baby crying

Why is my baby crying? This is the eternal question that all new parents try to find answers to. Is my little one hungry? Is he rather sleepy? Or worse, is he feeling sick?

Many doubts arise when a newborn breaks into tears, which can be stressful if you can't find ways to soothe him. So let's agree on the fact that, as a parent, you have to learn what your baby is trying to communicate with his baby crying sound. Actually, the debate over whether we can interpret and distinguish different baby cries has been on for many years, and experts are still far from an agreement.

You don't know what to do to soothe your baby? Crying is a state of being among newborns, but it is also full of messages that you will want to decode. How? Let's find out!


Baby crying, an encrypted 'language' 

When talking about different baby cries, it's important to highlight Priscila Dunstan's contribution to the issue in recent years. Dunstan, an Australian former mezzo-soprano, claims to have a photographic memory of sounds that, when she became a mother, allowed her to distinguish up to 5 different baby cries when listening to her son. Based on this, and after testing that theory on more than a thousand newborns, she created the Dunstan baby language, formed by five universal words or sound reflexes that all infants use: Neh, Owh, Heh, Eair and Eh.


Baby crying: Different baby cries, different messages 

Each of these 'baby words' is thought to express a need, depending on how the little one feels at the moment. According to Dunstan, their meanings are: 

  • Neh: the 'neh' would be the equivalent to 'I'm hungry' in the baby language. This sound is high pitched and produced by the tongue pushing the root of the mouth, reproducing the baby's sucking reflex. The baby may also wiggle and get frantic while 'asking for food'.

  • Owh: as you may guess, the 'owh' sounds similar to a yawn, so it means that your child is sleepy.

  • Heh: Don't confuse it with 'Neh', because 'Heh' is a sign of the baby being uncomfortable, and it can be accompanied by a scrunched up look. He may be stressed by a lot of things, like being itchy, cold or needing a clean nappy.

  • Eair: the baby uses the sound reflex 'Eair' to communicate 'lower gas' or 'an upset stomach' (colicky). It's produced by trapped air that bubbles out of the abdomen, and it can be followed by a bowel movement. When you hear it, look for other signs on your baby, who may pull his knees up or push down and out with his legs.

  • Eh: this is the 'burping' sound reflex or, better said, it means that your child needs to be burped, so that he can release the bubble of trapped air caught in his chest.

When trying to determine a baby crying sound, don't wait until he's crying hysterically, because by then they will all sound the same. Experts state that you need to focus on the early sob, through which babies make attempts to communicate what they need. If they don't get it soon, they won't contain their tears.


Baby crying: How to soothe them

The hardest part may be trying to identify what a baby wants to tell us. Once you know it, though, you shouldn't find that many difficulties to calm him down. For example, if your baby is in the 'Neh' mood, the hungry one, you can offer him the breast or a bottle and see how he reacts. However, keep in mind that in the case he's bottle-fed, it may take him about two hours to digest formula, so wait for a little bit. Also, if you are holding him but not breastfeeding him, that may upset him: he can smell your milk, but he doesn't get it! What can you do, then? Simple, let Dad hold him for a while.

When it comes to the 'Owhs', the 'baby yawns', you just need to put him to sleep. But what about when his baby crying sound means stress, the 'Heh'? If you can't find what's causing him so much discomfort, you can try singing him a song to settle him temporarily until you detect what's going on. Make sure he's wearing the right layers of clothes for the season and, especially, that his nappy isn't full of pee or poo. When your child has trapped air in his stomach, try rubbing his abdomen gently and clockwise, so that he can release it either out of the mouth or the anus.


Hopefully, such tricks will help you deal with baby crying. Of course, there are more reasons why he may be sobbing, like being bored or overstimulated, teething or simply lacking of attention. Sometimes, they just need to cry in order to learn how to settle themselves, so if you can't avoid his tears, don't get obsessed with it. After all, this is another baby milestone that he's trying to reach. Also, keep in mind that this is just a baby crying theory, and there are many experts who agree with it, and many who don’t! However, having our baby crying is hard and unsettling, and sometimes we need all the clues we can get!