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The world can be a big and scary place for a new baby. They don’t know you’re there to comfort, feed and care for them.
Your baby can’t understand that they’re comfortable because they're full and safe, or uncomfortable because they’re afraid or hungry.
From your smell and voice, your baby will quickly learn to recognise you’re the person who comforts and feeds them most, but not that you’re their parent.
However, even from birth, your baby will start to communicate with signals when they’re tired and hungry, or awake and alert.
Your baby is learning all the time. Your job is to help them know that the world is a friendly place, where their needs will be met, so they can learn to feel safe and loved.

For your new baby, everything is new and scary at first, even a nappy change.

  • They don’t know that they're a person.
  • They don’t know who comes when they cry.
  • They feel happy when feeding, but don’t know what ‘happy’ is.
  • They cry when they’re hungry or tired, but don’t understand you are there to care for them.


Babies under 3 months often cry a lot, especially in the late afternoon or evening. We’re not sure, but this crying, often called colic, might be partly caused by your baby simply being overwhelmed by everything that’s happening, both inside their body and outside. ‘Jiggling’ is not a good way to settle your baby. It can be very scary or even painful, even if they stop crying. It is important to never shake a baby. Newborn babies do not cry ‘for attention’ or to punish their parents. In their first 3 months, a new baby cannot decide to cry. They’ll cry because of something they’re feeling or that’s happening. They don’t understand what is happening and that you might be able to help them feel better. Your baby likes the full feeling they have after a feed, when they hear your soothing voice, or when they’re being cuddled. They don’t like feeling hungry or frightened. But they can’t understand that feelings are caused by a full tummy or hunger.

Why does my baby cry when I’m upset?

Because babies feel but aren’t yet able to think, your baby will pick up your feelings. They’ll be calm when you’re calm and unhappy if you are unhappy. If you feel upset, they’ll feel upset too, though they won’t know why they're feeling that way. So, when you’re tired and frazzled, your baby may be hard to settle, making things seem even worse!

Each baby is different

It really is true. Each baby has a different personality. They may be easy going and placid, or shy and worried, or easily upset. You’ll get to know this over the next few months. Your baby is different and will grow and develop in the way that is right for them.

Your face and voice

  • The human face is the first and most important shape that your baby learns.
  • The sounds of human voices are also important, even though your baby doesn’t understand them.
  • Your baby is interested in you – especially your voice and your face.
  • Looking into someone’s eyes is a vital part of forming close and loving relationships. Show your baby your face and gently talk to your baby right from the start.
  • Don’t feel rejected if your baby sometimes turns away. Tiny babies often get tired when they interact – they just needs a rest.
  • Babies need to feel safe – that you’re looking after them. They often begin to smile at a familiar face and look at you carefully by 4 to 6 weeks.

When it’s all too much

Since your baby doesn’t understand what’s happening around them, your baby can become upset if there’s too much to see or do. They can easily feel overwhelmed by sounds, colors, shapes and touch. Sometimes it’s just too much! Loud noises may frighten your baby in the first months, but you can soothe them by talking in a gentle voice, humming, playing lullabies, or playing music they heard during pregnancy. 

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