your soft voice will soothe the baby to sleep. Check room temperature & general comfort.


Usually a short cry that slowly drops & then rises again. Find a quiet place with low light. Pick the baby up & gently rock in silence. Walk with the baby then lay your baby down again when the crying stops. Speak softly to your child so you can comfort it with the sound of your voice.

Why do babies cry?

Though adults tend to cry when they're sad or in pain, this isn't always the case for babies. In fact, babies are stuck with crying as their only form of communication for the first few months of their life, so it can mean all kinds of things, from 'I'm hungry' or 'I'm teething' to 'I need some sleep!'

Crying for around two hours per day is considered normal for a newborn baby - if they're crying significantly more than this, you may want to speak to your doctor to rule out illnesses or any serious issues.

The Different Baby Cries Meaning: Types of Baby Cries and What They Mean

As an adult, you usually associate crying with pain or sadness, but this isn't the case for babies, who cry for all sorts of reasons. This is because they don't have the ability to communicate using words yet - instead, your baby's cries have to get their needs and desires across to you.


Every baby is unique and therefore has their own unique cries; however, there are specific sounds that your baby might make when crying for a certain reason. Let’s get into the different baby cries meaning below.


Hunger is one of the most straightforward cries to identify and address. A hungry baby’s cry is often rhythmic and persistent, growing in intensity the longer it goes unanswered. It may be accompanied by physical signs such as sucking on fingers, smacking lips, or rooting – which is when a baby turns their head and opens their mouth towards something that brushes against their cheek, searching for food.

Parents can respond to hunger cries by establishing a regular feeding schedule that aligns with their baby’s natural hunger cues. However, babies may need to eat more often during growth spurts or if they are simply hungrier than usual. During the first few months, on-demand feeding is typically encouraged to ensure that babies receive the nutrition they need for their rapid development.

To further minimize hunger cries, parents can look for early signs of hunger before the baby feels the need to cry. These include increased alertness, stirring, stretching, and subtle mouth movements. By responding to these early cues, parents can feed their baby calmly before distress sets in, making the feeding process more enjoyable for both the baby and the caregiver.

Full Diaper

A baby’s cry due to a full diaper can vary, but it often involves signs of physical discomfort. The baby may squirm, kick more vigorously, or have a grimacing expression. Unlike hunger cries, which can be rhythmic, a discomfort cry may be more erratic and whiny, as it communicates the baby's urgent plea for relief from a wet or soiled diaper.

Changing the baby’s diaper promptly when it becomes soiled can prevent the discomfort from escalating into a full-blown cry. Parents can use this as an opportunity to check for any signs of diaper rash, apply preventive creams, and ensure the baby is thoroughly clean and comfortable before putting on a fresh diaper.

Creating a warm and comforting environment for diaper changes can also help make the experience less distressing for a baby. This includes having all the supplies ready, gently talking and singing to the baby during the change, and ensuring their comfort with a soft changing pad and room temperature.

Seeking Attention

Babies crave attention and touch, as it makes them feel secure and loved. A cry for attention is not just a request for the physical presence of a caregiver but also a developmental need for interaction and bonding. This is a common symptom of baby separation anxiety.

Such a cry can start off softly and become more demanding. The baby might make eye contact, reach out, or exhibit social smiles when someone engages with them, then start to fuss if the attention ceases.

In the early weeks and months, babies benefit significantly from immediate and warm responses to their cries for attention. It helps them develop a sense of trust and emotional security. Carrying, holding, or wearing the baby in a sling can keep them close and content while allowing parents to go about their tasks.

Providing attentive care also includes engaging with the baby through talking, singing, and playing, which are critical for their social and emotional development. Scheduled ‘playtimes’ when the baby is alert and in a good mood can fulfill their need for attention and can often prevent crying episodes due to a need for engagement.


If you've already checked your baby's diaper, fed them, given them a cuddle, and they still won't stop crying, colic could be the cause. A colicky baby is never easy for a family to handle, as not only is your baby sleep deprived, but their constant crying is keeping other people in the home from sleeping too.

Once you've ruled out any other cause of persistent crying by speaking to your doctor, you can start figuring out if your baby has colic. To do this, you can use the rule of three: your baby cries for more than three hours every day, for more than three days a week, and for more than three weeks in a row.

However, it isn't just the amount of crying that indicates colic - it's the look and sound of the crying too. Colic is characterized by an especially intense cry that's usually louder and higher pitched than normal - almost closer to screaming than crying. It may also be accompanied by your baby arching their back or tensing up their limbs as though they're in pain. This can be distressing for parents too, even if you already know that colic is usually temporary and harmless.

