Your baby may not be able to talk yet, but that doesn’t mean he or she can’t communicate with you through crying. The key for parents is to understand exactly what the crying means.

Generally speaking, crying means something is wrong. Babies use cries to let you know many things, including that they are hungry, cold, tired or they want to be hugged.

“As time goes by, parents will usually be able to tell you what their baby needs are, based on the type of crying,” said Frank McGehee, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician. “Make sure though you look for other forms of communication too, such as facial expressions, smiling or the way they move. Your baby will be soothed by their parents’ voice and touch, and it is a great form of bonding for your entire family.”

Dr. McGehee said babies pay attention to their parents’ voices and will be comforted by hearing them. Make sure to talk in a soothing manner to your child and also use affection such as kissing, rocking or walking around for comfort.

“You should always respond to your baby’s cries as soon as possible,” Dr. McGehee said. “But there may be time where your baby doesn’t immediately respond to you. Sometimes, your baby may cry for several minutes, regardless of what you do. They could be just fussy and need to ‘wind down’ by crying. Some babies get overtired and relax after a good cry. If the baby cries for more than five minutes, they may need to burp the air they swallowed during the cry. But most babies will outgrow this period of time, usually by about 3 months old.”

Dr. McGehee wants parents to talk to their Cook Children’s pediatrician if they are concerned that their baby is crying for a prolonged period of time, the baby cannot be soothed or they think their child is sick or in pain.

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