Are You Mom Enough To Distinguish Your Baby’s Cries?

One of the worst question I have been asked as a new mom — and even as a seasoned mom — is: Can you distinguish your baby’s cries?

What? Can I tell if my screaming, squirming baby wants to eat or sleep by the pitch and tone of noises he only recently discovered he could make?

I’m usually asked by professionals who are currently making my child cry with pokes and prods and weird face petting. Is this a test to see if I’ll say: Well, that’s her “you’re so annoying” cry?

Or is this really some terrible litmus test akin to being asked Can you tell if it’s a boy or girl? while pregnant.

Gee, are my maternal instincts strong enough to take a 50/50 guess at the private parts of my fetus?

And now that she’s here, am I mom enough to meet my baby’s needs by hearing alone?

Well, let’s see. When a baby cries, I think:

When did he last eat?
When did he last sleep?
Does he smell like poop?
Oh yes! And with a peek into the diaper, I discover it’s the ‘I crapped my pants’ cry.


I also find that yawning or diving for my breast while crying to be helpful in understanding my screaming infant’s needs, but if I was to go blind and have my arms fall off, I would be out of luck in the baby-caring-maternal-instinct department… as well as armless.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

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