As stated above, colic crying usually happens for more than three hours in a day, and crying sessions will usually happen at the same time of day; for most babies, this is in the evening, though can vary. In terms of age, colic can start when your baby is around three or four weeks old, and will most likely stop at three or four months at the latest.

Colic is stressful for parents and babies alike, and for many people, the worst part isn't the crying - it's feeling like you aren't able to make your baby feel better. It's important to remember in tougher moments that colic is only temporary and can't do any harm to your baby.

Because scientists aren't completely sure what causes colic, there isn't a one size fits all solution - however, there are plenty of things you can do to soothe a colicky baby until it goes away. 

Many parents find the airplane hold helpful as it provides some gentle pressure on your baby's tummy that can soothe stomach pains - swaddling with sleepwear like our weighted newborn swaddle can help provide similar pressure while your baby is sleeping.


You might not notice your baby growing a tiny bit each day, but you will notice bigger changes like teeth coming in, which is why teething is such an exciting time for many parents! However, it can come with some challenges, especially when teething pains cause your little one to start crying through the night.

Though the most obvious sign of teething is actually seeing new teeth cut through your baby's gums - usually the bottom incisors come first at around five or six months - there are some other symptoms to look out for. These include a slight fever, redness on one side of your baby's face, a rash on your baby's face, dribbling or chewing more than usual, and crying more than usual.

In terms of sound, a teething baby crying sounds high-pitched, though maybe not as intense as a baby with colic. They may also be more fussy than usual more generally, even when they aren't actively crying.

Your baby will usually start teething at around five or six months, and will have all of their baby teeth by the time they're two or three. But don't worry - this doesn't mean that your baby will be fussy the whole time! Generally speaking, a baby will only be fussy for a few days each time a new tooth comes through and will calm down again in between.

If you want to soothe a baby who has a new tooth coming through, there are plenty of techniques and products you can try out. Many parents swear by teething rings, and putting them in the refrigerator can help cool your baby's sore gums (but don't put them in your freezer, as this will be too cold). In a pinch, just rubbing a clean finger onto your baby's gums can provide some similar relief.

If this doesn't seem to soothe your baby as much as you hoped it would, you may want to try some baby-safe medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, but make sure to speak to your pediatrician about this first.

We have a detailed guide on how to help a teething baby sleep if you suspect this is the baby cry meaning your child is giving. 


When your baby is crying at night, all you want them to do is calm down and fall asleep - but what do you do when your baby gets too tired to sleep? 

Overtiredness happens because once your baby begins to be too fatigued, their body has a stress response, releasing chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that lead to them becoming more alert and less likely to sleep.

There are a few different signs of overtiredness you can watch out for: struggling to fall asleep at night, falling asleep for short periods during the day, and being crankier than usual throughout the day, with older babies being more prone to meltdowns.

If you still aren't sure if your baby is overtired, you can listen out for an overtiredness cry - this sounds high-pitched and nasal, and usually increases in intensity over time, especially if they're only getting more and more tired!

The amount of sleep that a baby needs is dependent on their age - for example, a newborn baby needs between eighteen and fifteen hours of sleep per day, while a six-month-old only needs between twelve and fifteen. Your baby can also only be awake for a certain amount of time between periods of sleep - a newborn can only be awake for around 90 minutes at a time.

This means that you can work out whether your newborn is overtired without looking for certain symptoms, though it's understandable if overtired parents haven't been keeping track!

The solution for overtiredness might seem obvious, but as you probably know, it isn't easy to get a sleep-deprived baby to fall asleep! This is where certain sleep aids can be helpful, from blackout curtains to keep light out of their room to a baby-safe white noise machine that blocks out any noise that could be stopping them from sleeping.

But we think the best sleep aid for an overtired baby is our own Zen Swaddle - gently weighted to mimic your soothing touch even when you aren't in the room, this sleepwear can help both you and your little one get some sleep.

Find more tips on how to calm an overtired baby in our blog. We can talk about what you should do if your newborn cries when put down or your baby cries in sleep in our blog as well. 


Once you've ruled out causes like a dirty diaper and know that you aren't hearing a hunger cry or a colic cry, you should check for other symptoms to see if your crying baby is actually suffering from some kind of illness or injury. Some common issues like chickenpox, ear infections, and colds can lead to your baby crying, and it's important to figure out the cause so you can give them the right treatment.

