My Baby Is Always Unhappy When Awake (Am I Doing Something Wrong?)

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with others!

You want to enjoy your baby and spend quality time bonding with them but your baby won’t stop fussing long enough to do that. You feel defeated as a parent, and worry that you are doing something wrong. Is it normal for your baby to cry this much?

Your baby will cry when he is hungry, teething, tired, or has a dirty diaper. Before becoming concerned that something larger may be wrong, check to make sure none of these are causing your baby discomfort. If you still find it difficult to calm your baby, remember that some babies are naturally fussier and yours is likely to grow out of it soon.

Read on to see just how much crying is normal for babies and how to interpret the cues your baby gives you before they even resort to crying. Also, find some tips on how to combat colic as well as tips to help make your baby happier.

Why is my baby always unhappy

Babies can be a mystery, even for a seasoned parent. Some babies are naturally happier, while some can be naturally fussier. A lot of how your baby reacts and responds to things will depend on their natural temperament and personality. 

Just because your baby isn’t smiling or cooing at you all day long doesn’t necessarily mean your baby is unhappy. And just because you don’t have a happy baby doesn’t mean you won’t have a happy child.

As a parent of an infant, we often play the role as detective as well. We first need to make sure our child’s needs are being met. More specifically, meaning that they aren’t hungry, tired, or sitting in a dirty diaper.

If your baby remains fussy after all basic needs are met, it could be worth a visit to their doctor to rule out colic or illnesses such as ear infections or acid reflux. Sometimes a change in formula, mother’s diet (for nursing infants), or bottle types can help alleviate a lot of discomfort in our baby. 

Is it normal for babies to cry every time they are awake

Babies cry. Sometimes they cry a lot. Usually, though, their crying is for a reason.

When babies cry, they are trying to alert you to what they need and the fact that they are even crying at all lets you know that they trust you to meet their needs.

Excessive crying, even after all possible needs are met, may alert you that something else is going on. If your baby’s crying fits last longer than 3 hours a day for more than 3 days a week, they are considered colicky. It is unknown what causes colic exactly. Whatever the reason, colic can be extremely stressful and tiring, both for baby and parents.

Here are some of my tried and true tips for how to settle a baby with colic:

  • Try a change of scenery. Take them outside, give them a bath, try a cartoon.
  • Your baby may prefer to be held or nursed in specific positions. Try carrying your baby on their belly in a football hold. Try a baby swing. Gently bounce, pat their butt, rub their backs.
  • Use a white noise machine you already have. A vacuum cleaner, dryer, hairdryer, running water out of the faucet can all be great ways to help soothe your child. Your womb was a noisy place where they spent a nice and cozy nine months of their life. It could just be that your baby is taking longer to adjust to their new world.
  • When all else fails, load them up in their car seat and take them for a drive. 

If absolutely nothing works, know that you’re not doing anything wrong. This too shall pass.

Why is my baby always crying

Your baby isn’t able to tell you, at least not verbally, what they need. Crying is a natural way to let you know that something is bothering them.

As a parent, we learn to distinguish between the sounds of different cries. Often babies will have a certain cry when they are hungry, sleepy, hurt, or mad. We can use these clues to help decipher what our child needs.

First, it’s important to make sure that all your baby’s needs are met and to rule out any underlying issues. Some of the more common reasons why your baby will cry will be from hunger, having a wet or dirty diaper, being sleepy, having gas or belly pains, and teething. 

Newborn babies sleep most of the time. When they do wake up, it’s because they have a need to be met. Newborn babies and younger infants cry a lot. The older they get, the less crying they will do. 

Hunger

When your child is first born, you may expect that he will cry when he’s hungry, but most experts agree that crying is actually a late sign of hunger (not the first one!).

Here are some early hunger signs for babies age newborn to 6 months old:

  • Puts hands to mouth
  • Turns head towards breast or bottle
  • Puckers, smacks, or licks lips
  • Clenches hands

Babies 6 to 24 months may exhibit some of the following hunger cues:

  • Reaching for or pointing to food
  • Opening mouth when offered spoon
  • Getting excited when seeing food
  • Using hand motions or sounds to let you know they are still hungry

If you learn how to interpret your baby’s hunger cues early, you may be able to prevent them from crying in the first place.

Exhaustion

As you get to know your baby, you will become familiar with your child’s warning signs that they are getting sleepy.

If you ignore the warning signs your baby will become overtired and will reach the point where they begin to cry.

When my kids reached the overtired stage, they were almost inconsolable. It was so much better to get them to sleep before they reached the point of sheer exhaustion.

Here are some signs your newborn may give when tired:

  • Pulling at ears
  • Closing fists
  • Yawning
  • Fluttering eyelids or trouble focusing
  • Jerky arm and leg motions
  • Frowning
  • Sucking on fingers

As your baby develops, his is likely to exhibit these signs as well:

  • Clumsiness
  • Clinginess
  • Demands for attention
  • Boredom with toys
  • Fussiness with food

Following a good sleep routine will also help keep your baby happy. Of course, different aged babies have different needs. You can expect your newborn to tire after being awake for around 1 ½ hours. Your 3-6 month old may start to become tired after 1 ½- 3 hours, while 6-12 month olds can become tired after 2-3 hours.

Babies older than 12 months can become overtired if they miss a nap. 

