Excessive crying

Content supplied by NHS Choices

There are several reasons that can cause a baby to cry excessively. It can be exhausting if you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to comfort your baby.


Excessive crying could be a sign that your baby has colic. Everyone agrees that colic exists but no one knows what causes it. Some doctors think it’s a kind of stomach cramp. The crying sounds miserable and distressed, and stops for a moment or two, then starts up again, which suggests it could be caused by waves of stomach pain.

The crying can go on for some hours and there may be little you can do except try to comfort your baby and wait for the crying to pass.

Crying and illness

Although all babies cry sometimes, there are times when crying may be a sign of illness.

Listen for sudden changes in the pattern or sound of your baby’s crying. Often, there’ll be a simple explanation. For example, if you’ve been going out more than usual your baby might be overtired.

If they seem to have other symptoms, such as a high temperature, they may have an illness. Your baby may have something minor, such as a cold, or something treatable, such as reflux. If this is the case, contact your GP or health visitor.

Get medical attention as soon as you can if your baby:

  • Has a weak, high-pitched continuous cry.
  • Seems floppy when you pick them up.
  • Takes less than a third of their usual amount of fluids, passes much less urine than usual, vomits green fluid or passes blood in their stools.
  • Has a fever of 38°C or above (if they’re less than three months old) or 39°C or above (if they’re between three and six months).
  • Has a high temperature, but their hands and feet feel cold.
  • Has a bulging fontanelle.
  • Has had a fit.
  • Turns blue, mottled or very pale.
  • Has a stiff neck.
  • Has difficulty breathing, breathes fast or grunts while breathing, or seems to be working hard to breathe (for example, sucking in under the ribcage).
  • Has a spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body. (This could be sign of meningitis).

If you think there’s something wrong, always follow your instincts and contact your GP or health visitor, or phone NHS Direct on 0845 4647. See Recognising the signs of illness.

Coping with excessive crying

If you’ve decided to talk to your health visitor or GP it can help if you keep a record of how often and when your baby cries. For example, this might be after every feed or during the evening. This can help your GP or health visitor to work out whether there is a particular cause for the crying.

Keeping a record can also help you identify the times when you need extra support. You could also think about possible changes to your routine. There may be times when you’re so tired and angry you feel like you can’t take any more. This happens to a lot of parents, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

If you don’t have anyone who can take care of your baby for a short time and the crying is making you stressed, put your baby in their cot or pram, make sure they’re safe, close the door, go into another room and try to calm yourself down. Set a time limit (for example, 10 minutes) then go back.

Never shake your baby

No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Shaking moves their head violently, and can cause bleeding and brain damage.

Talk to a friend, your health visitor or GP, or contact Cry-sis on 08451 228 669. They can put you in touch with other parents who’ve been in the same situation.


NHS Choices

Published Date 2010-12-20

Last Review Date 2009-07-28

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