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Excessive crying

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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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.

Colic

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 in Useful links for more information.

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.

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