Baby Won’t Stop Crying: Causes & What To Do

Have a baby between your hands that just won’t seem to stop crying no matter what you do? Yikes! I can hear you say “no one said this parenting thing would be easy, but they didn’t tell me it would be this difficult!”.

And it doesn’t get any easier when you start to panic over the fact that they won’t stop crying, either.

You want to get back to the million and one tasks you still have on your to-do list for the day, you want to get back to sleep because you have to rise and shine early in the morning, you’re worried that something’s really wrong with them and their health is at risk, you feel like they hate you and your presence there next to them means absolutely nothing at all … and the list goes on and on.

Why Won’t My Baby Stop Crying And Screaming?

Not all babies are born alike. Some tend to cry much more than others, even when there doesn’t seem to be anything going on at the time.

Knowing what might be causing your little one to cry non-stop is winning half the battle, so here’s a list of some of the most common possible reasons.

Communication

First things first, keep in mind that crying is one of the only ways babies know how to communicate with you when they’re still too young to communicate by using words.

For the most part, they’re crying because it’s one of the only ways – if not the only way – they know how to express a need of theirs.

Sleepy Or Tired

If they’re feeling cranky because they haven’t slept well the other night or are just exhausted because they’ve had a tiring day (doing what exactly? eating and sleeping? I digress …), expect them to be vocal about it.

I Need A Diaper Change!

Has your baby wet or soiled their diaper? Some babies couldn’t care less about this and could stay in a wet or soiled diaper for the rest of the day without being bothered by it, but the majority of babies immediately feel uncomfortable and cry to let you know that they need a diaper change.

I Need A Bigger Diaper!

The diapers you’re having them wear might have become too small and tight, which means you need to go up a size.

Feed Me, I’m Hungry!

Are you keeping track of their feeding sessions? Do you know how much a newborn should be eating throughout the day? Are you making sure you stick to that schedule and barely miss any sessions?

You never want to wait until a baby’s crying from hunger to feed them, you’ll want to do so at the slightest cues.

If it’s been around 2-3 hours since their last feeding session, try to feed them again. If they eat and stop crying, then there you have it, problem solved. They might just be going through a growth spurt at the time and need to eat more than usual.

If they don’t want to eat, don’t try force feeding them – they’re not hungry and it’s something else that’s bothering them.

Make sure they’re eating enough and are gaining weight as they should be. You can put a baby scale to use for this purpose, or get in contact with a lactation specialist if you want more accuracy.

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “The recommended feeding interval for infants is every 2-3 hours for breastfed babies, and up to 4 hours for formula fed ones.

Feeding an infant more frequently than 2 hours often results in incomplete feedings and causes more distress for the baby and mom.

The baby’s stomach is never “full” because of the frequent “snacking,” therefore continuing the cycle of crying.

This can also result in moms developing breast nipple irritation, which can make feeding their infant very painful.

In these situations, both the infant and the mother can become frustrated.

Also, for breastfeeding moms, keeping the feeding interval at a minimum of 2 hours allows time for pumping. I usually recommend that moms pump their breastmilk 1 hour after breastfeeding.

I typically recommend soothing techniques (rocking, swaddling, pacifier, etc ..) or even doing some belly time to calm the baby until as close to a 2 hour feeding interval as possible.

After a few days of doing this technique, the infant usually begins to take more during feedings and is more satiated and comfortable.

Feel free to check out the following few links that support my recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Nemour’s Children’s Hospital: (Resource 1) and (Resource 2).”

I’m Stuffed!

Overfeeding is just as bad and should be avoided. It only results in unnecessary weight gain and a whole lot of uncomfortable bloating.

It’s Too Busy Here, Take Me Somewhere Calm

Babies tend to dislike being places where it gets too noisy or overcrowded.

It’s Too Hot In Here!

Are you sure it’s not too warm in your baby’s room? Or that you don’t have them in one too many layers of clothes at the time? Overdressing them is not good practice.

Keep an eye out for the following signs that baby is overheated, in which case you need to help them cool down a bit.

If you’ve undressed your baby and they still feel hot, check their temperature to make sure nothing’s wrong there.

It’s Too Cold In Here!

