It’s already stressful enough when you have a newborn baby that you need to take care of all day. And then, it gets even worse when they cry constantly and ruin your sleep at night. But, why do babies cry at night?
From hunger to restlessness, babies cry at night for multiple reasons. Most often than not, these reasons are simple enough and you can get rid of them with a little effort. A few of the cases, however, are pretty complex and require specific resolutions.
As a newborn’s mom, if you are struggling to find out why your baby is crying at such odd hours, this article might be of great help to you. Let’s take a look at both the common and not-so-common reasons for newborns crying and talk about some proper ways to tackle them.
Is Your Baby Crying or Just Trying to Communicate with You?
Well, a baby cannot speak or verbally mention whether something is irritating them or not. But they do feel pain and discomfort. What do you think they do to let others know of their lack of comfort?
Exactly. They cry out loud to bring attention to themselves. Since they can’t physically say anything, it’s their way of expressing what they need to say. As a result, crying is generally considered the primary means of communication for a baby.
That being said, babies only tend to cry to inform you of matters that are negatively affecting them. You won’t see a baby cry when they are genuinely enjoying themselves. So, it’s important to watch out for that the next time you wake up to your newborn crying.
In fact, this continues even when they aren’t a newborn anymore. By now, you must have noticed that every time toddlers or young kids get upset, they cry out super loud to let everyone know exactly how upset they are.
And even now, crying is precisely how we express ourselves whenever we are experiencing severe discomfort. Point is, when your baby is crying relentlessly, it’s because they are trying their hardest to tell you something.
And the crying stops only when you resolve the issue that has been irritating them. Sometimes it’s a soiled diaper sometimes its hunger and sometimes it’s just them wanting the embrace of their caregivers. Let’s talk about more, on the reasons that may make your baby cry out at night.
Reasons Why Babies Cry at Night
As troublesome as it is, the fact that your baby is crying is not necessarily a bad thing. At least, not always. And now that you know babies try to communicate by crying, let’s find out what usually influences them to take such a step.
Hunger is probably the main reason why your newborn might feel the need to wake you up at the dead of the night. I mean, you’d think that babies won’t need as much food as they are so tiny. But, nope. That’s a great misconception.
Babies need to eat voraciously every few hours as their little bodies are always growing. Even during the night. So, if you forget to keep that in mind and the baby goes unfed for a long time, they will cry out loud to let you know that they are hungry.
Discomfort is another one that tops the list when it comes to midnight crying. Babies cannot position themselves properly as they are, well, “babies”. As a result, they will often roll around and start to sleep in a weird way that will cause major discomfort to them.
However, discomfort doesn’t always happen due to weird sleeping positions. It could be due to a sudden change in environment, random mosquito bite, or just plain ol’ hunger.
Again, babies cannot regulate their temperature properly. On the other hand, they cannot also say when they are feeling too hot or cold.
Suppose, you leave a baby in light clothes because it’s hot outside. If the temperature suddenly drops, they will start to shiver and then cry to wake you up as well to let you know of the discomfort.
As unpredictable as babies are with all their mood swings, they do follow somewhat of a biological routine. And if something happens to go awry in this routine, they get upset easily and cry incessantly.
The routine usually includes timely feeding, swaddling, sleeping, etc. So, if you wake them up in advance or try to do something that will cause overstimulation, it could lead to crying.
If you think babies don’t understand what’s going on around them, you are mighty wrong. Not only are they incredibly aware of their surroundings, but can also associate affection with a certain person which in most cases, are associated with the parents themselves.
This is also the reason why babies tend to cry when they receive affection from an unknown person. As soon as you hand them back to their mom or dad (or whomever they spend more time with), they immediately stop being upset.
The same happens at odd times when everyone else is sleeping. If the baby suddenly wakes up during late hours and there’s no one around, they start to feel lonely. So, to make sure someone caring is still there, they will cry out loudly to get your attention and affection.
