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Crying - excessive (0-6 months)

 

Definition

Alternative Names

Excessive crying (infants 0-6 months)

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

Follow the provider's treatment advice, which will depend on the cause.

If the infant seems constantly hungry despite short, frequent feedings, consult with a provider 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, creating a painful "hair tourniquet".

Call your health care provider if

Call your health care provider 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 health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask questions such as:

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

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

Considerations

Infants normally cry a total of 1 - 3 hours a day. It is perfectly normal for an infant to cry in an attempt 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.


Review Date: 11/30/2008
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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