Excessive crying (infants 0-6 months)

Alternative names
Crying - excessive (0-6 months)

Considerations

Infants normally cry from 1 to 3 hours a day. It is perfectly normal for an infant to cry when he or she wants to communicate hunger, thirst, discomfort, tiredness, or loneliness. It is also normal for a baby to have a fussy period in the evening.

However, if an infant cries too often it may suggest a disorder that requires treatment.

Common Causes

     
  • Boredom or loneliness  
  • Discomfort or irritation from a wet or dirty diaper, excessive gas, or feeling cold  
  • Hunger or thirst  
  • Pain  
  • Major illness  
  • Minor illness  
  • Medications  
  • Infection (May be likely if the crying is accompanied by irritability, lethargy, poor appetite, or fever. Consult your baby’s health care provider.)  
  • Being awakened by normal muscle jerks and twitches that disturb the process of going to sleep  
  • Teething  
  • Colic in infants

Home Care

Follow the health care provider’s treatment advice, which will depend on the cause.

If the infant seems constantly hungry despite short, frequent feedings, consult with a health care provider about normal growth and feeding times.

If crying is due to boredom or loneliness, then touch, hold, and talk to the infant more and place the infant within sight. Place baby-safe toys where the child can see them. If due to sleep disturbance, wrap the baby firmly in a blanket before putting him or her to bed.

For excessive crying in infants due to cold, dress the infant warmly or adjust the temperature. Typically, if adults are cold, the baby is cold also.

Always check for possible causes of pain or discomfort in a crying baby. Look for diaper pins that have become loose or loose threads which have become tightly wrapped around fingers or toes. Diaper rashes also can be uncomfortable.

Take your baby’s temperature to check for fever. Check your baby head to toe for any injuries. Pay particular attention to the fingers, toes, and genitalia. It is not uncommon for a hair to get wrapped around part of your baby, creating a painful “hair tourniquet”.

Call your health care provider if

     
  • Excessive crying remains unexplained and unresolved for more than one day, despite attempts at home treatment.  
  • Excessive crying is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions like the following:

     
  • Is the child teething?  
  • Is the child bored, lonely, hungry, thirsty?  
  • Does the child seem to have a lot of gas (flatus)?  
  • Are the parents nervous or anxious?  
  • What other symptoms are also present?       o Is the child irritable?       o Is the child hard to arouse?       o Does the child have a poor appetite?       o Does the child have a fever?       o Is the child Vomiting?

For bacterial infections, antibiotics may be prescribed. The health care provider will assess the infant’s growth and development.

After seeing your health care provider, you may want to add a diagnosis related to excessive crying to your child’s personal medical record.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.