This one’s quite self-explanatory. Also, it kind of falls under the discomfort region. Like adults, babies cannot control when or where they will poop. That’s why they are kept in a diaper most of the time so that the poop doesn’t get all over the bedding.
So, when the baby has to stay in a poop-filled diaper for a long time, they will experience major discomfort. And the discomfort will only increase over time. So, if your kid won’t stop crying at night even after timely feeding, this is probably the actual reason.
Fatigue or Restlessness
Babies, well at least, most babies LOVE to play. Like, you wouldn’t even need a fancy toy (although that’s indeed a bonus) to entertain them. They will entertain themselves by just looking at their own feet all day long.
As cute as this may sound, this often leads to overstimulation in babies. They get way too tired way too easily and then they start to feel restless for no definite reason. Simply put, they can’t stay in a comfortable enough mind-set.
And this lack of comfort ultimately causes major fatigue in them. Then, they will neither want to sleep nor will they want to eat. With no other viable ways left to set their mind to, they will have no choice but to cry out their heart.
Even though you may think that this crying is due to some sort of discomfort, it’s actually the opposite. After much crying, the babies will wear themselves out and automatically fall asleep. It will calm them down and get rid of excessive restlessness at the same time.
High Noise Level
Babies have way less noise tolerance against high-pitched noise than kids or adults. And, understandably so as they are so little and all their senses are yet to develop properly.
That’s why high-pitched sounds like murmuring from the TV or AC can easily trigger them. If you ever have the time to notice, you can see that their bodies slightly twitch for a while before the noise wakes them up fully.
After that, it’s full-on crying since the noise interrupted their precious sleeping time. If the noise is persistent and continues for a while, it can harm the baby’s eardrums as well.
As previously mentioned, babies can sense when they are in the vicinity of a loved one or a stranger. Though there are lots of babies who aren’t afraid to go into the arms of a stranger, most babies prefer to avoid such interaction.
If there’s an unknown person in the room, the baby might get scared and scream to get the attention of mom or dad. So, the next time you hear your baby crying out loud at three in the morning, make sure whether all the windows in the baby room are closed or not.
Physical Reasons Behind Incessant Newborn Crying
So far, I have talked about the standard reasons behind newborn babies crying during the night. However, several medical issues can cause them to cry as well. Here are a few common medical conditions in babies that are directly related to such erratic behaviors.
Colic comes first to mind whenever a baby just won’t stop crying even when there’s no particular reason for any discomfort. In fact, even most researchers aren’t completely sure or at least, don’t see eye-to-eye on this matter.
In short, it’s most likely colic whenever you see the 3-3-3 symptom in your baby. What’s 3-3-3, you ask? Well, it’s when your baby receives proper food, nutrition, and sleep but still cries for over 3 hours for at least 3 days every week.
And yeah, the last 3 refers to the number of weeks. If the crying continues for over three weeks, it’s most definitely colic. This disease is prevalent in preemie i.e., premature babies.
Gas is actually pretty common in babies despite popular notions. A healthy baby will burp or fart multiple times a day and that’s completely normal.
The problem arises when it’s not food-gas and instead develops due to hunger. Babies need food even during the night and can get quite frantic if they go hungry for a long time.
Again, gas can occur if they are drinking breast milk in a hurry as they were really hungry. They will take in a lot of air while sucking and that will lead to gas build-up later on.
And this gas will create great discomfort in their little tummies and cause them to cry later. So, it’s important to feed them every few hours even if it interrupts their sleep schedule a bit.
Almost all of us are allergic to one thing or the other. For example – I get a rash every time I eat prawns even though I absolutely love seafood to death. Similarly, babies can be allergic to different food items as well.
Not just food items, they can develop an allergy to a certain plant or flower due to genetic or biological conditions. But in most cases, absolute newborn babies are found allergic to cow milk.
This is a sure-fire symptom of colic in a baby as well. In addition, some babies can also have lactose intolerance that can cause such allergies. This is why it’s highly recommended that a baby should have nothing but breast milk for at least the first 5-6 months.
