Why does my baby cry for no reason
Babies cry to communicate their needs, which include biological needs like sleep or food, physical needs like a diaper change or allergy, and psychological needs like fear or anxiety.
When your baby cries for no reason, it can be frustrating, confusing, and distressing.
Although it may appear that your baby is crying without cause, there is always an underlying reason for their tears.
The reason is yet to be identified.
Why do babies cry
Babies can’t talk. Crying is the only way they can communicate their needs. It is a survival instinct they are born with, not a choice they make.
Sometimes, the baby’s needs are very straightforward – hunger, tiredness, dirty diapers, boredom, etc.
But it could also be something not that obvious.
It is up to us, the grownups, to figure it out.
Using crying to achieve a young child’s goals is not misbehavior.
Even when your baby grows and has learned to speak, they may not understand what they feel or how to elaborate on their experience.
Until children learn to speak and understand their own needs, they behave this way to survive.
What causes baby crying
Babies don’t cry for fun.
They don’t throw a tantrum just to get their way.
There are always reasons why they cry, but it may not be a reason you agree with or feel worth crying about.
Many types of infant cries exist.
Most parents learn to distinguish the crying or the meaning of their baby’s cries within two weeks of age, and they can respond accordingly.1
Here are some common reasons babies cry.
- Dirty diaper
- Anxiety or fear
- Food allergy
- Too full
- Acid reflux
- Uncomfortable clothing
- Sickness or health problems
- Separation from mother
- High sensitivity
Pain-induced cries have significantly stronger amplitudes and are more intense.
Although not as strong as pain-induced, hunger cries are still more intense than fussy cries.
Is my fussy baby colic
When infants cry excessively and regularly without identifiable reasons, they are often called “infantile colic.”
Colic is defined as inconsolable crying for three or more hours a day.
Colic is not just a “growing pain.”
It’s not the child’s temperament or a medical condition.
It means, “We have no idea why they cry, but let’s give it a name.”
If you and the pediatrician cannot identify the cause of your infant’s prolonged, persistent crying, then you may say that your baby is colicky.2
What are the patterns of normal crying
Healthy babies cry, too.
A healthy, normal baby cries the most during the first three months. A newborn’s crying peaks six to seven weeks after birth and drops until four months.3
Late afternoons and evenings are common times when the frequency of crying increases.4
What to do when my baby won’t stop crying
In a study on constant crying intervention, when parents of babies with colic were taught to answer cries swiftly, consistently, and ultimately, infant crying was reduced by 60 percent.
When mothers demonstrated less sensitive or affectionate reactions to the newborn, the infant was likely to become a persistent crier.
Here are the steps suggested by researchers.
1. Answer the baby’s crying quickly
Many parenting pamphlets written between the 1920s and 1940s warned parents not to pick up a baby between feedings because that would lead to spoiled, fussy children.5
Since then, study after study has shown that responding quickly to an infant’s cry during their first few months will decrease their crying significantly by the end of their first year.
Infants whose mothers ignore their cries or delay in responding to them are the ones who show the stereotype of the “spoiled child” by the age of one.
So, the first step in soothing a crying baby is to respond to them and not ignore the baby’s cues for help.
2. Answer the baby’s crying consistently
No research supports the notion that an infant can be spoiled by having their every cry answered during the first six months.
Studies have shown that consistent maternal responses in the first six months reduce infant crying later in life.
This is because manipulative thinking, such as “When I cry, my mother comes to play with me,” has not developed yet.
So, an infant cannot become spoiled by having their cries answered consistently.
Rather than being spoiled, the infant will learn that their needs will always be met reliably.
3. Pick up the baby
Providing close physical contact is among the most common ways mothers comfort a crying infant.
Baby crying may be affected by whether the mother picks up her infant quickly after they begin crying.6
Researchers found that mothers who picked up their babies soon after they began to cry recorded the shortest duration of infant crying.7
Infants whose mothers have handled them tenderly and affectionately in the early days of the baby’s life are content with relatively little physical touch at the end of their first year.8
4. Find the reason for crying
When you respond to your baby’s cry quickly, consistently, and completely, and the crying still does not stop, you may need to examine and determine what is causing the discomfort.
