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Crying - excessive (0-6 months)

Alternative Names

Excessive crying (infants 0-6 months)

Considerations

Infants normally cry  about 1 - 3 hours a day. It is perfectly normal for an infant to cry when hungry, thirst, tired, lonely, or in pain. It is also normal for a baby to have a fussy period in the evening.

However, if an infant cries too often it may be a sign of something that needs treatment.

Common Causes

  • Boredom or loneliness
  • Colic
  • Discomfort or irritation from a wet or dirty diaper, excessive gas, or feeling cold
  • Hunger or thirst
  • Illness
  • Infection (a likely cause if the crying is accompanied by irritability, lethargy, poor appetite, or fever -- consult your baby's health care provider)
  • Medications
  • Normal muscle jerks and twitches that disturb the sleep
  • Pain
  • Teething

Home Care

Home care depends on the causes. Follow your health care provider's advice.

If the infant seems constantly hungry despite short, frequent feedings, talk to your doctor or nurse about normal growth and feeding times.

If crying is due to boredom or loneliness, it may be helpful to 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 crying is due to sleep disturbance, wrap the baby firmly in a blanket before putting the infant 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. When cloth diapers are used, look for diaper pins that have become loose or loose threads that 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, such as a toe, creating pain.

Call your health care provider if

Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • A baby's excessive crying remains unexplained and doesn't go away in 1 day, despite attempts at home treatment
  • The baby has other symptoms, such as fever, along with the excessive crying

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The doctor or nurse will examine your baby and ask questions about the child's medical history and symptoms. Questions may include:

  • Is the child teething?
  • Is the child bored, lonely, hungry, thirsty?
  • Does the child seem to have a lot of gas?
  • What other symptoms does the child have? For example, is there:
    • Difficulty waking up
    • Fever
    • Irritability
    • Poor appetite
    • Vomiting

The doctor or nurse will check the infant's growth and development. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the baby has a bacterial infection.


Review Date: 11/12/2012
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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