What to Do If Your Baby Won't Stop Crying

baby crying

Getty Images / mapodile

There is almost nothing more upsetting than when your baby cries—especially if you aren’t sure why they are crying—and all your efforts at calming them down don’t seem to be working. If you are in a situation where your baby is crying and you aren’t able to quiet them, you may start to feel like a bad parent, or like you don’t know what you are doing.

But you are far from alone. Almost all parents have dealt with a crying baby, and as much as it can rattle you as a parent to see your baby upset, the fact is that babies cry—sometimes a lot—and except in rare cases, this is normal and passes in due time.

Of course, knowing that dealing with some crying is common doesn’t help much in the moment that you are dealing with it! So let’s talk about babies crying—why they do it, and what can be done to soothe them. Let’s also discuss how to identify times when your baby’s crying isn’t normal, and what actions you should take.

Why Your Baby Might Be Crying

There are so many reasons why babies cry! One thing to keep in mind is that since babies can’t talk yet, crying is one of the top ways they have to communicate. And babies can easily go from 0-100% in a matter of seconds. Babies often use their whole bodies to cry, so even a small cry can look pretty dramatic when it comes from an infant.

Let’s look at some of the more common and less worrisome reasons why your baby may be crying:

Hungry

Babies, especially when they are just a few months old, need to eat very frequently. Usually breastfed babies nurse every 2-3 hours; formula fed babies can often go longer between feeds. It’s good to try to feed your baby before they become starving; that can help decrease crying.

Tired

Babies also need a lot of sleep—most babies need several naps a day, and need to sleep about 12 hours a night or more. Overtired babies tend to cry and whimper. If they are very tired, they will likely cry so hard it can be hard to relax them and get them to sleep.

Too Hot or Too Cold

Some babies are very sensitive to temperature. They don’t like being overdressed, but they also prefer to be warm and don’t like cold temperatures. If your baby is crying, one simple thing you can do is add or remove some clothing. You can also adjust the temperature in your home.

Needs a Diaper Change

Some babies may be sensitive to a wet or soiled diaper. This is especially true if you use cloth diapers, as babies are more likely to feel the wetness. Your baby may also cry if they are experiencing an uncomfortable diaper rash.

Wants to Be Held

Babies crave human contact, some more than others. So if your baby seems to cry every time you put them down, picking them up may do the trick. Don’t worry—they will outgrow this need eventually (and you will miss the snuggles!).

Upset Tummy

It’s normal for your baby to have an upset tummy from time to time. Babies pass a lot of gas sometimes, and while this can be normal, sometimes it does cause them pain. Some babies develop reflux as well: reflux can include spitting up or can be silent.

Overstimulated

You might notice that your baby is more likely to cry when they’ve had a busy, stimulating day. This might be their way of processing everything they have absorbed (and telling you about it), but sometimes they are just inundated with stimuli and this can make them fuss and cry for a prolonged period.

Bored

Believe it or not, babies get bored from time to time! Their main job in life is to take in the world around them and learn. So if they are just staring at the same wall, or just not having a very interesting experience, they might tell you that they are irritated about this by crying.

Warning Signs

Most prolonged crying isn’t harmful for your baby, and doesn’t indicate that anything worrisome is happening. However, there are some times when your baby’s cries may indicate a problem that requires medical attention.

Illness

Occasionally, your baby may have an illness or infection that causes them to cry for prolonged periods. Anytime your baby has a fever you should contact your doctor. Fevers in babies three months and under should be taken seriously and require you to get it in touch with your baby’s doctor right away. Other signs of illness may be a baby who refuses to eat, is very drowsy, is vomiting, or is acting excessively cranky.

Infection

Infections like ear aches, bladder infections, and ulcers of the mouth or penis can cause your baby to cry in pain. If you notice any kind of swelling or redness on a part of your baby’s body, and they are crying inconsolably, you should bring them to the doctor to be evaluated. Babies who are in pain may have high-pitched cries that seem to come on suddenly.

Allergies or Intolerances

Occasionally, babies have allergies or intolerances to their formula or something a mother eats that makes its way into her breastmilk. The most common allergy or intolerance is to dairy milk, but a baby can be allergic or intolerant to any allergen. Besides crying, your baby may have reflux, excessive spitting up, or excessive gas.

Injuries

Your baby may have gotten a scratch without you knowing it. Or a piece of string from their sock could be tied around a toe! Every once in a while, babies get even more serious injuries without us knowing it. That’s why your baby should be evaluated if they are crying excessively and you are not sure why, especially if their crying is high pitched or your gut tells you they may be hurt.

