Do you wonder whether your baby cries too much? It’s useful to know what’s ‘normal’ so here we discuss how much crying you might expect.
The trouble is, every parent and baby is different and so normal can be hard to define. A 2017 review of studies from around the world found:
- On average, babies cry for around two hours a day in the first six weeks.
- Crying decreases from eight to nine weeks to around one hour at 10 to 12 weeks.
- Danish and Japanese babies cry significantly less than babies in the UK. (Wolke et al, 2017)
Some babies cry very little for the first two weeks of their lives because they are still sleepy and adapting to life outside the womb. As they start to become more awake and alert, they might start to cry more, letting you know what they need.
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 two in ten and five in ten babies cry for long stretches, without an obvious reason, during the first three to four months (Wolke et al, 2017).
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, no date).
Will things get better?
Any crying can be tough to cope with. The good news is that as you become more confident with your baby and they become more familiar with the world around them, you both start to relax and feel less distressed.
When your baby is eight to nine 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. This still sounds like a lot, but in fact this is about half the amount they cried as newborns up until the six-week mark (St James-Roberts, 2013; Wolke et al, 2017).
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 around 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?
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.
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.
Many parents find it is useful to get support from fellow parents, so you can share hints and tips and offer moral support. Perhaps check out your local NCT branch to see what activities are on offer to local parents.
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 pram and go into a separate room. Take five 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. You might find it useful to read our article about coping with a crying baby.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0333 252 5051.
You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby 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.
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 soothing a crying baby 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.
NCSBS. (no date) What is the period of PURPLE crying? Available at: http://www.purplecrying.info/what-is-the-period-of-purple-crying.php [Accessed 18th April 2022]
St 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 Nutr. 57(Suppl 1): S30-S36. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1097/01.mpg.0000441932.07469.1b
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. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.02.020