- A baby less than 3 months old is crying and you don't know why
- Crying is the only symptom
- The type of frequent crying called colic is included
- For crying with an illness or other symptom, go to that care guide
Causes of Unexplained Crying
- Hungry Baby. The most common reason babies cry is because they are hungry. They stop crying at the onset of feeding. By the end of the feeding, they are happy.
- Sleepy Baby. The second reason babies cry is they need sleep. They need their parent to put them in a comfortable position. It may be swaddled and on their back. Then they fuss a little and fall asleep.
- Fed Too Much. Some babies cry because of a bloated stomach from overfeeding. Unlike gas, too much milk can cause discomfort that lasts a short time.
- Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause increased crying and trouble falling asleep. Breastfeeding mothers need to limit their caffeine intake.
- Clothing. Being too hot or too cold can make a baby cry. So can clothing that is too tight.
- Dirty Diaper. Stool is very irritating to the skin. If not cleaned off, it can cause pain and burning.
- Colic. Colic is the main cause of recurrent crying during the early months. All babies have some normal fussy crying every day. When this occurs over 3 hours per day, it's called colic. When they are not crying, they are happy.
- Pain (Serious). Painful causes include an earache, mouth ulcers, or a raw diaper rash. An ulcer on tip of penis may also cause pain and crying. These babies cry a lot and are not happy when they are not crying. They need to see a doctor to make a diagnosis. Fever in this age group is serious until proven otherwise. Shaken baby syndrome is a concern.
Myths About Causes of Crying
- Not Due to Gas. Gas passing through normal intestines does not cause pain or crying. All crying babies pass lots of gas. Their stomachs also make lots of gassy noises. The gas comes from swallowed air. The gas is normal. It does not become trapped nor cause any pains. That's why burping a baby doesn't help the crying. Blaming gas is a myth.
- Not Due to Spitting Up. Spitting up occurs in half of babies and is normal. It does not cause crying or colic. Heartburn meds do not help crying babies. They also have side effects.
Definition of Colic
- A lot of crying once or twice per day
- Usually consolable when held and comforted
- Acts normal (happy, contented) between bouts of crying
- The baby is getting enough to eat and is not hungry
- The baby is not sick
- Onset most often before 2 weeks of age
- Usually goes away by 3 months of age (sometimes up to 4 months)