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Babies cry to communicate that they are hungry, wet, tired, too
warm, too cold, lonely, or otherwise uncomfortable. When you respond promptly
to these cries, you help your baby feel confident and safe. After
your baby's need is met, the crying usually stops. The more
consistently you respond to your baby when he or she is upset, the greater
chance that your baby will cry less at age 1 and show less aggression at age
Letting a newborn baby "cry it out" usually makes the situation worse
and the crying more intense. It is often harder and takes longer to
calm an extremely upset baby than one who has just started to cry.
Most babies cry the most during the first four months of life.
Starting at about 2 weeks of age, your baby may cry for no apparent reason and can be
hard to console. Many babies have a fussy time of day, often
during the late afternoon to early evening when they are tired and unable to
relax. This crying is a way for your baby to release the tension that naturally
develops from a full day of stimulation. These episodes can last up to 2 to 3
hours. During this time, the baby needs extra attention. Realize that your
baby may continue crying no matter how much comfort is given. Although this
behavior is normal, it can be very stressful for you, especially when you are
already feeling overwhelmed. If you can identify a pattern, it may help to
carry and hold your baby before the anticipated crying period and after it
begins. You can also plan for extra help. For example, a few times a week, have
a friend or relative come over and take over for you during the expected fussy
The average amount of time a baby cries peaks at around 6 weeks of
age. Crying spells shorten as your baby's nervous system matures and as
you become better able to recognize and meet your newborn's needs.2
Babies may cry more when they sense family tension or caregiver
anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you feel
anxious about things in your life.
An extreme type of crying in a baby between 3 weeks and 3 months of age is called colic. Although it is upsetting for parents and caregivers, colic is normal for some babies. Caregivers are not
to blame. It's hard for a baby with colic to stop a crying episode after it
has begun, despite your attempts to soothe and console your baby. It is common to feel scared or frustrated when you cannot get your baby to stop crying. But remember that colic is normal—and temporary. Your baby will grow out of it.
Colic is not caused by pain or illness. If you think your baby is crying because he or she is hurt or sick, call your doctor.
CitationsFeigelman S (2011). The first year. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 26–31. Philadelphia.Barr RG, Fujiwara T (2011). Crying in infants. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 318–321. New York: McGraw-Hill.
January 10, 2013
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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