Causes of excessive crying in young babies
Crying is the only way a young baby can communicate its needs to us. There are many reasons why babies cry but excessive crying is a sign they are uncomfortable.
We learn a lot from our baby in the first few weeks and months. We learn that a baby usually has a different cry for different reasons and we start to be able to differentiate the cries – a pain cry is usually a loud, screaming cry that may come on suddenly. Whilst a dirty nappy cry or tired cry may build up more slowly and be less extreme.
Some babies cry more than others – why? The answer is that no one knows for sure but once you’ve ruled out the common reasons, persistent crying is likely linked to a few physical factors: their position in the womb, their birth and their physiology. Nicky has a lot of experience treating young babies suffering with persistent crying and colic and shares her insights.
Checklist of common reasons a young baby cries:
- Hunger – Does baby need a feed? babies don’t always follow routines of feeding when they’re very young, try giving baby a feed, if baby isn’t interested then chances are hunger isn’t the problem.
- Tiredness – is your baby in need of a sleep and restless? If they’re not interested in lying down in their cot then try taking baby for a walk in a pram or baby sling to help settle them.
- Nappy – does baby need a nappy change? Some babies cry the instant they have done a poo or have a wet nappy.
- Over stimulation – both can cause a baby to be fractious and irritable. If there have been lots of visitors or a busy household then take baby away for a while for some calm time, sing softly or read to baby in a quiet room or go for a walk.
- Under stimulation – If they’ve been awake a while and haven’t seen much of family or friends they can get lonely and need to see your face. Take some time to talk to your baby and give them cuddles.
- Cuddles – some babies just want a lot of cuddles and love skin to skin contact to make them feel secure.
- Temperature – check your baby isn’t too hot or cold. Young babies can’t regulate their body temperature so need us – you can check if your baby is too hot or cold by placing your hand on their neck, if it is hot and sweaty then baby is too hot so remove some layers. Likewise if it is cold when you touch the nape of their neck then add more clothing or a blanket.
- Over feeding – some babies like to suck for comfort, not for food and can overeat which makes them uncomfortable! If your baby has had a good amount of time on the breast or has finished their bottle then offer a dummy as it maybe they need non-nutritive sucking.
- Tongue tie – ask your Health Visitor or GP to check your baby for tongue tie. In our experience it is very common, easily fixed but can cause discomfort and difficulties feeding.
- Illness – check your baby’s temperature with a thermometer and if it is high then immediately consult your GP or a medical professional as your baby could be ill. Likewise, speak to your GP or Health Visitor if you are concerned your baby may be ill, even if they don’t have a temperature.
Once you’ve gone through this list and if your baby is still crying, then it’s likely they’re experiencing some discomfort, let’s look at the reasons for excessive crying:
If your baby is healthy and you’ve seen a GP or health professional and your baby is well, then it’s likely that excessive crying is caused by discomfort in their body.
Causes of excessive crying and colic
Nicky explains: “I know from my experience treating young babies that a lot of them have cranial strains, tension or some misalignment which can cause them to be uncomfortable. Depending on the baby and the strains, this can show itself when a baby is lying down on its back which would tell me there is some cranial or spinal tension. It can be a baby is struggling to feed as they have tongue tie or palate strains. They may be struggling to keep milk down and need some help relieving strains in their cranium to help the digestive system. There are a number of reasons that a baby can be structurally uncomfortable, even have a headache from procedures used during birth. There are a number of structural causes of excessive crying and the majority can be gently eased by a trained specialist.”
Read about some solutions to try and solve your baby’s excessive crying here23 February 2023