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Baby Symptoms & Conditions

How Can I Tell Normal Crying From Excessive Crying?

Yep, babies cry. But how much is too much crying? When is it considered colic? And how do you calm baby down? We’ve got the answers.

What is considered excessive crying for a baby?

Obviously, all babies cry. Infants typically cry a total of one to three hours a day. But sometimes babies cry far more than that, enough to make a parent or caregiver wonder if something more serious is going on. While toddlers don’t usually cry as much as babies (they’ve learned to express their complaints more, um, eloquently), they can also take to excessive bouts of crying.

What could be causing my baby to cry excessively?

Any number of issues could have your baby or toddler wailing his lungs out. He could be hungry or thirsty, teething or need a diaper change, or it might be something more significant, like a hair tourniquet (one piece of hair wrapped very tightly around a finger or toe — this happens more than you may think!), an obstruction in his intestine or a food allergy. Or it could be colic (something most new parents dread), which begins around three weeks and lasts until about 12 weeks of age.

When should I take my baby to see the doctor with excessive crying?

Even colicky babies take a break now and then, so if your child has been crying nonstop for an hour or more, there’s probably something more concerning to investigate.

What should I do to treat my baby’s excessive crying?

First, make sure there’s nothing obvious causing his pain. Then, troubleshoot: simply holding, rocking or singing to your baby or toddler may be enough to soothe his tears. In fact, the more he’s held during the day, the less time he'll be fussy at night. Of course, pacifiers can also help, as can movement (driving or riding) or white noise (a fan, washing machine, dishwasher or other background noise).

By Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, pediatrician with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group and instructor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine