Baby’s crying — what does it mean?

Watch our video to make sense of the different cries...


Something must be wrong when kewpie is crying — obviously! Wrong, says Dr Janelle Dong, you’re most probably mistaken. A doula at Four Trimesters, she says parents should revise their way of thinking before they take steps to try to soothe a crying mini-me: Crying is baby’s only way of communicating with you.

          “Once you accept that the main purpose of crying is communication, [parent’s] ability to hear beyond the noise of the cry will help them relax.”

          Dr Dong adds, “They could be telling you that something is or was right, and you changed it abruptly without warning them.”

          Most of the time, a wailing bubba just wants to give you a heads up about feeling sleepy, hungry or that baby needs a change of diaper. Only in rare occasions can a crying mini-me point to deeper physiological concerns or health issues — like a fever — that should be promptly remedied by a health professional.

“Discuss with your hubby what you have heard in bubba’s cries; specifically what noises have been made and what sort of cries are associated with which one of bubba’s needs.”

Different cries for different moods

The same way adults deliberately alter their verbal intonations and exclamations to suggest changes in mood, your little one’s doing the same with their cries.

          Some form of behavioural conditioning could also be at play, according to Dr Dong, “Variations in a cry will elicit certain responses in parents and babies will learn to adapt and use these variations to get what they need.”

          Thus it will help for parents to discuss what they have heard in bubba’s cries; specifically what noises have been made and what sort of cries are associated with which one of bubba’s needs.

Watch and learn baby language

For the uninitiated, Priscilla Dunstan’s Dunstan Baby Language (DBL) serves as a good reference for parents to differentiate kewpie’s cries.

          Dunstan is an Australian mum who possesses a rare photographic memory for sound — think of it as the ability to recite everything your boss said in the meeting word-for-word, without actually jotting down anything.

          Dunstan claims that there are five distinct sounds in your baby’s cries (the “pre-cry” portion in particular – the starting sound of the cry) that corresponds to a certain need they have: ‘Neh’ means “I’m hungry”, “Oww” means “I’m tired”, “Keh” means “I’m not comfy”, “Eairh” means “I have gas” and “Eh” – a shorter variation of the previous sound – means “I need to burp”. Check out the iPhone app to familiarise yourself with the sounds — Baby Ears by DBL ($5.98; iPhone only). When played at a SmartParents meeting, however, the reception was mixed, with some complaining that what they heard was “Owaaanh”.

          Dr Dong shares that she finds DBL very effective for families for two reasons, “It helps parents fine tune their ears to listen carefully to their child’s needs and it also clearly helps the baby become calmer since their parents are better conditioned to respond to their demands.”

          So how should you actually react if your mini-me is crying? Click next.