In the latest from our Meet The Experts series, Dr Robert Arlt MD offers advice on what causes babies to cry excessively and when to consult a doctor
How much crying is acceptable?
On average babies cry around 60 minutes a day. A healthy baby has an automatic capacity to settle without help from their parents. Studies show that crying often gets worse at about six weeks of age. You should be concerned if your child cries continuously for more than three hours in a row, more than three days a week, over a period of three weeks or more.
Research suggests that up to 30% of babies cry excessively. It usually starts at two weeks and can go on to six months.
What causes excessive crying?
There are a variety of medical causes.
The following are examples:
✽ Rhinitis – an irritation or inflammation inside the nose.
✽ Reflux – frequently associated with
a cow’s milk protein intolerance.
✽ Urinary tract infections.
✽ A hernia.
✽ An intestinal intussusception or
✽ Other stomach problems.
A crying baby may also induce a vicious circle of interaction. If the baby is unsettled the parent becomes anxious and their intuitive perception of their baby’s needs may reduce. This causes insecure behaviour towards the baby, who may sense this and become more unsettled.
Unfortunately soothing measures such as positioning, moving, massage, homeopathy, even some commonly used medication, lack reliable evidence as a remedy beyond its mainly placebo effect.Some evidence suggests that babies who are picked up regularly will cry less. A regular routine which creates a predictable secure environment is also important. Breastfeeding and/or a regular feeding schedule also may be settling.
You should avoid:
✽ Excessive sensory stimulus.
✽ Letting the carer become over tired and emotionally exhausted.
A typical example of a ‘misunderstanding’ is when the baby turns their head away. This usually means that the baby has had enough input and needs space. If anxious parents misinterpret this as rejection, they may attempt to play more with baby and this may make them cry. It also affects the baby’s ability to settle. The parent might lose confidence, impacting on their intuitive feel for the situation and child.
Consult your doctor:
✽ To ensure there is no underlying
✽ If you’ve lost confidence.
✽ If after trying suggested measures your baby is still crying excessively.
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