When you first bring your little munchkin home from the hospital, every cry can sound like an urgent alarm. But how can you tell exactly what your baby needs? Is the “I’m sleepy” cry different from an “I’m starving” cry?

Right after birth, your newborn’s compact brain simply doesn’t have enough room for a wide range of grunts and whines. There are in fact three types of baby cries they will make:

Interpreting Baby Cries

Whimpering. This mild fussing sounds more like requesting than complaining, like a call from a neighbor asking to borrow some sugar. Baby whimpering conveys a slight unhappiness like hunger or sleepiness.

Crying. This good, strong yelp demands your attention, like when your kitchen timer goes off. A baby crying indicates greater distress, like being very hungry or cold.

Shrieking. This is a piercing, glass-shattering wail, as shrill and unbearable as a burglar alarm. A baby shrieking signals pain or irritation.

Keep in mind that even an infant's most ear-splitting shrieks are simply their way of letting you know they're hungry, wet, soiled, or even lonely. Once you give your little one what they need, they’ll settle down. 

At What Age Do Babies Cry Most?

The different types of baby cries are how they communicate hunger, discomfort, sleepiness, distress, and more. Most babies reach a crying peak at about 6 weeks of age. By 3 months, Baby will learn to make many different noises and you’ll decipher their meanings eventually. Exciting times ahead!

Did you know: SNOO Smart Sleeper helps parents better understanding their baby’s cues:

"SNOO has helped my confidence as a parent by helping me….If [my baby] is able to be calmed down with some rocking and white noise, then she probably isn't in discomfort and that helps me later on in the day when she cries. It allows me to determine when she needs something or when she just needs a hug and attention.” —Janine

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.