Baby crying health visitor

Do you wonder whether your baby cries as much as other babies? It’s useful to know what’s ‘normal’ so here we discuss how much crying you might expect.

The trouble is every baby is different and so normal can be hard to define. A 2017 study of nearly 9,000 babies from around the world, found:

  • On average newborns tend to cry for around two hours a day. 
  • Crying for more than two hours a day is more unusual.
  • If your baby cries for more than 3.5 hours a day, this is considered high. (Wolke et al, 2017)

Some babies cry very little for the first two weeks of their lives because they are still sleepy. As they start to become more awake and alert, they might start to cry more, making their presence known.

Is this really normal? 

If you feel like your baby cries a lot, for a long time, and you find it hard to soothe them, you’re far from alone. In fact, between a third and a fifth of babies cry for long stretches, without an obvious reason, during the first three to four months of age (Stadtlander, 2016; Powell et al, 2018)

Long stretches of crying can start when your little one is around two weeks old and continue until they reach three to four months. Inconsolable crying that can last up to five hours a day is a perfectly normal stage of development called the period of PURPLE crying. PURPLE is not about the colour – it’s short for: Peak of crying; Unexpected; Resists soothing; Pain-like face; Long lasting; and Evening (NCSBS, 2018).  

Will things get better?

Any crying can be tough to cope with. The good news is that as your baby becomes more familiar with the world around them, they often start to feel more comfortable and less distressed. Their digestive system also begins to mature, which can help.

When your baby is six to eight weeks old you might notice they start to cry a little less. In fact, babies aged 10 to 12 weeks tend to cry on average for around an hour per day. It still sounds a lot, but in fact this is about half the amount they cried as newborns up until the six week mark (Wolke et al, 2017) (James-Roberts, 2013)

Plus, after the first few weeks you know your baby better and are able to settle them more easily. This can reduce their crying and – crucially – allow you to cope more easily with it.

Katie*, a mum of two, shared her experience of excessive crying with her second baby:

‘Max was so chilled out for the first two weeks. We even booked a last minute holiday thinking how easy it would be. 

‘I spent every evening on that holiday pacing round the hotel with him screaming. We tried reflux medication, cranial osteopathy, you name it...but he just gradually calmed down given time. 

‘Around 12 weeks was the real turning point for us and now those nights of crying are a distant memory – thankfully.’

Why is my baby crying so much?

You can find lots of information on causes of excessive crying and how to soothe your baby on our website. From coping with a crying baby to colic to reflux.

If your baby’s cry doesn’t sound like their normal cry, or they have other symptoms, this could be a sign they are ill. Contact your GP or NHS 111 if you are concerned that your baby is unwell

Getting support

Listening to your baby cry can be really tough, and soothing them is hard work. Having support from family or friends, especially in the first six to eight weeks, will help you cope. Cuddling the baby, making you dinner, tidying the house – accept any help you can get.

If your baby’s crying is making you feel very overwhelmed or angry, put them down in a safe place such as their cot or buggy and go into a separate room. Take 10 minutes to calm down, taking deep breaths, before returning to your baby. Tell someone immediately that you feel like this, and don’t be ashamed of these feelings. Read our article about the baby blues.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Watch our coping with crying film.

The Purple Crying website looks in detail at the stage in your baby’s life when they cry more than at any other time.

Understanding childhood also have a range of resources available online and to download, developed by child psychotherapists, including a leaflet on crying.

There’s also useful information on the NHS website.

The NSPCC helpline provides help and support to thousands of parents and families.

The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information and support for parents about safe sleep.

Read more on how to keep calm with a crying baby here.

You can also speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP.

 

James-Roberts I (2013) Emergence of a developmental explanation for prolonged crying in 1- to 4-month-old infants: review of the evidence. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutrition. 57(Suppl 1): S30-S36.
NCSBS (2018) What is the period of PURPLE crying? Available at: http://www.purplecrying.info/what-is-the-period-of-purple-crying.php [accessed 18th October 2018].

Powell C, Bamber D, Long J, Garratt R, Brown J, Rudge S, Morris T, Bhupendra Jaicim N, Plachcinski R, Dyson S, Boyle EM, St James-Roberts I (2018) Mental health and well‐being in parents of excessively crying infants: Prospective evaluation of a support package. Child Care Health Dev. 44(4):607-615.
Stadtlander L (2016) Sensory-based calming strategies for infants. Int J Childbirth Education. 31(4):18-20.
Wolke D, Bilgin A, Samara M (2017) Systematic review and meta-analysis: fussing and crying durations and prevalence of colic in infants. J Pediatr.185:55-61.e4.

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