Colic

Colic is defined as crying that lasts more at least three hours a day, in a baby three months or younger, and that occurs at least three times a week. Colic is very common, and usually has no clear cause, which can make it very frustrating. The good news is that often simple care measures like rocking, shushing, and feeding your baby can help. Either way, colic generally disappears on its own by 3 or 4 months.

What You Can Do

You may feel helpless when you are trying to soothe your crying baby and nothing seems to be working. But there are actually lots of things you can try. For example:

Rock and Shush

Babies love movement because it reminds them of the rocking motions they were used to in the womb. So rocking or walking your baby around is a top baby soothing method. Add some shushing sounds (which also remind them of the womb) and you are in business. You can also try calming music.

Feed Your Baby

Babies are very frequent eaters—their tummies are the size of their little fists, and need to be filled frequently—so feeding your baby when they are fussing is never a bad idea. If your baby is going through a growth spurt, they may want to eat even more frequently than usual. That’s normal, and usually feeding them again does the trick.

Take Your Baby Outside

Any kind of change of scene can be helpful when your baby is fussing. You can take them for a walk in the stroller or with a baby carrier. The fresh air and bouncing helps. You can also try a car ride—that might even put them to sleep!

Burp Your Baby

Something as simple as the need for a burp might be what is bothering your baby. Most babies need to be burped after feeding, so if you haven’t done that, try it.

The most effective way to burp your baby is to apply gentle pressure to their tummy as you pat their back. Try placing your baby on your shoulder with their tummy touching you, then pat their back. You can also place them in your leg, tummy down, and gently pat their back this way.

If your baby seems gassy, lay them on their back and “bicycle” their legs for a bit to get out the gas.

Give Your Baby A Bath

Not all babies like baths, but if your baby likes to be bathed, that can be just the thing to change their mood into a happy one. A warm bath can be very soothing and help your baby relax.

Get Another Set Of Hands Involved

Sometimes babies can pick up on your stress—and dealing with a crying baby for hours on end can stress you out. If you have someone else around—a partner, a family member, or a mother’s helper—give them a turn with the baby. This can help your baby relax, and give you a change to recharge your batteries and relax.

When to See a Doctor

Anytime your instincts tell you that something might be wrong with your baby, it’s a good time to check in with your doctor, even if you are not sure what might be wrong. That said, there are some instances where a baby who is crying and also exhibiting other symptoms, should be seen by a doctor promptly.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a baby who is under three months with a fever
  • Your baby has been injured or you suspect that they might be
  • Your baby’s soft spot is swollen
  • Your baby’s scrotum or groin is swollen
  • Your baby refuses to eat for more than 8 hours
  • Your baby is vomiting
  • Your baby seems ill or has any signs of illness
  • Your baby has been crying for more than two hours in a row (and hasn’t already been diagnosed with colic)

What Your Doctor Will Do

If the scenario that you describe to your doctor seems troubling in any way, your doctor will call you for a medical exam. If your doctor believes that your baby is having a medical emergency, they may tell you to visit the emergency room.

If your doctor calls you in for an exam, they will:

  • Ask you questions about how long your baby has been crying and what seems to prompt the crying
  • Do a thorough medical examination of your baby
  • Diagnose and offer a treatment plan for any medical issues your baby may be having
  • Discuss with you how to soothe your baby, and how to know what “normal” crying is for your baby and what constitutes another call to the doctor

If Your Baby Is Still Crying

If your doctor has diagnosed your baby with colic, it may not be necessary to call each time your baby cries for long periods of time. But if your doctor has offered you treatment plans for any illnesses or other issues, and your baby is still crying inconsolably, then you should contact your doctor again to follow-up.

Again, always follow your instincts. If your baby’s cries seem to signal that something is wrong, you should always contact a medical professional to discuss your concerns.

A Word from Verywell

There is almost nothing as heartbreaking as watching your baby cry and feeling helpless to make them stop. In most cases, baby crying—even for prolonged periods—is normal. In rare cases, your baby’s cries may indicate a serious problem, and you should always contact your doctor with any concerns. That’s what they are there for.

Most babies stop crying quite so much as they reach 3 or 4 months. And after a while, you will become better at understanding what your baby’s cries mean, and how to soothe them. Still, crying can take a toll on your own mental health. If you are struggling with a crying or fussy baby, reach out for help.

Talk to your doctor or a psychologist about how to process your feelings, and if any intervention is needed. If you can, have another caretaker take shifts with your crying baby so that you can take breaks.

Most of all, try to keep this in perspective. Babies cry, it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent, and crying eventually ends—it really does.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Crying Baby - Before 3 Months Old. Seattle Children’s Hospital website. Updated November 6, 2020.

  • How to Calm a Fussy Baby. Healthy Children website. Updated July 18, 2016.

  • Responding to Your Baby’s Cries. Healthy Children website. Updated November 19, 2009.