Even if you absolutely cannot provide breastmilk for a baby, use lactogen or other viable breast milk substitutes. But cow milk or milk from any other animal is totally a no-go.
And if you realize that the allergy is not due to food but plant/flower/fur etc., keep your baby far away from them. Make sure the pollen from the flower or the fur from your pets cannot reach the baby room by any means. And if the situation worsens, do visit a doctor right away.
How to Calm Down A Crying Baby?
Now that you know why your baby might cry during late hours, it’s time to find out how you can calm down such crying babies.
There’s probably no better method than swaddling that can instantly calm down a crying baby. I mean, I got so used to swaddling as a baby that I cried even louder every time someone dared to put me down. The same goes for all babies out there.
Because babies LOVE affection. And considering how cute they are, they absolutely deserve all of it as well. If your baby is being unnecessarily fussing, simply put them inside a soft blanket, roll it up and make an adorable burrito out of them.
After that, take them into your arms and swaddle them back to sleep. It’s better if you walk while swaddling at the same time. That way, your baby will feel secure, stop crying, and eventually fall back to sleep in no time at all.
Sucking is the most natural instinct in a baby. It’s how they interact with their mother for the very first time and it’s how they show responsiveness. As a result, it’s a source of comfort and security for them.
If you are a nursing mom, you must have noticed by now that babies stop crying the second you start to feed them. And that’s because they are too busy sucking and latching on to you to get the proper flow of milk.
So, if your baby won’t stop crying and they are already fed, you can try using a pacifier. As the name suggests, a pacifier mimics the shape of a nipple that a baby can latch on to and suck for hours. It’s a great way to calm babies down.
When babies develop a lot of gas, you have to help them burp as they can’t do it on their own. Normally, your baby will show visible discomfort and restlessness when this happens. In addition to that, their tummies will seem a lot fuller than usual.
To help them burp, make sure that they are positioned sideways. Don’t let them lie down on their back. Instead, move them over to their side of the stomach so that the gas has an easy way out.
After that, super gently pat on their back and see if that stimulates burping in them. Keep a close eye to see if the way you’re holding or patting them is adding to the discomfort. If so, stop immediately and change up your style.
If you manage to do it correctly, you’ll see your baby producing a lot of big burps after some time. Just imagine how much more relaxed they will feel then. Place them back on their back and they will fall asleep peacefully then.
Important reminder – sometimes your baby may throw up while burping. Never let your baby be on their back while they are throwing up as the liquid can get into their throat and cause asphyxiation. Stay super aware of that.
Babies develop a special bond with the people they spend the most time with. But with a mom, it’s much easier and takes almost no time at all. In addition to their touch, babies find comfort in their loved one’s voices as well.
This is also why a mother’s lullaby makes us so nostalgic at times. It reminds us of a time when we felt the most loved and secure.
Anyway, singing lullabies or just simply shushing in a soft voice is a great way to calm down a crying kid. In scientific terms, this is called white noise. These types of noises can help to drown out other bad noises and provide a sense of comfort to the baby.
Again, continuing to do this every night will train your baby to calm down the second they hear your voice. If everything’s already alright, you just have to swaddle and sing them their favorite lullaby, and they will fall straight back to sleep.
What You Should Never Ever Do with A Crying Baby?
Even in the twenty-first century, there are so many misconceptions regarding calming a baby down that it’s almost repulsive. Among them the most common things I see parents do are shaking them and ignoring them when they get fed up with the constant nightly cries.
Get this straight to your head – SWADDLING ISN’T SHAKING. I mean I can’t even believe I have to clarify this out loud. Swaddling provides comfort to your baby while shaking gives them a shaken baby syndrome.
While swaddling, you gently rock them side to side by holding the baby in your arms. Just like a baby swing. Do not by any means, strongly hold the baby and shake them up and down to stop them from crying.
Not only is that wildly inappropriate, but it’s practically child abuse. Baby’s little heads aren’t developed enough to handle that kind of strong action.
