Newborn crying

Newborns 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 give your newborn confidence and a sense of security. Once your baby's need is met, the crying usually stops.

Letting a newborn baby “cry it out” usually makes the situation worse and the crying more intense. It is often more difficult and takes longer to calm an extremely upset baby than one who has just started to cry.

However, some newborns cry for no apparent reason and can be difficult to console. Typically, newborns 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 newborn 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 time.

The average amount of time a baby cries peaks at around 6 weeks of age. These crying spells shorten as your baby's nervous system matures and as you become better able to recognize and meet your newborn's needs.

Last Updated: March 19, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Kimberly Dow, MD, FRCPC - Neonatology

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