Babies cannot identify or communicate why they are crying.
Your job is to figure out the cause of your baby’s crying when there is no apparent reason.
5. More things to try
If your pediatrician and you cannot identify the cause of colic, here are a variety of techniques you can use to calm your colicky infant.
- Give them a pacifier
- Use swaddling
- Play heartbeat sounds, lullabies, or music
- Mother sings or talks in a gentle voice
- Pace, rock, or use rhythmic movements
- Do baby massage
- Play the sound of a vacuum cleaner, white noise machine, or ocean waves
Often, the effectiveness of crying-reduction strategies decreases with repetition, so don’t be surprised if what worked before doesn’t work anymore.
Whenever possible, try to pinpoint the cause of the baby’s crying, and try different ways to comfort them.
What NOT to do when babies cry
Do not shake a baby
NEVER EVER SHAKE A BABY.
Shaken baby syndrome, or inflicted traumatic brain injury, occurs when a baby is violently shaken or hit with a hard surface.
It can result in head trauma and brain damage.
Shaking is often triggered by infant crying.9
A colicky baby’s first few months after birth are marked by prolonged, inconsolable, and unpredictable crying episodes.
These episodes can be frustrating, upsetting, and exhausting for parents.
However, you should not shake a baby under any circumstances.
Colicky babies are not fussy babies.
Crying spells are not meant to torture anyone.
A colic baby is a distressed infant whose parents are unsure how to help them.
Listening to excessive crying is exhausting, but consider the baby who has to produce that crying.
How much discomfort must they endure for them to cry like that?
Shaking baby syndrome is a dangerous and preventable condition.
Do not shake a baby under any circumstances.
If you cannot handle it, put the baby down in a safe place, take a few deep breaths to center yourself, or walk away to put some distance between you and the child.
Make sure the baby is safe at all times.
Do not let your baby cry it out
For survival reasons, the human brain is born with a developed fear/anxiety center called the amygdala.
In early childhood, the frontal lobe, an essential part of reasoning and regulating emotions, does not develop until around three years of age.
Prolonged excessive crying is associated with long-term health issues.
Children whose crying bouts were not answered quickly, consistently, and ultimately are found to have lower self-esteem and impaired attachment security.10
How to prevent infant crying
The best way to avoid the severe problems associated with crying is to prevent crying altogether.
Kangaroo care is a skin-to-skin holding practice where the infant is placed upright with its parent, chest-to-chest, wearing only a diaper.
It’s like hugging your baby with skin contact.
It is an efficient method for preventing, minimizing, and halting infant crying.11
Kangaroo care is a very efficient method for preventing crying.
During kangaroo care, crying is virtually nonexistent.
Maternal holding and paternal holding are the next best interventions for reducing crying.
Being held in a baby carrier may have a similar effect for older babies.
Learn your baby’s signs
Learn how to read your baby’s cue. Cue-based infant-demand care, when applied even moderately from birth, is linked to a more settled infant’s behavior in the first 12 weeks.12
Research shows that having inconsolable baby crying is associated with maternal postpartum depressive symptoms.13
While it is vital to take good care of your baby, your mental health is also important.
It’s hard to think about self-care when you haven’t taken a shower in ten days, eaten a real meal, or cleaned up your dirty house.
It is alright to ask for help.
In fact, you should ask for help.
Postpartum depression is associated with infantile colic. Get help early to protect the health of both you and the infant.
When to call the doctor
At five months, persistent crying problems are estimated to affect perhaps 5% of crying babies and are associated with negative cognitive development.14
The risk of premature breastfeeding cessation15 and child abuse increases with crying babies.16
Their mothers are more likely to suffer from postnatal depression as well.17
Early intervention is crucial for crying babies and their mothers to prevent these adverse effects.
