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You are here >For Parents > Infant Crying

Infant Crying

All babies cry – some more than others. It can be a very irritating sound and frustrating sound. Crying is one way babies communicate – it’s nature’s way of making sure infants get their needs met so they can survive. Babies are completely dependent on their adult caregivers for survival. It is normal for babies to cry, and babies will cry for many reasons. A baby might cry to let you know he or she is hungry or thirsty, needs a diaper change, needs to be cuddled, doesn’t feel well, or is sleepy. A baby might cry to release tension. Sometimes babies cry for no reason at all.

Prevention & Infant Crying- Alberta Health Services

  

What is normal?

Crying normally starts to increase at about 2 weeks of age, peaks in intensity during the 2nd month, and has decreased and evened out by the 4th or 5th month of life. On average, babies cry between one to 2 hours per day at the peak of crying, but some infants will cry less than that and some will cry more. Some babies might cry for almost 6 hours a day during the peak of crying. It is not unusual for babies to:

  • cry for 30-40 minutes or more at a time
  • cry more in the afternoon and evening
  • look like they are in pain when they cry

Expect there to be times when your baby can’t stop crying, no matter what you do.

A Parent’s Experience

I tried everything in the book – nothing worked (quote from a parent).

These pictures are of the same two month old baby on the same day – the first photograph was taken at about 5 p.m., the second at about 7 p.m, shortly after she was changed into her pajamas for bedtime. This bout of crying was very normal for a baby her age:

  • It lasted for about an hour.
  • It began in the evening.
  • Her facial expression looked like she was in pain and her body was extended and rigid while crying.
  • Both parents tried various ways to soothe her crying without success.

In general this baby cried a lot, cried loudly and was difficult to soothe. She was referred to as having “colic”. All parents need help and support with the difficult job of parenting. Even though infant crying is normal it can be physically and emotionally draining for parents.

There were many times that I cried right along with my baby (quote from a parent).

Even though most crying is normal, it is important for you to trust your instincts if you are worried about how much your baby cries, or if you think your baby is crying due to illness. Sometimes there are health reasons that a baby cries a lot. These reasons can be short-term like an illness with or without a fever, or long-term like an allergy or a medical condition. If you think your baby is unwell, you need to talk to a healthcare professional.

A baby’s crying can be very upsetting so it is important for you to understand what to expect in terms of infant crying and to plan in advance for how you and other caregivers can handle crying.

  

What is Colic?

The main symptom of colic is a lot of intense crying. In medical terms, the word “colic” indicates that there is intestinal distress involving the bowels. Therefore, the term suggests that a physical problem is causing the baby to cry but, in fact, it is not known for sure what causes colic. It has never been proven consistently that infants who cry a lot have something wrong with their bowels. Also, there is no strong evidence that the problem is due to gas, wind or food allergy. Crying causes babies to swallow air, which they burp up or pass as wind. Because they strain and tighten their stomach muscles, this also forces air out of the rectum. In other words, it may be that crying causes gas, rather than the other way around! It is now believed that most infants who are labelled as “colicky” are not suffering a medical problem. They are normal healthy infants who cry a lot more than average. If your baby is otherwise healthy, the crying is unlikely to be a sign that something is wrong with your baby or with how you are taking care of your baby. Studies suggest that babies who cry a lot are not crying because they are in pain. Also, there appears to be no lasting harm for babies with colic. The fact that colic is usually harmless for the baby doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. Not only do most colicky babies cry twice as much as infants that cry the “normal” amount, they also cry harder, are more difficult to console and quiet, and they may sleep less.

It seemed like my daughter cried 22 out of 24 hours a day. There were times I didn’t think we would both make it through! (quote from a parent)

All parents need help and support with the difficult job of parenting. A baby’s crying can be very upsetting so it is important for you to understand what to expect in terms of infant crying and to plan in advance for how you and other caregivers can handle crying. See Coping With Crying for some helpful ideas. If you are frustrated and need help call Health Link at -1-866-408-5465 – nurses are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.