See ratings and reviews when you sign up for an account.

Crying and Fussing in an Infant


All babies cry and fuss. Many infants spend a considerable amount of time being fussy. Young infants cry between one and five hours out of 24. Crying is important for babies; it is the baby's first way of communicating and an important way to release tension. Constant crying, though, can be a symptom of colic or a sign that something else is wrong.


The baby's cry is a perfect signal of life. It has three features:

Crying in infants is a normal, healthy means of expression and communication. The average six-week-old baby cries for two-and-a-half hours every day. Infants cry because they are hungry, uncomfortable, in pain , overstimulated, tired, or just bored. A new mother can distinguish her infant's crying from that of other babies within three days, and some fathers can make this distinction as well. A hungry cry begins softly and then becomes loud and rhythmic; an angry cry is similar to a hungry cry but louder. A cry of pain has a distinctive pattern, beginning with a single shriek followed by a short silence and then continuous loud wailing. Neglected or abused infants have a high-pitched cry that is difficult for adults to tolerate. This cry is characteristic of babies born to crack-addicted mothers and has been linked to abnormalities in the central nervous system. An infant's crying patterns and ability to be comforted are important indicators of temperament , both in infancy and even in later years.

The most common way to comfort a crying infant is to hold him or her close to the chest. Some infants are soothed by the motion of a cradle, rocking chair, stroller, swing, or automobile. Sucking on a pacifier is another comfort. Other methods include a warm bath, a massage, music, or some background noise, such as the sound of a hair dryer, a washing machine, or fan. There are also special recordings that reproduce sounds similar to those the infant heard while in the mother's womb. Some infants are hypersensitive to stimuli, and their crying will get worse if they receive any more than a minimum of comforting, such as parental holding or cuddling. A sign of healthy emotional development is the degree to which an infant learns to comfort him- or herself, either with the aid of an object such as a stuffed toy or blanket, or by certain patterns of behavior, such as sucking on a thumb.

Another cause of excessive crying is hypersensitivity. Hypersensitive infants cry in response to new experiences that do not normally upset other babies; ordinary comforting measures, such as holding, rocking, feeding, or swaddling do not work and may even make the crying worse. Hypersensitivity can be a matter of temperament, and it may be influenced by the behavior and attitude of the parents. Some children get into the habit of excessive crying as a way of demanding parental attention. The parents of such children may be overprotective, not giving them the chance to develop independence and resourcefulness by solving problems on their own.

Common problem

Many new parents are not prepared for the amount of time a newborn spends crying. Infants typically cry an average of two hours of every 24 for the first seven weeks of life. The duration peaks at about six or seven weeks. Almost all infants have a period during the day when they are fussy. New parents need to recognize this as normal and not worry. Parents might use this fussy time for bathing or playing with the infant. The most typical time for fussy times is between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., often when parents are tired and less able to tolerate crying.

A common cause of persistent crying in infants is colic, which is caused by gastrointestinal distress. Colicky infants may have a hard abdomen, get red in the face, and curl their legs up. Often times the colic begins in the evening after the baby's last meal before bedtime. Rocking or walking around with the baby held up against the shoulder can sometimes soothe the infant. Holding the infant face-down across the lap puts pressure on the belly that can sometimes ease the distress.

Among the most common physical reasons for excessive crying are earaches, viral illnesses, and other causes of low-grade fever . Teething also causes increased crying. Medical attention may be necessary if an infant is crying more than usual or if the cries themselves sound different, for example, the cries are weaker or more high-pitched than usual.

As parents get to know their baby, they become experts in understanding the baby's cries. Cries are the baby's form of communication. Following are several common reasons babies cry:

Parental concerns


Diagnosis —The art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms.

Hormone —A chemical messenger secreted by a gland or organ and released into the bloodstream. It travels via the bloodstream to distant cells where it exerts an effect.

Hypersensitivity —A condition characterized by an excessive response by the body to a foreign substance. In hypersensitive individuals even a tiny amount of allergen can cause a severe allergic reaction.

Swaddling —To wrap the infant securely in clothing or blankets; to provide comfort and control.

Parents should call the healthcare provider if there are concerns about why the baby continues to cry. It is important not to misdiagnose a serious condition and call it colic. If the baby's behavior or crying pattern changes suddenly or if the crying is associated with fever, forceful vomiting, diarrhea , bloody stools, or other abnormal spasms or symptoms, call the doctor immediately. Parents should not hesitate to seek help immediately if they feel overwhelmed and are afraid that they will hurt or neglect their baby.

See also Colic .


Jones, Sandy. Comforting Your Crying Baby: Why Your Baby Is Crying and What You Can Do about It. New York: Innova Publishing, 2005.

Lester, Barry M. Why My Baby Is Crying: The Parent's Survival Guide to Copying with Crying Problems and Colic. London: Harper Information, 2005.

Nelson, Judith Kay. Crying, Caregiving, and Connection: An Attachment Perspective. Florence, KY: Brunner-Routledge, 2005.

Nissi, Jan. "Crying: Age 3 and Younger." PeaceHealth , March 3, 2003. Available online at (accessed December 14, 2004).

Disclaimer: The list and ratings above are for informational purposes only, and is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. The goal of the information is to provide you with a comprehensive view of all available treatments, but should not be construed to indicate that use of any one treatment is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. Decisions about use of a new treatment, or about a change in your current treatment plan, should be in consultation with your doctor or other healthcare professional.