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Ages and Stages : Newborn

1. Decoding Infant Crying

from birth to 3 months


Gratefully adapted with permission from : 

Why Is Baby Crying? 8 Types of Crying You Might Hear

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Crying, from birth to 3 months


There are several types of baby cries.


Crying isn’t always a bad thing

Up until their first words, babies use crying as a way to communicate. Sometimes, it’s merely a call for attention.


Decoding baby crying in the first three months of life is not as hard as it seems.

After three months the sounds and patterns of crying  may change depending on the response obtained in the first three months and the consequent learnt behaviour.

Here are eight different cries that can be identified in baby's first 3 months, and how to soothe them:


1. Hungry "NEH"


When hunger calls, the newborn will cry.

During the first months, this becomes the cry parents recognize even in their sleep.


What to Listen for

The “I am hungry” cry is distinctive. It has a desperate tone that’s repeated until it’s answered.

Listen for a rhythmic, high-pitched squeal, and a “neh” sound.

Crying : from birth to 3 months - Hungry "Neh"

What to Do


The only thing to do is feed the baby.


Before the newborn resorts to their hunger cry, they usually send signals.

These can include turning toward the breast, smacking their lips, or fussing.


Newborns usually eat every two to three hours, and calculating how long it’s been since the last feeding is useful.

If in doubt about the cry, offer the breast or a bottle. If it is hunger, theinfant won’t say no.


If using formula, ensure the baby is not overfed. Avoid offering the bottle before the two-hour mark.

If you think the baby may be going through a growth spurt and might need extra formula, mix only two ounces and see if that helps the situation.


2. Tired (OWH)


During the first six months, babies sleep a lot.

In these early months, sleep occurs in irregular patterns, and infants often confuse day time with night time.


Sleep is crucial for an infant as it helps them develop.

A newborn, may sleep a total of ten to 18 hours every day

What to Listen for

Every baby is different, but try to listen for a helpless, breathy, almost like an “owh” sound.

Look for a cry that’s easily soothed with comfort.

Crying : from birth to 3 months - Hungry "Neh"

What to Do

Try to help the infant sleep better, especially during the night.

An excellent way to do that is to initiate sleep before they get overtired.

Watch for clues that the baby is giving you such as yawning, drowsiness, and fussiness


Observe the baby’s sleep patterns, no matter how irregular they may seem.

The little one is likely to get tired around the same time every day.

Before they fall asleep, place them in their crib to help them sleep on their own.

When the infant is nearing overtiredness, the area around the eyes might become red, and they may rub their eyes. They can also seem restless, the eyes might be closed, but they can’t sleep.

In such cases, swaddling is a good solution, as it provides some extra comfort. It’s recommended to do a tight swaddle, keeping the little one snug.

Swaddling doesn’t work on all babies, though, and some infants do not like it.

Sometimes, the infant just needs to be left alone.

Try to place them in their crib and observe them, perhaps sing a lullaby or use white noise.

3. Uncomfortable "HEH"


Feeling too warm or cold, having a burp stuck in the belly, or wearing a dirty diaper can make a baby pretty uncomfortable.

This is another cry that will be likely to wake parents up for the sixth time during the night.


What to Listen for

An uncomfortable cry is whiny and high-pitched, almost like the sound is coming from the nose.

It can be distressing to hear, especially if it happens while driving and the parent can’t get to the little one right away.

Luckily, it’s pretty straightforward to solve.


Crying : from birth to 3 months - Uncomfortable "Heh"

What to Do

The first thing to do is to check the diaper.

If it has been a while since the last change, try rebooting with a fresh one.

If the baby hasjust finished feeding, and cries again, it’s likely to be a burp looking for an escape route.

Try burping them, and the crying should stop.


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Last updated: November 2015 


Breathlessness: what's the diagnosis?

Dr Chris Cooper

Guidelines in practice

October 2017


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