Crying as a means of communication


Babies cry. We all know this and it’s perfectly normal. Crying is the only way newborns know to tell you there’s something wrong. Some newborns cry more than others for a variety of reasons. For example, some may have more difficulty with minor ailments while others may get easily overstimulated. There are many possible reasons for crying, from hunger to dirty nappies and from overstimulation to tiredness. Also, did you know that crying can be a sign of a leap? Learn about the 10 developmental leaps in The Wonder Weeks app.

How much do newborns cry?

How much do newborns cry?

Every baby is different, though newborns below the age of six weeks cry for an average of two hours a day. From 11 weeks on, babies usually cry less; averaging around 70 minutes per day. 1 in 10 babies cry excessively, which is defined as crying for three or more hours a day for three or more days per week for three weeks in a row. How much a newborn cries also depends on how sensitive they are.

Some babies are more disturbed by loud noises or get scared more easily. One reason for this could be premature birth, low birth weight or a difficult birth. Excessive crying in babies can also have medical causes, such as an allergy to cow’s milk.

Why do newborns cry?

Why do newborns cry?

Newborn babies cry for many reasons. From a dirty nappy to trapped wind and from overstimulation to boredom. The most common reasons newborns cry are:

  • A dirty nappy
  • The baby is hungry or it’s time for the next feed
  • Trapped wind
  • Loneliness or boredom
  • Your baby is too hot or too cold
  • Your baby is restless after a busy day
  • Stomach cramps
  • A new cognitive development leap (learn about this in our app)
  • Crying themselves to sleep (in which case they usually stop after five minutes)

There can also be many other reasons (medical or otherwise) for which your newborn is crying. If you feel like your baby is crying excessively, contact your healthcare provider.


Why newborns cry

Crying as an indicator of a leap

When your newborn is in the fussy phase of a leap, they may well cry more than before. Between four to six weeks after their birth, your baby will take their first leap. If your baby is crying more than before, it’s highly likely that they are reaching their first cognitive leap. Learn about all 10 leaps in the Wonder Weeks app. Your baby feels like something’s wrong but isn’t yet able to tell you, come to you or hold out their arms for a hug. However, what they certainly can do is scream their lungs out! At this stage, crying is the only way they can let you know they’re upset and it increases the likelihood of mum or dad coming to them.

How to comfort your crying newborn

Of course, when your newborn cries, you want to comfort them. It’s not possible to spoil a baby by comforting them too much, On the contrary, responding to your baby crying will teach them that they are listened to and makes it more likely that over time, they will cry less as your baby will learn to trust you. You must find out for yourself the best way to comfort your baby, as every baby is different. However, two factors that are very important in calming your baby down are rhythm and warmth. Remember it’s usually more effective to comfort your baby with an activity you usually do when they’re in a good mood. Also, many babies like to hear and feel your heartbeat. Hold your newborn upright against you, holding their bottom with one arm, rest their head against your shoulder and support the head with your other arm. You can then stroke or cradle your baby, walk around with them and/or talk, sing or hum to them.


My newborn won’t stop crying: the witching hour

Between the ages of three and twelve weeks, many newborns (and their parents) experience a daily ‘witching hour’ of continual crying. This is most likely when they are six weeks old. Usually, parents can predict when the witching hour is about to arrive as 85% of babies have a period of restlessness just before the witching hours begins. The crying fit usually ends after 1-2 hours, although it can last longer for some babies. The witching hour usually strikes in the afternoon or the evening as at this time, babies have more new experiences to process after the day’s activities. Newborns process these experiences by crying, usually at the end of the day. And here’s the good news: once they grow out of the witching-hour phase, they usually sleep better and for longer.