Decode your baby’s cries

Crying is a baby’s first form of communication. Here’s a useful guide on the five different types of cries

As parents, you may feel stressed and helpless hearing your little one cry. With time and observation, you will learn to identify the pitch and intensity of each cry, along with your child’s body language, and figure out his or her needs. Here are some clues:


The cry: Rhythmic cries at the beginning, which may intensify

Other cues: Overdue feeding, rooting for the breast, tongue-sucking, licking of lips, or putting fingers or hands into mouth

What to do: Attend to baby when they exhibit hunger cues. If you wait till he or she cries, it may introduce wind into baby’s tummy. See a lactation consultant if baby does not latch well on the breast or you have sore nipples

Tired or Uncomfortable

The cry: Whimpering, which may intensify to a scream

Other cues: Eye-rubbing, yawning, restlessness, sore bottom, nappy rash or sweaty skin

What to do: Check for soiled diaper.Apply nappy rash cream if baby’s bottom is sore. Ensure room temperature is comfortable and settle baby to sleep

Bored or Overstimulated

The cry: An overstimulated baby tends to have a fussy and whiny cry. A bored baby tends to coo for attention first, and burst into a disgruntled cry if he or she is ignored

Other cues: Baby turns head or body away from sights or sounds, and may appear upset

What to do: Bring baby to a calm environment with less noise and dimmer lighting. White noise from a fan, vacuum cleaner or hair dryer, and recordings of natural sounds such as ocean waves can help soothe your child


The cry: Intense and high-pitched cries for no obvious reason

Other cues: Fidgeting, bloated tummy, arching of the back, clenching of fists, and/or raising of legs to the tummy

What to do:

  • Consult a paediatrician to exclude any other causes and for wind drops
  • If you are breastfeeding, avoid eating foods that can trigger colic
  • Burp baby regularly before, during and after feeding
  • Swaddle baby tight and cuddle your child
  • Massage baby’s tummy
  • Play soothing music or natural sounds, or put on white noise
  • Gently rock baby, head out for a walk with your child in a stroller, or go for a car ride. The steady, rhythmic motion can be calming
  • Skin-to-skin contact like placing baby on you can be soothing


The cry: Weak, soft, nasal whimpering

Other cues: Poor appetite, fever, runny nose, rashes, cough, diarrhoea, constipation, bloated tummy, vomiting, lethargy or feeling irritable

What to do: Bring baby to your paediatrician