The ABCs of Crying

When is it normal for my baby to cry?

mother comforting crying baby

Contributor: Emma Raizman, MD, Pediatrician

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New parents often come to me worried about how much their baby cries. Crying is normal in all babies — it’s how they communicate. Even healthy babies without colic, illness or discomfort can cry for two to three hours a day.

Research shows that there is a normal cycle for babies. Crying begins to increase around 2-3 weeks of age. It peaks at 6-8 weeks of age, and tapers off and usually resolves between 3-4 months of age.

Crying usually peaks in the evening hours, just when parents are typically coming home from work and may be stressed themselves.

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When your baby is crying, always check:

  • Is he hungry?
  • Does she need to be changed?
  • Is there anything making the baby uncomfortable, such as clothes pinching, being cold, diaper rash or a need to be burped?

If you are concerned about your baby’s crying or feel that she may be ill, call your doctor’s office and either talk to the staff and/or make an appointment to bring the baby in for a visit. Your doctor and staff can help you decide whether your baby may have a medical problem contributing to or causing the crying. Many times, there may be no apparent reason for a baby’s crying.

Things you can do to calm your baby

  • Rub her back
  • Sing, talk or read to her
  • Do gentle belly massage
  • Swaddle her. (Some babies like to be tightly swaddled, feeling more like they are in the womb. Others like their arms and legs to be free. Experiment to see what your baby likes better).
  • Offer a pacifier
  • Rock her gently
  • Take a walk in the stroller
  • Take a drive with the baby secured properly in the car seat
  • Keep the baby in a calm environment, avoiding loud noises and bright lights
  • Take care not to overfeed. (Sometimes gassiness can make babies fussy. If they are spitting, they may have had a little too much to eat).

If you are breastfeeding, there may be something in your diet upsetting your baby’s stomach. Speak to your doctor about foods you may want to avoid.

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It is natural to be stressed or frustrated with your baby’s crying at times. If you find yourself pushed to the limit, the best thing to do is ask a spouse or relative in the house to watch the baby for a bit. If that is not an option, put the baby down safely in the crib and walk away for five to 10 minutes to regroup. It is never okay to shake a baby — and it is a good idea to let anyone watching your child know this as well.

Remember that at times, you may be doing everything on this list and still not be able to soothe your baby’s crying. This doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent or that your baby is going to be a difficult baby. It’s entirely normal. Just breathe and know that the crying will stop. If you are concerned at all, your pediatrician is just a phone call away and will be there to help.

More information

A Guide for Parents on Swaddling
American Academy of Pediatrics: Information for Parents on Calming a Fussy Baby
American Academy of Pediatrics: Welcome to the World of Parenting!
The Happiest Baby
The Period of PURPLE Crying: A New Way to Understand Your Baby’s Crying

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