Next comes ignoring your newborn. I understand that it can get quite frustrating while you are trying your best to take care of a baby and the crying just won’t stop. But ignoring or turning off the baby monitor isn’t a viable option at all.
Your baby could be going through some extreme discomfort that can prove dangerous if you decide to ignore it instead of resolving it. Always remember that crying is how your baby tries to alert you every step of the way.
If you don’t pay heed to their warnings in time, you’ll have no one else but yourself to blame later on if something untoward happens. So, please don’t ignore babies when they’re crying relentlessly, especially if it’s going on for hours on end.
Things to Watch Out for When Your Toddler Is Crying
You’ll always find common symptoms in advance before a baby starts to cry and ruin your sleep at midnight. Here’s a list of the things to watch out for when your baby is crying constantly.
- Continuously keep a track of their feeding schedule. Remember to feed them every three-four hours.
- Watch out to see whether any food or household item is causing an allergic reaction in them.
- Keep them up to date on all their necessary shots and vaccines.
- Maintain a consistent temperature in the baby room which is not too hot or cold for them.
- Make sure to always check their diapers every hour or so. Don’t let them sit in a wasted diaper for hours on end.
- While feeding a baby, make sure that you aren’t smothering them.
- Do not let any mosquito or insect bite them at any cost. Keep them inside a baby net if needed.
- Do not leave a newborn baby alone without supervision. Keep their pram in your bedroom by your side.
- Try not to sleep with a newborn baby on your bed. Always stay awake while handling them.
- Do not, under any circumstances, get aggressive with a baby. Just, don’t.
- Spend enough time with your baby. Do not keep them in the vicinity of a nanny for hours on end.
- Newborns love to suck on everything they find. Do not keep anything around them that might choke them.
Protecting Your Mental Health While Dealing with A Crying Baby
Dealing with the cries of your baby every night can take a toll on your mental health. It’s important to take care of your psychological well-being as well, especially with a crying baby on hand. Here are a few ways you can preserve your mental health during such stressful times.
Get Enough Sleep
I cannot stress the importance of good sleep enough when it comes to mental well-being. And it’s quite hard to go for a solid few hours of sleep because you are always so worried about that newborn of yours.
Furthermore, you have to feed them every three-four hours. The best way to resolve this is to store a few bottles of breast milk in advance. That way, your spouse or family member can watch over the newborn when you’re asleep and feed them in time as well.
Get Yourself Checked For PPD
PPD refers to postpartum depression. And it’s more common in newborn moms than you think. It’s also pretty threatening if you don’t seek proper medical attention in time.
Starting from stress to depression to self-harm to suicidal thoughts – postpartum depression causes it all. And how can you take care of a fragile baby when you yourself are in such a bad place mentally?
Exactly. So, seek help with a doctor or psychiatrist if you think you are developing postpartum depression. Don’t let it get worse.
Take A Break
Yes. Being a parent is definitely a full-time job. But that doesn’t mean that you have to give all you have and exhaust yourself out completely. Sometimes, taking a step back is all it takes to get everything back to normal.
Learn to ask for help when you need it. There’s no shame in it and nor should you feel any. However, it’s important to make sure the baby has at least one of the parents at all times.
So, if you i.e., the parents are working as a team, don’t let yourselves get exhausted at once. Come up with a proper schedule so that the other one can take over when you’re in desperate need of a break.
You can also ask for the help of a trustworthy family member if you need to. And it’s even better if they are already experienced in handling a newborn baby.
All in all, accept that you have limitations and work around them accordingly. You won’t be any less of a parent just because you decide to take some time apart for your well-being.
So, why do babies cry at night? Turns out, there are both normal and medical reasons behind it. And as long as you make sure to check on your newborn baby constantly and meet all their needs in time, you won’t have to deal with the nightly cries.
Thanks for reading and I hope this article was able to answer all of your queries regarding the night cries of babies. Wishing you and your baby good health.