Why Do Babies Cry?

Dr. Parang Mehta, MD.

Why do some babies cry exessively?  That's one of the most difficult questions in all of pediatrics.

At birth, human babies are capable of crying and feeding.  For any need, trouble, pain, discomfort, or anything, the only way of expression for a baby is crying.  It is up to the adult world to decipher the reason for baby's crying.

A crying baby is very disturbing to all human adults.  While we're able to tolerate much louder noises at workplaces and for recreation, nature has programmed us to be disturbed by a baby's cry.  This ensures that a crying baby does not get ignored.

Why Do Babies Cry?

Not always easy to answer.  Babies cry for a variety of reasons, an sometimes for no reason at all.  A very common reason for crying is hunger and other feeding difficulties.  (see sidebar).  Babies over the age of six weeks often cry because they do not like being left alone.  Discomfort like being too warm, or too cold, or exposed to a strong breeze, being in a wet nappy, etc, can also make a baby cry.

Babies between the age of one and three months are often cranky for a part of the day.  Usually, these crying spells occur in the evening or night, and may last for one to three hours.  During these bouts, the baby refuses to feed, and cries continually.  Since we did not know what ailed the baby, we assumed it to be abdominal pain, and labeled it  infantile  colic.  We now believe that these bouts are caused by a disturbance in the relationships in a baby's family, worry and tension in the mother, excessive concern for the baby's health, or a combination of some or all of these. This type of crying responds well to reassurance that the baby is actually well, and to relieving the worries of the mother.  The crying spells usually stop entirely once the baby is three months old.

Crying may be owing to pain.  The pain of an ear infection, or a fracture due to an injury, or infection deep in the body, may manifest only as excessive crying.  Serious illnesses like meningitis, pyelonephritis may come to notice first because the baby cried excessively.  Maltreatment by someone in the family should be thought of -- battered babies cry excessively in the early stages.

Last Revision: February 15, 2016

Feeding Problems and Crying

Many feeding problems can cause the baby to cry a lot.

Hunger is perhaps the most common.  A breast fed baby may not get enough milk because mother is not lactating adequately.  This may happen because of poor general health, an illness, stress, overwork, inadequate rest, and several other causes.  A lactation consultant can help.

A top fed baby can have many problems -- inadequate filling of bottle is one.  It is important that baby always leave a little milk/formula in the bottle.  If the bottle is sucked dry, the baby's still hungry.

Other reasons can be a too dilute formula.  If the formula is too thin, baby passes urine frequently, and gets hungry frequently, and cries a lot.  Too concentrated a formula can cause digestion problems for the baby.  It is essential to follow the reconstitution instructions exactly.

If the formula is given to baby too hot or too cold, she can't drink much, and remains hungry.  Bottle fed babies may suck too much air, leading to distension of the stomach and discomfort.  The nipple hole being too small or too large also makes feeding difficult.

Contact Information

Dr.  Parang Mehta,
Mehta Childcare,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat, India.     Tel: +91 9429486624.