Understanding your newborn cries


*A collaborative post 

I have very fond memories of Olly’s first newborn cry. He was born via an emergency caesarean section and  those first few sounds I heard as he filled his lungs with fresh breath and let out the most almighty cry was completely overwhelming. Both reassuring and nerve wracking that our journey into parenthood had well and truly begun. Our days were now to be filled with nappy changes, bottle feeds and dancing around the living room to the PlayStation FIFA soundtrack in an attempt to settle him back down.

His newborn days were a steep learning curve of discovering for us both and as first time parents, we spent a fair few hours questioning each other on what we thought was wrong when our tiny little boy was crying. Babies don’t just cry for the fun of it. It usually indicates that something is upsetting them and it’s a bit of trial and error to understand their reasons for getting so upset.

9 reasons why newborn babies cry

In collaboration with the leading healthcare brand Care, qualified midwife and independent health visitor, Penny Lazell has offered her top tips on how to decipher those newborn cries. As a Mum, this information is really useful and is hopefully something I’ll be able to put to use when we expand our family in the future.


Penny believes that “young babies’ brains are not developed enough to anticipate hunger so when they realise they are hungry, a message goes directly to the brain to alert the baby to let their carer know they need feeding.” If a baby has not been fed for 2-4 hours then they may be hungry and will be soothed by breast or bottle.

Wet or dirty nappy

All babies are different whilst some don’t mind sitting in their dirty nappies for a time some find it most uncomfortable. “Often babies will open their bowels straight after feeding so if they start to cry after a feed, it may be that they have a dirty nappy.” Change your baby’s nappy frequently to avoid distress.

Olly newborn sleeping


A baby who is tired shows signs through yawning, rubbing their eyes, becoming fidgety or being disengaged says Penny. She continues “Once a baby becomes overtired, they find it really difficult to calm down again. This often causes anxiety for the parent and in turn the baby picks up on this and is even less likely to calm down.” Change their environment or allow someone else to sooth them whilst placing them in their cot with you nearby may give them permission to fall asleep.


Whilst it is hard to decipher newborn cries, a cry out in pain can be frightening and can be very different to those of hunger or tiredness. Often more high pitched and have a sudden onset. Penny recommends that you “trust your gut instinct and if you think your baby’s cry is one of pain, take their temperature and check them over. It may just be that a piece of clothing is tight or they are in an uncomfortable position. If the cry continues seek medical advice.” 


Babies crave attention so they can begin to learn all about their new environment. Babies become bored quickly and will frequently alert you that they want your attention. Penny explains that  “although this can mean you find little time to get things done, it is very important to respond to these cries to ensure your baby’s brain develops.” Sit with your baby for short periods of time and engage with them. This could be just talking or singing as they will love to hear your voice and make eye contact.

Olly asleep newborn

Over stimulation

Babies love attention but as they are still so young, they can become over stimulated very quickly. Penny explains “an over stimulated baby will become very fretful and can be difficult to settle which may be mistaken for many other things.” If they don’t settle with rocking or cuddling, take them into a quiet low lit room and be still with them. Speak softly to them and gently sshssh them, it make take time so stick with it.

Wanting a cuddle

Don’t be afraid to cuddle your baby. Having spent the last nine months tucked up inside you feeling secure, the big wide world with its strange sights and sounds can be frightening. Penny believes “cuddling babies is important for their emotional development and for growing their ability to self-regulate themselves.”

Being too hot or too cold

Babies aren’t able to regulate their own temperature and therefore parents need to regulate this for them. If babies are too hot or too cold they might cry. If a baby looks red with their crying, removing a layer of clothing may help. Penny also warns that “you may also need to check their temperature to see if they are hot due to a fever.”

Transient Lactase Deficiency

The available evidence states that the immature digestive system of babies can struggle making enough lactase to digest the lactose (a natural milk sugar found in breast and formula milk) in their feed, which can induce colicky symptoms. This is called Transient Lactase Deficiency. Guidelines from both the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS Choices website suggest that Transient Lactase Deficiency could be an underlying cause of infantile colic, and that a one week trial of a Lactase Enzyme Drop is worth a try in colicky infants.

CareCo-LactaseInfantDrops for newborn cries

Penny explains that “Transient Lactase Deficiency is a common occurrence in young babies”. “It can make them very uncomfortable and difficult to settle, which can lead to increased stress for both baby and parent.” By introducing a lactase enzyme drop with feeds can often help resolve the problem without having to move or to change formula.

We struggled with feeding Olly when he was a newborn and something like Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops could have definitely helped us. The drops would have made digesting lactose easier for him and don’t delay the feeding process either. The drops can be used from birth, and are sugar, preservative and flavour-free. You can add them to breast milk or infant formula prior to feeding. The lactase enzyme breaks down the lactose in breast and formula milk which should reduce the symptoms of Transient Lactase Deficiency.

Care Co-Lactase Infant Drops (10ml), priced at £9.99 for 60 feeds, are available from Asda stores and independent pharmacies nationwide.

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  • Reply Claire yarnall 14/06/2017 at 9:25 am

    Co-lactase was a god send for us with poppy, it’s definitely worth a try for any unhappy baby’s x

    • Reply Emma 21/06/2017 at 6:33 pm

      That’s good to know Claire xx

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