Crying is your child's first way of communicating. The amount of time your baby spends crying usually increases from birth until your baby is about 6 weeks old, when your baby may cry between 1 and 5 hours out of 24. After 6 weeks of age, your baby will gradually cry less as he or she finds other ways of communicating or consoling himself or herself. However, some young children seem to cry for no obvious reason. About 1 in 5 children have daily crying spells of 15 minutes to an hour, often in the evening.
Crying lets others know when a young child is hungry, wet, tired, too warm, too cold, lonely, or in pain. If your child is crying, try to identify the type of cry. It helps to go through a mental checklist of what might be wrong—but remember that there may be nothing bothering your child—and to make sure your child is safe and cared for. As parents or caregivers respond to the young child's other signals (such as whimpering, facial expressions, and wiggling), the child will usually cry less.
Parents and caregivers become better over time at identifying the young child's cry. A young child will often have different kinds of cries.
On rare occasions, crying may point to a serious illness or injury. Crying caused by a serious illness or injury usually lasts much longer than normal.
Crying can be very frustrating for a parent or caregiver. Do not get angry at your child for crying. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing him or her into the air, can injure the brain. Shaken baby syndrome needs to be reported to your doctor. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
Children with genetic conditions, such as cri du chat ("cat's cry") syndrome or phenylketonuria (PKU), may have a different-sounding cry but one that is normal for them.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
Crying is a normal part of your child's life. Stay as calm as possible during crying episodes. There are many different ways to approach your child's crying, and over time you will understand your child's needs and know how to care for him or her.
It may be helpful to keep a record of your child's crying to see whether there is a pattern that you can discuss with your child's doctor.
Use this checklist to help you figure out the reason for your child's crying and take action to eliminate the cause of the crying. Remember that the crying may be normal for your child. Ask yourself whether your child:
Young children may turn red or purple in the face when crying. A sick child may have pale, blue, or spots of bluish (mottled) skin and may be listless, unusually sleepy, or irritable. A sick child's cry may be weak and feeble or (rarely) high-pitched and piercing. If you think your child may be sick or hurt:
If you do not find a reason for your child's crying, try comforting techniques. Many doctors recommend trying this easy-to-remember "5 Ss" (swaddling, side or stomach position in your arms, shushing, swinging, and sucking) method. Wrap (swaddle) your baby in a blanket, swing him or her gently while on the side or stomach in your arms, use the shushing sound, and give the baby something to suck. If your child continues to cry after you have tried home treatment, place him or her in a safe, quiet place and leave him or her alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes children can relax and soothe themselves. Be sure to stay close by.
Talk with your child's doctor before giving your child any nonprescription medicines or herbal remedies as a comfort measure. Products with alcohol or sugar in them are not recommended.
Do not get angry at your child for crying. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing a baby up into the air and catching him or her, can cause shaken baby syndrome. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may help you care for your child and lessen the amount he or she cries.
Check with your doctor about giving your child acetaminophen before immunizations are given. Some doctors suggest this to decrease discomfort after a shot.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||April 2, 2012|
Last Revised: April 2, 2012
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