How to Recognize the Types of Cries in Babies

For many new parents, “I wish I knew what you want” is a commonly uttered phrase. Until your tyke learns to talk, you might feel like a baby-whisperer, but you'll soon realize that your baby is a pretty efficient communicator -- each cry means something different and she certainly won't be shy about letting you know what she wants. Although each child is different, many types of cries that indicate specific needs can be identified with a sharp ear and a little attention.

Listen for escalation and rhythm. Cries of hunger often begin quietly, with a slow pace and a low pitch. A hungry baby's cry gets louder and louder, and as it gets louder, it tends to become more rhythmic 1.

Interpret intermittent, inconsistent cries as an indication of general fussiness. Although these cries, like hunger cries, may become louder as they go on, they generally lack consistent rhythm and pace. Fussy cries can communicate all kinds of things, including a desire to be held, a dirty diaper, fear, tiredness or even the need to let off some excess energy. Sometimes, fussy cries don't mean anything at all, especially during your baby's first three months.

Take soft cries as a sign of sleepiness. A rhythmic, soft cry with a regular cadence, even if it gets a little louder as it progresses, often means that your baby is trying to calm herself.

Respond quickly to loud, sharp cries. A sudden, high-pitched cry that sounds tense and doesn't have any continuous rhythm or melody may indicate that your baby is in pain. Cries of pain are typically short and sharp. After a loud shriek, wails often follow as a response to pain. These cries continue until your baby is no longer in pain 1.


Although it may sound obvious, the best way to stop your baby's crying is by meeting her needs. After feeding, burping or changing your baby, try calming techniques such as gentle rocking, stroking, swaddling, walking, singing or taking a warm bath to calm your little one down.


Don't play pediatrician. Although an accurate description of your baby's cries can help doctors make a diagnosis, leave it to the professionals to interpret your baby's cries on a medical level.