Why Do Babies Cry At Night And How To Soothe Them

Granted, crying is something that babies do. A lot. In the first years of their lives, babies and toddlers are very dependent on their parents and other adults around them. Without being able to verbally articulate their needs, their primary instinct when they need attention - when they’re hungry, afraid, cold or hot, when they seek comfort, love, and care - is to cry. This is the most ubiquitous reaction you can find in babies everywhere. 

Of course, it’s not always clear what need you’ll have to satisfy when your baby is crying, but with time you’ll become more versed in the nuances of their reactions, while, in turn, they’ll also become better in communicating the particularities of their needs and acquiring other ways of communicating besides crying (making noises, doing eye contact, smiling, and later, of course, talking). 

Nighttime is especially tricky - both babies and parents tend to become more cranky in this time of day usually reserved for sleeping, so it’s no wonder everybody’s on edge. And until your baby learns to communicate better, you both need to learn to react quickly - so, in order to make your job a little easier, we’ve compiled the most common reasons why do babies cry at night and combined them with possible solutions and ways of soothing them. 

Hunger 


You probably already know that hunger is one of the most common reasons why your baby is upset and cries at night. This is especially true for newborns - they tend to it more frequently throughout the day, in smaller intervals of time. This is because newborns’ stomachs are very tiny and don’t really have the capacity to store much food yet, i.e. breastmilk or baby formula. This also means that it won’t take a long time before they need another feeding, which means not that much sleep for you in the beginning! 

Some usual signs, besides the crying, of babies who are hungry (sometimes even before they start crying), are: 


This one’s easy (at least for your little one) - the only way to soothe the nighttime hungry cry, is, of course, to feed your baby. If you’re breastfeeding, offer your baby a new session of feeding, even if you’ve noticed that your last session wasn’t that long ago. This is sometimes also called ‘responsive feeding’. Babies know by themselves when they have enough, and your little one will surely let you know once they’re satiated - they’ll come off your breast when they feel ready, and will also let you know by how they behave - they should be calmer and settled. 
It’s similar if you’re formula-feeding as well - sometimes babies can keep up with being satiated for a couple of hours - every baby is different. Some babies don’t finish their formulas, which means they prefer to drink it in shorter intervals and more often. If this is the case with your little one, you can try to offer them another feeding earlier than you planned, in order to prevent the potential hunger cry and fussiness.  

And don’t forget, even if the baby doesn’t stop to cry immediately after the feeding, if it indeed is a hunger cry, they will stop eventually, even faster than you think. 

Tummy Issues Caused by Colic or Gas 


This is another very common reason behind babies that often cry at night. Babies, especially in their earliest months, have very sensitive stomachs and esophagus, and some of the ways of processing the breastmilk or formula can often cause them discomfort. If your baby is generally healthy, but still cries a lot at night the chances are high they have issues with colic or gas (the general agreement is that it cries over three hours a day, more than three days in the week, over the course of three weeks). You may want to look for signs like these: 


Babies often have allergies and other types of intolerances to some substances present in the breastmilk or the baby formula. This might cause various tummy problems: constipation, reflux wind, intestinal cramping. 

If you notice that your baby is crying excessively, it’s always a good idea to take them to the doctor, just to make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on. Babies are colicky usually around up to the age of 5 months when their bodies are still very delicate and vulnerable. 

If, after checking with your doctor, it’s determined that your baby does have colic, you can try these methods and techniques to help them become more at ease: 


Baby is in Need of General Attention 


Because babies are creatures that depend a lot on adults, they also need a lot of physical contact and all the comforts and reassurance that comes with it. That’s why it’s very important to keep in mind that sometimes when your little darling cries it might not be connected with hunger or tummy issues - they just might be in need of some physical attention. When you locate this need, make sure to answer it as soon as possible, so the baby doesn’t get more anxious and doesn’t develop certain traumatic experiences in the long run. 

Give your baby lots of cuddling sessions, hold them close, sway them in your arms and sing to them - hearing your voice and sensing your touch and attention is sometimes all the comfort and soothing care they need. 

Certain types of babywear such as a sling or a carrier can be a great help when it comes to the moments of additional bonding with your little one. They’ll certainly provide the security your baby needs while being attached to your body, at the same time delighting in hearing your heartbeat, sensing your familiar smell and also feeling comfy and secure with the warmth coming off your own body. 

Baby is Feeling Tired


It may sound a bit of a paradox, but yes, babies sometimes can’t fall asleep and can start crying because they’re just too tired. This can happen especially in situations where your baby is being overstimulated, without consideration of their own sleep rhythm, such as too much rocking and singing, for example. Also, situations where you happen to have lots of friends and visitors in your home in the evening, and your baby is already done with having their share of fun throughout the day and can’t handle any more attention, might also be the culprit behind your baby’s overtiredness. And because, in their earliest months, they find it hard to show more nuanced reactions, they show the usual signs of fussiness, crying at little, seemingly insignificant things - sometimes they even start staring, blank-eyed, into space. There are times when they also become overly quiet; these are all signs that might indicate your little one needs their well-deserved rest and peace and quietness.  

