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father carrying his crying baby

Understanding Baby Cries

Whenever a need arises, a child needs something; they cry out to seek the attention of their guardians. So, understanding baby cries is very important to fulfill their needs.

Babies communicate with their own language – the language of cries. They communicate with their parents from time to time to convey their needs.

But since all forms of crying only entail sobs and shrieks, most new parents struggle to decipher the meaning behind their baby’s crying sessions. However, you’d be surprised to know that the language of babies is quite nuanced and they have a different sound of crying for different needs.

Yeah, that’s right! It’s a universal thing. All babies have specific gasps and screeches for particular requirements. Priscilla Dunstan, an Australian opera singer, conducted an eight year long extensive research worldwide and came up with a classification of baby cries.

According to Dunstan, every baby has five types of calls that they use to convey a message.

Here are the five kinds of universal baby cries

  • Neh- Hunger
  • Eh- Burp
  • Eairh- Gas
  • Heh- Discomfort
  • Owh- Sleepiness

Even though it may seem difficult to differentiate between these sounds, if you pay enough attention, you can get the hang of it easily.


When a baby makes the sound of ‘neh’ to cry, it means that they are hungry. The sound of ‘neh’ is produced when the baby pushes their tongue up against the roof of the mouth triggering the sucking reflex. Another indication of the hunger cry is thumb sucking. When a baby starts crying because they are hungry, they also try to suck their thumb from time to time.

Eh-Upper Wind

A child produces an ‘eh’ sounding cry when they have gas stuck in their chest. The discomfort a baby feels in their chest due to the air bubble forces them to make the sound of ‘eh’ in an attempt to release the bubble as a burp.

The cry for burp is also indicated by a pained facial expression and rigorous shaking of limbs.


When a baby feels bloated and need to release gas, they relay the message by making an ‘eairh’ sounding noise/cry. The ‘eairh’ sound is generated when the gas in the baby’s tummy moves towards the intestines, tightening the surrounding muscles.

The cry for gas release is typically quick intense and may even be accompanied by legs raised towards the tummy.




The ‘heh’ sound can be heard in baby cries when the baby is uncomfortable due to a wet nappy. It is generated due to a response to a skin reflex, such as itchy or sweaty skin.

The cry for a nappy change is generally mild and comes in multiple bouts.


The ‘owh’ cry is the easiest to make out as it is accompanied by frequent yawning. It is quite similar to the sound of yawning, and it signifies that the baby is tired and wants to sleep.

The cry for sleep usually starts slow and picks up intensity along the way. Your child may also begin to rub their eyes, along with crying, when it’s nap time.


Understanding baby cries is not so difficult. Keep your ears on alert the next time your baby starts to tear up.


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