Gas

My kids always had a problem with gas as a baby. I would be bouncing and consoling a red-faced screaming baby trying to figure out what in the world was going on. It wasn’t until I heard the tell-tale sound of passing gas that I realized their belly was hurting. After a while, I began to immediately pick up on the reason behind their cry.

Another sure sign of gas/ tummy discomfort to watch for is if your baby is kicking or scrunching their legs up to their bellies when crying.

Here are some tricks to try and help alleviate their gas pains:

  • Lay them on a flat surface and gently move their legs as if they were pedaling a bicycle. This is extremely effective in babies that are not yet crawling or walking. 
  • Try a gentle colon massage to stimulate the bowels to release any trapped gas.
  • Try some gripe water.
  • Make sure to get a good burp out of your baby to dispel any swallowed air during feedings.
  • If gas and tummy pains become a daily occurrence, consider switching bottles, formula, or altering mom’s diet.

Dirty diaper or diaper rash

No one wants to sit in a dirty or wet diaper. Feeling clean and dry makes your baby feel good.

If you know your baby can’t be hungry or tired, changing your baby’s diaper is a good next step.

One common ailment of babies is the dreaded diaper rash. Sometimes being diligent in getting them out of a dirty diaper still can’t prevent a diaper rash. Always check for a rash at each diaper change and keep a tube of your favorite ointment at your disposal. If what you are trying isn’t working, try a different brand or type of cream. Occasionally, your child’s diaper rash may require a prescription type cream to clear up.

Here are a few popular diaper rash ointments:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Mom’s diet

If your baby is breastfed and suffering from gas, determining the culprit just got a little trickier.

Many babies are sensitive to things in mom’s diet such as caffeine, dairy, soy, nuts or other common allergens.

Work with your baby’s doctor or a lactating specialist to help rule out certain foods. Keeping a food journal can be helpful as well as an elimination diet. 

Teething

Teething can be a parent’s worst nemesis. It seems like the teething journey never ends. One tooth finally breaks through only to find another one causing issues.

Babies who teethe can be fussy and cranky as they can be in pain, though they can’t always tell us how much. If your baby is drooling more than usual, chewing on everything in sight, and having disrupted sleep or eating patterns chances are that teething is to blame.

Trying different kinds of teethers, using infant Tylenol or Ibuprofen, or rubbing your baby’s gums may help ease their discomfort.

Illness

If you’ve ruled out everything you can possibly think of for why your baby is crying and nothing is working, you may want to schedule an appointment with your baby’s doctor.

Sometimes an illness such as an ear infection or acid reflux can cause your baby to feel irritable and grumpy.

Your doctor will also be able to advise if your baby is suffering from colic and may have some remedies for you to try. Even if nothing else is wrong with your baby, you can put your mind at ease by knowing for sure.

How much crying is normal for a baby

Unless you were blessed with the rare little one who almost never cries, you’ve probably worried that your little ones cries too much.

There is a wide range of normal crying for newborns from little crying to up to 3 hours per day.

At around the 3-month mark, the crying should start to subside some, although some babies cry regularly up to 5 months. It’s during this 3-5 month mark that babies can begin to learn how to self-soothe.

Can a baby cry too much?

Babies who cry for at least three hours a day for at least three days a week are said to have colic. Most colic starts around 2 weeks of age and ends around 3 months, peaking at 4-6 weeks.

It’s a good idea to visit your child’s doctor to help determine this prognosis as they can rule out any underlying health issues.

A baby who cries after all needs are met and aren’t ill are just fussy, temperamental babies. Unfortunately, you may just need to wait for your baby to grow out of it.

Parental anxiety

For all that they are unable to communicate directly with us, babies can pick up on your emotions easily.

If you are anxious about taking care of your child, your child is picking up on that and may cause them to act out emotionally.

It’s normal to have some anxiety when it comes to having a new baby; however, if your anxiety starts to interfere with your day-to-day life you may need to let your doctor know so they can help you manage it.

Fussiness and autism

Autism is a disorder experts are still learning more about every day. The earlier it is caught, the better children can respond to treatment.

While excessive fussiness and crying is one of the early signs of autism spectrum disorder in infants, there are many other symptoms that need to accompany it to help lead to a diagnosis. 

Please keep in mind that just because you have a fussy baby or a baby who cries often does not mean your child has autism.

How can I make my baby happier?

If your child struggles with fussiness, they may simply need a diversion or a change or scenery.

When your baby is fussy:

  • First, and foremost, make sure your child isn’t hungry.
  • Make sure his diaper is clean and dry and your little one has no visible diaper rash.
  • See if baby is close to nap or bedtime.
  • Change baby’s outfit as sometimes the fit or material can be irritating. Also, check for any hairs wrapped around little toes or fingers, or private parts for boys. This can be a good habit to get into during every outfit change.
  • Try swaddling your baby if they are newborn.
  • Try giving a bath.
  • Use white noise (think vacuum cleaner, dryer, running water, or white noise machine) to help soothe infant.
  • Make sure mom and dad are taking care of themselves. It’s okay to lay your baby in a safe place, such as crib or bassinet, and walk out of the room to take a breather. Parenting a colicky child is not for the faint of heart.
  • Be patient with your baby. This new world can be a scary and overwhelming place. Help them learn it can also be a place of love and happiness.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it with others!

Joshua Bartlett

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. I have 11 years of parenting experience raising 4 children! I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

Recent Posts