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Reasons for a Baby's Whimpering

by Jennifer Oster, studioD

Babies cry to communicate; it's one of the only ways they have to express feelings, discomfort, and needs. A baby's crying may often begin with a whimper, a series of soft, intermittent cries, and then escalate into full-blown crying. Many times, a parent can curb full-blown crying by meeting a baby's needs at the first signs of distress. While it is not always possible to console a crying infant, reading cues accurately can be tremendously helpful in keeping a baby calm and happy.

Diaper Change or Gas

Sometimes a baby will cry to let you know that her diaper is wet and needs changing. Typically, the diaper is the easiest thing to check first when your baby cries. If her diaper does not need a change, move on to the next possible problem. Sometimes, babies cry when they have gas since it is uncomfortable for them to expel it on their own, especially as newborns. A cue that your baby's cries are gas-related is squirming and the arching of the back. If your baby is crying after a feeding, it is possible that she needs to be burped or that she has to have a bowel movement.

Tired or Hungry

Infants sleep a lot and get tired easily, so one reason for whimpering could be overstimulation and the need for sleep. Swaddling your baby and softly rocking her will likely work if she is tired. Another common reason infants cry is due to hunger. Try breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby on demand if you think your baby's whimpers are hunger related. One sign that your baby's cries are hunger cries is when a whimper becomes a full-blown hysterical, inconsolable cry that only subsides when she is fed. Hunger cries are usually louder than other types of cries.

Hot or Cold

Babies, much like adults, get hot or cold depending on the season and the temperature. Chances are, if you would be hot in a sweater June, so would your infant. If your baby is whimpering and wearing clothing that may make her too hot or too cold, try adding or removing blankets, or changing the baby into seasonally appropriate apparel. A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby similar to how you would be comfortable, but add one layer. For example, if you are wearing jeans and a sweater, dress your baby in pants, a long-sleeved shirt and add a light blanket. If you'd be comfortable in a shorts and t-shirt, dress your baby in a long-sleeved shirt and leggings.

Other Considerations

Other common issues include wanting interaction, wanting to be rocked, or even boredom. However, in some cases, there are more severe underlying issues. If your infant cries for extended periods of time or cannot be consoled, seek the advice of your pediatrician immediately. There are many other reasons why some infants may whimper and cry, including colic, reflux or other medical issues. A pediatrician can properly asses an infant to give a diagnosis or resolution to the problem.

About the Author

Jennifer Oster holds a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Louisiana State University and is also a certified lactation counselor. An expert in the field of infant and maternal nutrition, she began writing professionally in 2005 and has been featured in many nationally acclaimed magazines.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images