Why Your Baby Is So Kvetchy and What To Do About It

Nov 11, 2020

Your baby is a horrible actor. Fear not, that definitely will change as time goes on (white lies and tall tales are just around the bend!), but for now, it is what it is what it is.

That means that, like we discussed, in her natural state, your baby will be content and happy.

And that also means, if your baby is not content and happy, that something is wrong.

So how do you know what is wrong?

Start at the top

First, what do I mean when I say “content and happy”?

I mean: being able to lay on the floor and play independently.

And yes, any baby can do this - as young as a brand new newborn.

No, your baby’s not going to be bored (there’s soooooo much he’s learning just from a regular day on your living room floor - cause and effect, sights, sounds and smells, etc.) on the floor. Just the world around him leaves plenty for him to learn. 

But if your baby is not feeling 100%, and the comfort of your arms, or the cuddly positioning of the swing, infant seat, carseat, aren’t there to assuage any discomfort, then your baby WILL let you know about the discomfort he feels by … well, kvetching or crying.

If your baby is unhappy on the floor, but fine in your arms (or in an infant seat, swing, etc.), then chances are he’s not really okay; meaning to say: something’s wrong. 

(Unless he’s older and already knows to ask to be held… but that's something we’ll talk about a different time.)

Basic Physical needs

So if something’s wrong, the first place we always start with a kvetchy baby is: are his needs being met? 

Our primary needs as human beings are:

  • Hydration
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition

(And yes, sleep really is in the same category as nutrition and hydration on the needs hierarchy!)

For a newborn, and any baby under 6 months, nutrition and hydration are one and the same: breastmilk or formula.

How do you know if your baby is getting enough? Input and output.


If you’re breastfeeding, does your baby eat at least 8 times/24 hours? Is the latch good (no clicking, gulping when breastfeeding, no milk dribbling out the sides, no dimpling of cheek, both lips flanged outward, no pain/sensitivity for you during or after the breastfeeding session)? If you’re concerned, have you done a weighted feed?

If you’re bottle feeding, is your baby getting 24-32 oz during a 12 hour period? 


Are you seeing at least 8 wet diapers and 1-5 bowel movements daily? Have you seen a significant reduction in numbers of bowel movements in the last couple of days or weeks?

… and about sleep.

We talked about this in the last post, but here are some things to keep in mind:

First, how much sleep does your baby need? And is your baby falling into the average range?

Is your baby getting at least 12 hours for night? Taking at least one nap that’s two sleep cycles or longer per day (over an hour in length)?

But if your baby is 

  • Getting the sleep he needs
  • Getting the nutrition and hydration she needs

And she’s still kvetchy, then what?

(Don’t forget about her other needs!)

Remember that your baby also needs cuddles, hugs and physical touch.

Your baby also needs to be spoken to, have eye contact made, and hear you speak.

Like I mentioned above, most young babies won’t be kvetchy from those needs not being met (ie babies below six months don’t “just cry” because “they want to be held”), but just because your baby isn’t crying doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be meeting those needs (of course!). 

Physical pain and discomfort

There’s lots of perceived pain and discomfort that’s not actually occurring (think “he’s just refluxy”, or “oh, she has gas”), which is why I always recommend starting with basic physical needs before seeking out a potential cause of physical pain or discomfort.

If you’re 100% sure that your baby is getting all the sleep, food and hydration that she needs, and she’s still kvetchy, then we start to look at what is wrong.

Below, I’ve included a list of what might be causing your baby’s physical discomfort; while it’s by no means comprehensive, these are the most common things I see when I work with babies:

  • Overtiredness/Overstimulation (because, yes, it is possible to be getting enough sleep, and still be overtired - ie going too long between sleep.)
  • Improper latch causing air to be swallowed during eating - which can cause excessive abdominal pressure.
  • Something in mom’s diet causing discomfort/inflammation (such as if you see a rash/eczema) for breastfeeding babies.
  • Tension in the body (this can be from physical restrictions, such as oral ties, from a long labor, from a quick labor, or from a c-section), which can be painful in and of itself, and also can cause other issues, such as constipation.
  • Gut imbalance or inflammation, such as reflux, causing discomfort (can be from mom’s diet, food sensitivities, food allergies, or from not having developed gut flora due to c-section, antibiotics, or formula feeding, among other causes.)

So how do you really know what’s bothering your baby? First (and I know I already said it, but it needs to be emphasized!) make sure you’re meeting your baby’s needs. If your baby is sleep deprived and overtired, don’t start worrying about tummy trouble just yet!

But once all needs ARE met, then it’s time to start

  1. Tuning in. Trust your intuition, but don’t mistake fear for intuition.
  2. Speaking to a professional. Your best bet is a holistic professional (which may not be your pediatrician!) who has the experience and knowledge to be able to look at all the pieces and identify what is the first step you should take.

So what do you think, sound doable?

Let me know in the comments below!

Three steps to a newborn stage you'll LOVE [Free guide!]


50% Complete

Just one more step:

Enter your email below, and your guide'll be on its way -- which means a newborn stage you'll love is just around the corner!