What's a good sorted list of potential causes to check when my baby cries and I don't know why? I need something I can print out in advance because I can't think very clearly once the crying starts.

  • 1
    Good for you for realizing that it is hard to think when the baby is crying. We wrote a list that we posted over the changing table for exactly this reason.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 15:24

6 Answers 6


Based on a list I made and kept as a poster over the crib:

  1. Hungry/Thirsty
  2. Diaper wet/dirty/tight
  3. Unswaddled newborn
  4. Teething
  5. Gas pain
  6. Reflux
  7. Too cold/hot
  8. Lonely
  9. Bored
  10. Tired
  11. Rash
  12. Sick
  13. Hurt self
  14. Fear of dark
  15. Too much light/noise during sleep
  16. Startled
  17. Strangeness in environment
  18. Missing toy or other object
  19. Foreign object on skin
  20. Hair-snared digits
  • 1
    I would add physical pain that can be caused by hair bound on their fingers or toes and you don't see it on first glance. Very dangerous as well. Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 13:37
  • @ShadowWizard Thanks. I'm adding it to the list.
    – John Pick
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 15:19
  • Nappy/Diaper too tight...
    – Benjol
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 9:06

For a healthy baby, I like to keep things simple, so

  1. Hungry
  2. Dirty Nappy/Diaper
  3. Wind
  4. Tired

This allows a simple set of rules to be followed to sort the problem. My response to crying is always

Does she need fed  --> Yes  --> Feed
No --> Is her nappy dirty  --> Yes  --> Change
No --> Is she showing signs of wind (knees to chest, red face) --> Yes --> Wind her
No --> Is she tired --> Yes --> Help her get to sleep
If newborn then shouldn't have got here.  
If older, then then requires attention, cuddles, play etc. 

  • 10
    For us Americans, "wind" is burp. Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 18:24
  • 6
    Don't forget good old fashioned pain. We were at a family get together a few years ago when one of my nephews, who was too young to talk, kept crying after we strapped him in his high chair. My siblings, parents and I (who have a couple of hundred years combined child raising experience) wasted about 20 minutes trying to get him to eat different things, giving him toys, drinks, etc. Finally my brother took off his shoe and found a pebble stuck between his toes.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 19:17
  • @Kevin Good one. I've now added a generalization of the pebble incident to my list. Thanks.
    – John Pick
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 15:21

Here's the normal list for my 1mo daughter:

  • Hungry (most common, especially if the last feeding was more than two hours ago, though she feeds on demand so we've seen her take a 4oz bottle and then want another one in 30 minutes, then sleep for 4 hours after that)
  • Gassy (and burpy and hiccupy; most common when it's not hunger)
  • Want Mommy/Daddy to hold her (this basically encompasses bored/scared/lonely and is maybe 20% of her crying)
  • PURPLE crying (often labelled "colic" and lumped in with gas/heartburn/stomach upset, PURPLE crying is actually different, and generally occurs in the evenings. It is hard to soothe, but Dr Karp's 5 S's work wonders)
  • Yes, yes, yes to PURPLE crying. Also some babies cannot fall asleep without a bit of crying to let out stimulation, especially if overtired. I just hold my 2 mo. old through those episodes.
    – justkt
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 14:17

My edited answer from another similar question.

First, it is very likely normal for your baby to cry and you need to ration your strength. Make sure both parents and other caregivers give each other breaks from the crying to recover. If it is just the two of you please find some help. Even as little as a couple hours once a week is important for your health and ability to have perspective.

Now, strategies for crying. Go through a cry reasons checklist in your head every time until your reaction is automatic, here are mine:

  • Wet (change diaper)
  • Hungry (feed)
  • Gas (Burp)
  • Cold/Hot (adjust amount of bed clothes)
  • Uncomfortable (check the baby's body for anything that could be an irritant: don't overlook things like clothing tags, detergent used, a hair wrapped around a baby's toe, perfume on a parent)
  • Tired (soothe and later ignore)
  • Upset/Angry (try to remedy the upsetting environment, soothe, or ignore)

If the baby is still crying you need to look outside healthy, normal reasons for crying. Start checking for such things as:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Alergies (what is mom eating that could be an alergy?)
  • Infection

Once you have a checklist in mind you need to keep track of a crazy amount of stuff: what is the baby eating, when, when is the baby sleeping, how long, any burps, how about diaper changes, and so on. If you have these things in mind you can start to identify what leads to crying in your baby. Keep it all in a little notebook and bring it with you to doctor visits just in case to help remind you of things. If your baby continues to cry call your doctor or nurse helpline. You may need to go in for a visit.

  • hungry
  • gassy
  • cold
  • lonely
  • tired
  • 2
    I fear the lack of humor on this particular SE site.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 28, 2012 at 18:03
  • 1
    +1 for Zombies. I do think hobos should be taken off the list, though. One month olds LOVE hobos, the rocking motion of the train is very soothing.
    – philosodad
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 14:38
  • 1
    I agree that hobos should be removed, and feel that clowns should be added to the list.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 15:22
  • Oh won't somebody roll it back :) Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 12:13

The lists given are great (definitely include "burp"). Also, you may not always be able to determine a cause. For lesser problems your primary job may be distraction. I would highly recommend The Happiest Baby on the Block. I have literally never seen these techniques fail with our baby.

  • I'm not sure distraction is the best bet, though it works. As parents our goal should be to listen to our kids, and distraction does not help us learn to do that.
    – justkt
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 14:18

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