There are many different symptoms that your baby might experience from different illnesses, but generally speaking, these are some of the most common signs of sickness to watch out for: a runny or blocked nose, rashes or red splotches on their skin, lethargy, and a weak cry that sounds like a moan. Some signs of more serious illnesses include a fever, convulsions, crying for several hours without stopping, and going limp - if your baby shows any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

If your baby shows any sign of illness, you'll want to seek medical advice from your pediatrician. They may prescribe your little one some medication or recommend some at-home remedies to try.

zen one when baby cries out

Regardless of the Different Baby Cry Meanings, Here Are Tips on Keeping Your Cool

Every new and expecting parent knows that newborn babies cry for at least an hour or two each day, but that doesn't mean it's easy to handle! No matter what the different baby cry meanings are, you want to put an end to the anguish and noise coming from your child. 

Your baby crying, especially at night, can have an impact on your own health and mental wellbeing, and it's important to take care of yourself as well as your little one. Regardless of the different types of baby cries meaning you’re dealing with, here’s what you need to remember…

Evaluate your own emotional state

When you're spending all of your time looking after somebody else, it can be easy to forget to stop for a moment and acknowledge how you're feeling, whether you're content and calm or in need of a break. Not only does this give you a chance to figure out whether you need a break or some help, but it also helps to emotionally ground you and put you in a more stable, empathetic frame of mind as you look after your baby.

Take a time out

If you find yourself in urgent need of a break for whatever reason, you shouldn't ignore your instincts - make sure you take some time for yourself and have a rest as you ponder the different baby cries meaning.

Having a comfortable chair close to your baby's crib is perfect for this, as it means you can take a breather while still checking in on your little one as they lay down in a safe place.

Find a mantra

If you've found yourself feeling anxious as you look after your baby, having a mantra can help. This is just a short phrase you can repeat to yourself to help feel grounded and in control during stressful situations. For example, Nicole Schwarz from Imperfect Families recommends some of the following phrases:

  • 'This is not an emergency'
  • 'I am loving'
  • 'I am confident'
  • 'I can let go on this'

A mantra can include anything you want, as long as you find that it helps you feel calmer and more emotionally stable in tough situations.

Ask for help

As much as lots of parents might want to be, you aren't a super parenting machine - looking after a baby is hard work, and you need to make sure you get the breaks you need. Whether that means asking your partner to take an extra shift at night, having a parent stay over to watch over the baby for a day or two, or even just having a friend visit so you can take a nap, scheduling time for breaks is vital for your mental health.

If you've found yourself feeling especially low or anxious since having your baby, you may be suffering from postpartum depression - this is nothing to be ashamed of, and you should speak to your doctor to discuss your options and get the help you need.

Our Advice on Soothing a Crying Baby

Though it depends somewhat on why your baby is crying to begin with, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can try to calm down a crying baby, from cuddles and lullabies to sleep aids and swaddles.

Rhythmic noise and gentle movement have been known to help calm down babies who can't stop crying - rocking your baby or holding them while sitting in a rocking chair can help them settle, as can soothing, repetitive sounds like shushing or from white noise machines. If you can't hold your baby, you can try putting them in a baby swing for a similar effect, or giving them a pacifier to suck on.

You can also try out our Zen One, which works as both a swaddle and a wearable blanket thanks to its detachable mesh sleeves! Gently weighted to mimic your soothing touch, this sleepwear is perfect for helping your fussy little one fall asleep at night.

We have a list of newborn sleep aid options you have at your fingertips, but we encourage you to explore our other weighted sleepwear like our zipper swaddle, weighted sleep sack, bamboo rayon fabric sleep sack, winter sleep sack, bamboo rayon fabric swaddle

Whether you use a sleep sack or swaddle, we have tips on how to make the most of the investment. You can learn benefits of a sleep sack, when to stop using a sleep sack, what to wear under sleep sack, transitioning from sleep sack to blanket, when to stop swaddling baby, how to swaddle with arms out, when to stop swaddling baby, and more.

Closing Thoughts on the Different Baby Cries Meaning

That concludes our guide on the different baby cries meaning. While any reason for your baby crying is cause for concern, having the ability to distinguish between the different types of baby cries is a parenthood superpower.

From colic to diaper changes, hunger to teething, there are so many reasons your baby might be crying. We’ve empowered you with tips to soothe them and how to keep yourself calm along the way.

Want to learn more abot parenthood sleep? Our blog has tips on developing a newborn sleep schedule or newborn nap schedule, when to start sleep training, how to get baby to sleep through the night, when should baby sleep in their own room, when do toddlers stop napping, and more. 

As a parent it can be hard to acknowledge your limits - you want to be the perfect parent for your little one and always put their needs above your own. But it's important to remember that, while you can't always be perfect, you are the perfect parent for your own baby, and that you have plenty of time to learn and grow as a parent. Just hang in there - you've got this!

Athena S.

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