Also, medical causes can be diagnosed earlier.
When in doubt, call your baby’s doctor or other health professionals.
- 1.Barr RG, Chen S, Hopkins B, Westra T. CRYING PATTERNS IN PRETERM INFANTS. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. Published online November 12, 2008:345-355. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.1996.tb12100.x
- 2.Reijneveld SA, Brugman E, Hirasing RA. Excessive Infant Crying: The Impact of Varying Definitions. PEDIATRICS. Published online October 1, 2001:893-897. doi:10.1542/peds.108.4.893
- 3.Brazelton TB. CRYING IN INFANCY. Pediatrics. Published online April 1, 1962:579-588. doi:10.1542/peds.29.4.579
- 4.Hunziker UA, Barr RG. Increased Carrying Reduces Infant Crying: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. Published online May 1, 1986:641-648. doi:10.1542/peds.77.5.641
- 5.Bell SM, Ainsworth MDS. Infant Crying and Maternal Responsiveness. Child Development. Published online December 1972:1171. doi:10.2307/1127506
- 6.Ludington S. Energy conservation during skin-to-skin contact between premature infants and their mothers. Heart Lung. 1990;19(5 Pt 1):445-451. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2211150
- 7.Baildam EM, Wilier VF, Ward BS, Bannister RP, Bamford FN, Moore WMO. DURATION AND PATTERN OF CRYING IN THE FIRST YEAR OF LIFE. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. Published online November 12, 2008:345-353. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8749.1995.tb12012.x
- 8.Christensson K, Cabrera T, Christensson E, Uvnäs–Moberg K, Winberg J. Separation distress call in the human neonate in the absence of maternal body contact. Acta Paediatrica. Published online May 1995:468-473. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.1995.tb13676.x
- 9.Barr RG, Barr M, Fujiwara T, Conway J, Catherine N, Brant R. Do educational materials change knowledge and behaviour about crying and shaken baby syndrome? A randomized controlled trial. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Published online March 31, 2009:727-733. doi:10.1503/cmaj.081419
- 10.Ludington-Hoe S, Cong X, Hashemi F. Infant Crying: Nature, Physiologic Consequences, and Select Interventions. Neonatal Network. Published online March 2002:29-36. doi:10.1891/0730-0818.104.22.168
- 11.Ludington-Hoe SM, Swinth JY. Developmental Aspects of Kangaroo Care. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. Published online October 1996:691-703. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.1996.tb01483.x
- 12.St James-Roberts I. Infant Crying and Sleeping in London, Copenhagen and When Parents Adopt a “Proximal” Form of Care. PEDIATRICS. Published online June 1, 2006:e1146-e1155. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2387
- 13.Radesky JS, Zuckerman B, Silverstein M, et al. Inconsolable Infant Crying and Maternal Postpartum Depressive Symptoms. PEDIATRICS. Published online May 6, 2013:e1857-e1864. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-3316
- 14.Hemmi MH, Wolke D, Schneider S. Associations between problems with crying, sleeping and/or feeding in infancy and long-term behavioural outcomes in childhood: a meta-analysis. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Published online April 20, 2011:622-629. doi:10.1136/adc.2010.191312
- 15.Howard CR, Lanphear N, Lanphear BP, Eberly S, Lawrence RA. Parental Responses to Infant Crying and Colic: The Effect on Breastfeeding Duration. Breastfeeding Medicine. Published online September 2006:146-155. doi:10.1089/bfm.2006.1.146
- 16.Reijneveld SA, van der Wal MF, Brugman E, Hira Sing RA, Verloove-Vanhorick SP. Infant crying and abuse. The Lancet. Published online October 2004:1340-1342. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(04)17191-2
- 17.Vik T, Grote V, Escribano J, et al. Infantile colic, prolonged crying and maternal postnatal depression. Acta Paediatrica. Published online August 2009:1344-1348. doi:10.1111/j.1651-2227.2009.01317.x