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Crying

  • Babies are often sleepy for the first several days of life. Crying and fussing slowly increases from around 3 to 4 weeks of life and usually peaks at about 6 weeks before beginning to decline.

    Crying is your baby's way of telling you he needs some help. He is trying to tell you he is hungry, tired, cold, hot, uncomfortable, bored, or lonesome.

    You may feel you are not being a good parent because you can't figure out what your baby wants right away. However, you are being a good parent by trying different things.

    As your baby gets older you will be better able to figure out what he needs. He will also begin to cry less as he learns you will respond to his cries.

    At times you may feel overwhelmed by your baby's crying. That can make you want to cry. It can also be frustrating that what works one time to settle your baby may not work the next. Try the things that have worked before, one at a time. Then try some of the ideas from the list below.

    When your baby cries, try to figure out his cues. Is your baby tired, hungry, in pain, bored or overwhelmed? Try:

    • feeding
    • burping
    • changing his diaper
    • adding clothes for warmth or taking clothes off if your baby is too warm
    Baby lies on back while leg is massaged.

    Massage is a way to connect with your baby after work or daycare.

    If your baby still cries, try:

    • calming techniques:
      • changing positions
      • swaddling (securely wrapping your baby in a receiving blanket)
      • offering the breast for "comfort" sucking
      • offering a pacifier
      • cuddling
    • adding sound:
      • talking
      • singing
      • playing a music box, radio or CD
      • turning on a constant, droning sound like a fan, vacuum cleaner or hair dryer
    • adding movement:
      • rocking in your arms or across your lap
      • rocking with you in a chair or in an infant swing (Newborns often prefer moving side-to-side in a rocking cradle rather than forward and back in a chair swing.)
      • carrying your baby in a front carrier
      • dancing to music
    • adding a change of scenery:
      • walking around the room
      • taking a walk in a stroller
      • taking a drive in the car
      • taking your baby out of a room filled with people and into a quiet, private place to offer comfort
    mom massages baby's back

    Massage can stimulate physical, brain and sensory development. It also improves circulation and boosts the immune system.

    Sometimes babies have pent-up energy and cry to get rid of it.

    If nothing seems to be working, try placing your baby on his back in the crib. See if he can settle himself. (This will also give you a chance to settle down and calm yourself.)

    Check on your baby every three to five minutes. If he continues to cry after 30 minutes of this, call your baby's health care provider.

    Consider asking a family member or friend to hold your baby and try to settle him.

    Tip

    You can't spoil your baby by meeting his needs. You are helping him feel secure and loved.

    In fact, babies who are carried and attended to quickly cry less than babies who only get attention when they cry.

    While your baby tries to settle, you can:

    • Try to relax yourself. Breathe deeply or do your relaxation breathing.
    • Listen to music that is relaxing to you. It might help your baby, too.
    • Remember that you are learning about each other. What you are learning now may help you next time.

    If you find yourself getting angry or feeling overwhelmed, put your baby safely in his crib. Go to another room for five to 10 minutes. Ask for help from your partner, a relative or friend. Or, call a crisis nursery located near you, or call the Crisis Connection.

    Shaken baby syndrome

    When a caregiver becomes frustrated, upset or angry at a crying baby, he or she may lose control and try shaking a baby to get her to calm down.

    Shaken baby syndrome is a type of brain injury caused by violently shaking a baby. Shaking causes a baby's brain to bounce back and forth in the skull.

    Warning

    Don't ever shake your baby to try to quiet crying. Call 911 if you think a caregiver is abusing your baby.

    Shaking a baby—even for as little as five seconds—can cause:

    • brain damage/swelling
    • bleeding in the brain
    • bleeding in the eyes/blindness
    • spinal cord and neck damage
    • broken ribs and bones
    • disabilities such as cerebral palsy
    • death

    Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome depend on how hard the baby was shaken and for how long. Symptoms include:

    • extreme irritability
    • lethargy
    • poor feeding
    • breathing problems
    • convulsions
    • vomiting (throwing up)
    • pale or bluish skin

    You cannot cause shaken baby syndrome by gently bouncing your baby, playfully tossing her in the air, jogging with her, or putting her in a bouncer, swing or other motion-type of baby equipment.

    Call 911 if you think a caregiver is abusing your baby.

  • Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."
    Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
    First published: 02/01/2010
    Last reviewed: 01/01/2016

  • Tip

    Try the "colic curl" for a fussy baby.

    Colic curl 1

    Cradle your baby facing away from you with legs bent up in your hands.

    Colic curl 2

    Cradle your baby facing you with legs bent up against your chest.