Baby expert shares the meaning behind every toddler's scream from blood-curdling wail to quiet sob & when to be worried | The Sun

THE SOUND of your child crying is bound to instantly upset you as well.

It isn't always obvious why they might be crying, especially when they haven't learnt how to verbally communicate yet.

But hearing your child cry shouldn't instantly cause you to panic a lot of the time it can come down to them being over-tired, hungry or just frustrated at being told no.

To help ease your worries Fabulous spoke to Dr Claire Halsey, a child psychologist for 41 years who works at Triple P, to find out what each of your toddler's cries actually means.

She said: "When any baby or toddler cries they are communicating their distress or a need.

"Parents are primed to find their baby's cries upsetting and to respond quickly to soothe or meet their needs.

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"Acting quickly when a toddler cries means children feel safe and build trust in their parents."

However, if you're trying to get them into a bedtime routine it can be better to wait to see if your toddler can settle themselves, Dr Halsey adds.

Blood-curdling wail

The blood-curdling wail can instantly give you shivers down your spine.

The wail can come in many forms depending on your child but a high-pitched shriek can be an indicator that something is seriously wrong.

The child expert adds: "It's often a sign that something is definitely wrong for this baby or toddler.

"Parents soon get to know what each sort of ‘wail’ means from disappointment and frustration to fear or harm."

Dr Halsey recommends acting quickly and calmly to reassure and help them when they let out this cry.

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Quiet sobbing should be checked on discreetlyCredit: Getty

Quiet sobbing

While the blood-curdling wail is hard to miss, it might take you a second to spot your toddler quietly sobbing.

Dr Halsey reveals: " This can mean so many things from a child being hurt, to one who has almost given up trying to get parents attention or in the final stages of going off to sleep."

With that being said, parents will get to know the individual cries of their child and be able to act accordingly.

She suggests: " If in doubt, it’s always advisable to see if they’re okay – even if that’s just a quick look in to check all is well as they settle in their cot."

Soft whimpering

A soft whimper tends to point to a lack of energy.

The child expert explains it often means your toddler is either feeling unwell or is upset.

She recommends gently exploring what's wrong to help guide you on how best to soothe them.

That can vary from taking their temperature or asking them questions to find out what has upset them.

Grizzling cry

When we've been given too much work to do and are way too sleepy to get through we often let out a grizzly noise to let go of tension.

And that's the exact same with toddlers, as Dr Halsey explains.

"Grizzling often indicates an overtired or overwhelmed little one who is finding it difficult to settle," she says.

If it turns out they are hungry or thirsty meet the need and move to a calm, quiet and low-stimulation area.

Just like adults needing a hug after a long day at work, toddlers also need some physical affection to be soothed after a drizzling cry.

The child expert adds: "Rocking, holding and murmuring can help allow them to relax."

The full-body release

The full-body release is something most parents dread, it often involves throwing their heads back, collapsing to the floor, not catching their breath and refusing to listen to anything you say.

Dr Halsey reveals it usually happens after a major event and can often mean they're hurt, frightened or simply having a tantrum.

She suggests: "Staying close to your toddler, get down to their level and a soft touch on their arm or shoulder can help them become calmer.

"Hold off on trying to solve any problem until their breathing is back to normal."


When a child purposely holds their breath it can be a frightening experience for parents.

It can often be a response to pain, anger or fear.

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But the child expert reveals this isn't something toddlers do on purpose.

She advises: "When this happens, stay with your child and lie them on their side. Check out the NHS website for more advice and seek medical advice if needed.

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