EXPERT Q&A

Why do babies cry?

When your baby cries, it can make you want to cry, especially when it feels like the crying is non-stop. Learn typical reasons why a baby cries and what you can do.

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Question

We are new parents to a 3-week-old infant, and she cries all the time. Perhaps it’s colic, but are there other reasons why a baby might keep crying?

Answer

There are many different reasons why babies cry, and it can be difficult and frustrating to attempt to determine the reason, especially for first-time parents. Figuring out why your infant is crying is a universal experience that parents and caregivers experience, so please know that you are not alone!  At 3 weeks old, infants will typically cry to communicate with their parents and caregivers. Most babies at this age will cry for an average of 2 hours a day total, although this varies depending on the child. 

Since crying in infants is communication, babies will typically cry when they feel hungry, thirsty, uncomfortable, want to be held, are in pain, or feel tired. It can be helpful to keep a feeding log, keep the thermostat at a consistent level (if possible), and check for injuries as necessary. If crying seems to be occurring more often than not due to hunger or thirst, you can talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant to ensure your baby is getting enough milk or formula.

Checking for causes of discomfort can also be helpful. For example, diaper rash, gas, feeling too hot or too cold, or even pieces of hair that wrap around fingers or toes can lead to crying. In addition, babies sometimes have reflux, especially those who are formula-fed. Some babies cannot tolerate a certain type of formula and may need a different formula that is easier to digest. You can also take your baby’s temperature or check for other signs of illness or injury. Fever or other symptoms of illness, in addition to excessive crying, is a sign your baby may need a visit to a medical provider.

Another potential reason an infant might be crying is colic. When a baby younger than 5 months cries for more than 3 consecutive hours for more than 3 days per week over several weeks, colic is likely an issue. Although colic can be difficult for both the baby and the caregivers, it is only temporary. There are several things you can try to help soothe a baby who is experiencing colic. Some suggestions include using a swaddle blanket, using a pacifier, putting on a white noise machine, playing soft music, and massaging your baby. There are different types of baby massage. The Mayo Clinic suggests a specific massage technique to help soothe your baby here.

Crying can be triggering for parents and caregivers. Some tips to help parents and caregivers cope with excessive crying include finding someone who can give you a break, placing the baby in a crib and walking away for a short period of time, taking deep breaths, putting on music, or reminding yourself this stage will pass. It can also be helpful to talk with other parents and caregivers who have older children. Sometimes it helps to hear that others have had the same experiences. 

Thank you for the question, and remember, the CareNectar team is here for you!

Meet The Expert


Shenley Seabrook

Shenley Seabrook is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works primarily with children and adolescents in a private practice setting. She is also a foster parent and lives with her husband and daughter in Indiana. Shenley recently wrote her first children’s book, We Have the Same Heart, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and community service.