All babies cry. And during the first 3 months of life, they cry more than at any other time:
During their first few weeks of life, most babies cry for about a total of 1 hour over the course of a day.
At about 6 weeks of age, they may cry for up to 2 hours per day.
At 8 weeks, most go back to about 1 hour of crying a day.
Babies use crying to communicate, telling mom and dad that something is wrong — for instance, an empty belly, a wet bottom, cold feet, being tired, or a need to be held and cuddled.
Babies who cry more than the averages listed above might have colic, a condition in which an otherwise healthy baby cries for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week for at least 3 weeks.
Sometimes, crying can be due to a problem that might need medical attention, such as an infection, an injury, or other health condition that causes discomfort or pain. In these cases, the crying is usually more severe or prolonged, and the baby often has other symptoms, such as fever, extreme irritability or tiredness, trouble breathing, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, or worsening of the crying when the baby is picked up or moved. Call your doctor if you're worried that your crying baby might be ill.
Taking care of whatever is upsetting a baby is the easiest way to address crying. If the baby has napped, been fed, burped, diapered, or held, he or she will probably settle down.
It can be hard to stay calm when a very upset baby can't be consoled. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to abusive behavior that can cause serious damage to a baby and even death. Abusive head trauma (AHT) injuries happen when someone (most often a parent or other caregiver) cannot get a baby to stop crying and, out of frustration or anger, shakes the baby or strikes the baby's head against a surface. It's important to tell anyone caring for a baby to never shake the child.
Keep in Mind
Having realistic expectations about how much your baby might cry can help you prepare — including asking for help from a partner, friend, or other caregiver if you need a break. You also can look online for sites and support groups that can offer tips to help you soothe your baby — and manage your own frustration.
Taking care of a baby who has colic can be exhausting. Don't blame yourself or your baby for the constant crying — colic is nobody's fault. Try to relax, console your little one, and remember that your baby will eventually outgrow it.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.