Crying is a normal behaviour and your baby’s way of communicating with you. Learn Tresillian’s tips on how to settle baby and what to do when baby won’t stop crying.
It can be stressful for you when your baby is distressed and full-on crying. It is also stressful for your baby, which is why he needs close bodily contact with you so he can gain comfort. When your baby cries, you generally just want to stop it. Therefore, crying is the most effective way to bring you quickly to your baby.
In the first two or three weeks after your baby is born, you probably find you are mostly successful in soothing and comforting your baby. Unhappily, during the first month, a change starts to occur. Most parents discover that their sweet, quiet new baby begins to cry and becomes more difficult to soothe, especially during the afternoons and evenings.
The first point to make is that your baby is normal. All babies increase their crying at about three to four weeks, for what seems like absolutely no reason. Be reassured you are not doing anything wrong. This is called ‘normal developmental crying’ and it follows a curve.
All babies cry for different amounts of time throughout the day, according to their age. Your baby’s most fussy and unhappy period will be from about four weeks to 10–12 weeks.
Between the ages of four to 12 weeks the average amount of crying is:
- Spread over a day, he cries for about two to three hours.
- Throughout the day, he has bursts or bouts of crying as short as 5–15 minutes.
- In the late afternoon and evening, he usually has a regular longer bout of crying.
At about three to four months, your baby’s crying slowly eases off, as he becomes better at communicating with you via non-verbal cues and vocalisations.
Some chilled-out babies cry as little as 20–30 minutes a day.
Finally, about 16–20 per cent of babies have a lot of trouble getting used to their first three months outside the womb, and may cry for five to six hours a day and seem! These poor babies need lots of extra special holding, cuddling and close bodily contact, to help them through this period. You will also need lots of support coping with baby crying during this time.
If you're wondering why do babies cry, it is reassuring to know that this period of crying is normal. We know it is normal because it follows a predictable pattern, which looks like this:
- Usually, it is at its most intense in the late afternoon into the evenings.
- Sometimes, you can also get a period in the morning.
- During the crying bouts, your baby will cry intensely and seem inconsolable.
- Sometimes, no matter what you try, you won’t be able to soothe him.
You may also feel distressed, as if you are doing something wrong and are not a good parent – but you are a good parent, because you’re trying to help.
You may feel many mixed-up emotions and be worried there is something wrong with your baby; however, there usually isn’t.
This can be a confusing and difficult time for many parents, so it is best to be emotionally prepared, understand what the crying is about, and have some practical strategies ready. The most important point to keep in mind is, even if it is pretty awful while it is happening, you know it will end.
Crying for up to five hours a day is called prolonged and inconsolable crying. Babies who have long bouts of crying generally cry for:
- More than three hours a day in total
- More than 20 minutes of crying at one time.
If you have a baby who is otherwise well and healthy, and displays the following three behaviours, then his crying is moving outside of the normal range of crying. Look out for if he cries and fusses for:
- More than three hours a day
- More than three days a week
- More than three weeks.
Even if your baby isn’t crying for this amount of time, however, it’s your experience of his crying that matters.