Once you notice this, take them to a quiet room, after they’ve been properly fed, and put them gently into bed without too many rituals around it - at this point they just need a good, restful sleep. 

Baby is Either Too Hot or Too Cold


Babies feel the temperature of the environment in which they’re in a little bit differently than adults do. They’re usually more sensitive to hot and cold, i.e. to more extreme temperatures and will definitely tell you in their own way if it’s somehow bothering them. 

Sometimes you may think you’ve reached just the perfect room temperature for a good night’s sleep, but then it turns out your little one thinks and feels somewhat different. 

The best way to check how your baby is doing, whether they’re too cold or too hot for their own good, is by putting your hand on their tummy or the back of the neck and check the warmth of their body. Don’t reach after their hands or feet, because they usually are colder than the rest of their body and can give you a false impression. 

Ideally, the room temperature where your baby is usually sleeping should be around 20-22 degrees Celsius, or 68-71 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a good idea to purchase a room thermometer so you can always keep check on the temperature fluctuations in the room. 

Also, keep in mind not to overdress your little one when you put them to bed because this might cause overheating which can be potentially dangerous. One more layer of clothing compared to you would be just enough for them to feel comfy and warm, without becoming fussy and overheated. 

Another thing you should pay attention to is the sheets and blankets that you use to cover the crib and your baby. It’s best to use sheets made from cotton, as well as cellular blankets because they work better in regulating the heat coming off from the body in combination with the room temperature. If you see that your baby’s tummy starts to become too hot, just remove one layer or blanket from them; if you sense the opposite, that it becomes colder, just add another layer. If you’re a parent that likes using sleeping bags, make sure you use one for the appropriate season of the year, as well as one that’s a right size for your baby because if it’s too big it might make them colder and if it’s too tight it might make them overheat. 

Baby Needs a Diaper Change 


This is one of the easier ones to track. Babies don’t usually want to sit too long in their wet and soiled diapers and will tell you as soon as they can when they’ve done the job. There are, however, some babies which don’t react that fast or that clearly to a wet diaper and actually start showing signs of being annoyed and crying when their skin starts to become irritated. 

Some babies don’t want you to change their diapers, mostly because they don’t like the weird feeling of cold air they get on their naked bum. But as you get more and more versed in the diaper changing business, you’ll also become quicker and your baby will also find it less stressful. If they’re constantly being fussy while you change their diapers, you can try distracting them with a toy. You can also play them a song,  or sing to them. 

Baby is Not Feeling Well 


Babies sometimes have a particular way of crying when they’re not feeling well. They can cry in a somewhat different tone than their usual one, the one that you’ve been registering so far. This type of crying may sound more extreme in some ways - either weaker or more high-pitched. It can also seem continuous and more urgent than other times. 

Also, have in might that sometimes it might be just the opposite - if your little one often cries a lot, and now has become unusually quiet, it might also be a sign that something’s wrong and that they’re not feeling well. 

One of the most frequent problems that occur in newborns is the pain, itching and general discomfort connected with the process of teething. This often makes babies way more upset than usual. In the week before a new tooth is set to emerge, babies will most likely become more irritable and restless. Unfortunately, there’s nothing much that you can do to ease your baby’s way through this process. You can try and give them something soft to chew on a toy or a silicone toothbrush - this usually helps relieve the discomfort and calm them down. 

You should call your doctor immediately If your baby is persistently crying with weeks on end, and also has a fever of 38 Celsius or 100.4 Fahrenheit (this is valid for babies younger than three months) and 39 Celsius or 102.2 Fahrenheit (for babies three to six months old), has diarrhea or constipation or is vomiting. 

Some Final Words


Remember that, in the end, it’s rather normal for babies, especially newborns to cry a lot and remind yourself that, even after everything you’ve done, if your baby doesn’t stop crying, it’s not your fault. 

In their earliest weeks, you’ll have to cope with a lot of crying, from all the reasons above, or maybe as a result of none of them. Crying in newborns usually peaks when they’re two months old and it kind of gradually eases off afterward. Still, in the meantime, it’s important to properly cope with the stress of a crying baby. 

If you sometimes feel like it’s all too much, just follow a couple of simple steps and try out a few of the options available:


Just don’t let the occasional feelings of being rejected and frustrated because you couldn’t soothe them overpower you. Remember, your baby will grow out of it eventually and will find new and better, more nuanced ways of communicating with you.