Do Babies Cry for No Reason?
Babies cry all the time. Instinctively, we know this means something is "wrong." On the surface, we often can’t identify the exact reason why our baby is crying. And even if we’re positive we know why, sometimes our instincts can be wrong.
Surely, my baby doesn’t really need to cry this much?
Sometimes my baby cries for no reason, right?
Babies cry for so many different reasons – hunger, pain, diaper discomfort, needing attention, feeling afraid – that when we are unable to identify why, we’re often triggered to pay no attention to them and let the baby stop on their own.
My baby can learn to sooth himself, right?
This response is wrong. Oh, so wrong. No parent with a sound mind should ever practice this.
Responding sensitively to infant crying is a difficult yet important task.
— Esther Leerkes, professor of human development & family studies, UNCG [source]
Why Babies Cry (i.e. Obvious Baby Talk Stuff)
Obvious fact #1: Babies cry for a reason, and that is to communicate with others.
Obvious fact #2: They cannot speak fluently to tell adults what they want and need.
Obvious fact #3: Babies cry because that is the only form of communication they know.
Going back to the earlier question, here are the main reasons why babies cry for no reason.
9 (Invisible) Reasons Why Babies Cry For No Reason
The first 5 reasons are because of pain, the second group of reasons are not based in physical pain.
Your child is in pain, you just can't see it
- Growing teeth. Babies cry when they feel pain and discomfort. When they start teething, they can feel their gums being torn by the emerging tooth causing them to cry. You may not be able to see the tooth yet but they can definitely feel it.
- Irregular reflux. Ever wonder why they vomit a lot? This is because of a natural reflux in their body called posseting. It is when they have too much milk intake and it goes back up. If they feel any pain in their tummy, it could be caused by an irregular reflux and eating causes pain.
- Tummy sensitivity. With all the baby foods in the market, we all think they are safe to eat. But there are babies who are sensitive to specific types of food such as soy, wheat or dairy. If parents are not careful with what they feed to their babies, it can cause a condition called colic and cause painful bloating and cramps.
- Tongue Tied babies. This is an issue with latching when feeding. Babies are not able to latch properly to their mother’s breast causing them to gum the nipple instead of sucking the milk. Not getting the proper food intake can cause them irritation and trigger crying.
- Sleeping disorder. Sleep apnea is usually associated with adults but babies can also get this condition. The condition causes sudden stop in breathing and the baby would panic making them cry late at night even if they are not hungry or has a fresh change of diaper.
Your child is in pain, you just don’t realize it
Babies aren’t always in physical pain. A 'pain response' can be triggered by emotions and circumstances. Sometimes they cry because:
- Anxiety & lonesomeness. After months of being in the womb and hearing the heartbeat of their mother, babies would cry when they are left alone in a crib by themselves. They feel anxious when left alone.
- Fear. It can be a bad dream, scary toys, or anything that can cause or make them feel afraid.
- Noise. When the environment is too loud, noisy, and complicated for the baby, their tendency is to cry out their stress.
- Temperature. This is a no-brainer at all. When babies feel inconsistency with the temperature, they cry for attention that they are feeling too hot or too cold.
I Can’t Handle This Much Crying
The Society for Research in Child Development published a study that observed the relationships between mothers and their crying babies.
Mothers who experienced depression or had difficulty controlling their emotions responded to videos of babies crying by focusing on themselves rather than seeing the needs of the distressed babies as the priority.
— Hannah Klein [source]
Fears About Giving Too Much Attention to Your Baby
Society errs on believing babies just crave attention, and this is the primary cause of “crying for no reason”. People often believe that there is no need to pay too much attention as babies because they might (or will) become spoiled brats!
I hear it all the time. Don’t pick your baby up every single time he/she cries! You’ll spoil him/her.
No. Just no. Your baby should not be taken for granted and never be left alone.
But I Can’t Stop My Baby from Crying!
This is the most dangerous path a parent can go down – believing that it is the parent’s responsibility to “fix” whatever is “wrong” with the baby.
It’s okay! Your baby might continue crying. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing something wrong.
However, some parents will lash out at their baby for not “cooperating.”
Parents, please read more about crying behavior. Educate yourselves.