Similarly, you want to make sure your baby isn’t feeling too cold, either – especially during harsh winter seasons. Just like you shouldn’t over-dress a baby, you shouldn’t under-dress them either.

Or, it might just be that you’re trying to wipe their bottom with a cold baby wipe, and it’s making them extremely uncomfortable. In such a case, it’s a good idea to get a baby wipe warmer.

Colic

Babies could develop (and suffer from) colic as soon as two or three weeks of age, usually lasting until they’re 3 months of age.

If you suspect that your baby is experiencing a bad case of colic, get in contact with your pediatrician straight away. They’ll run a diagnosis on your baby and help you determine if a case of colic is indeed there.

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Despite what some people might say, to my knowledge and in my research, no tests exist to determine whether a baby is colicky or not.

A diagnosis of colic is made based on symptoms.

You should see a pediatrician, because there are measures that we recommend to reduce colic. These include better burping techniques, positioning, and sometimes the use of simethicone.

Colicky babies tend to cry for more than three hours per day, and more than three days a week.

Teething

Is your little precious teething? Some babies breeze through this phase, while for others it’s a painful and miserable mess. Try any one of the following tips to soothe your baby’s teething pain and see if that solves the non-stop crying.

Acid Reflux

GERD (Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease), which refers to severe acid reflux, is a common condition in babies – one that makes them feel awful and keeps you busy cleaning after their spit ups.

Even if your little one happens to have less severe acid reflux, this could still mean great discomfort and a whole lot of crying.

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “GERD is different from normal infant reflux (not painful and due to an immature lower esophageal sphincter muscle).

GERD is often associated with pain while lying in a supine position, arching the back, and sleep difficulties.

Here’s an article from the National Institutes of Health regarding this: (Click to read).

Food Allergies

Your little one could have food sensitivities that you should take into consideration.

If you suspect this might be the case, grab a stool sample of theirs and take it to the doctor’s office. They’ll run any tests necessary and will determine whether your baby has any food allergies you need to be aware of.

Seeing streaks of blood in your little one’s stool or diaper is a hallmark sign of milk or soy protein allergy.

Pain or Illness

Is your baby down with a fever? Get a baby thermometer and take their temperature – if it reads more than 100.4 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), they need prompt medical attention.

Or it might just be something else causing them pain and discomfort, such as a bad case of diaper rash or teething rash – just to name a couple of conditions.

Pain cries tend to have a unique high pitch to them, and you’ll be able to tell them apart from other types of cries with time. Think about the type of cry you hear when they get an injection.

Not Constipated

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Very often, during my well infant visits, parents complain that their baby is constipated.

When I ask if the stools are ‘hard like pebbles’, 90% of the time, they tell me “no” and that the stools are liquid or soft.

When I ask why they think it’s constipation, they describe the baby’s belly looking distended, he/she pushing frequently as if trying to stool, and being very fussy.

They are also concerned if their infant is not passing stool daily.

It should be noted that babies don’t always pass stool daily, especially if formula fed. It would be unusual, however, not to pass stool for 4-5 days.

Also, if the stool is soft or liquid, the baby is not constipated.”

Stranger Anxiety or Fear

This differs from one baby to another, but in some cases, getting close to a strange face they’re not used to scares them out.

This behavior usually begins around 8-9 months of age.

Not Enough Sleep

Is your baby getting enough sleep? If they’re not, non-stop crying could translate to “help! I’m sleep deprived!”.

For those of you who think that a tired baby can just doze off and go to sleep in no time, think again. It makes sense if you think about it, but that’s not always the case.

Just because they’re still awake doesn’t mean they don’t want to sleep, it’s not always in their hands. Look for signs that show they’re tired – you might need to make some adjustments.

Are you sure you’re putting them in a comfortable position when in their crib or bassinet? What exactly is a comfortable position will differ from one baby to another, so it might take some trial and error for you to figure out which is which for your little one.

If you’re breastfeeding, you should keep your caffeine intake to an absolute minimum. Caffeine is a stimulant that passes to your baby through your breast milk and makes it difficult for them to fall asleep, resulting in non stop crying until they do manage to doze off.

You should also avoid overstimulating them (especially when it’s around the time they’re usually sleeping), and avoid having them stay in places where there’s too much going on at the time. Crying might be their only way of telling you “I want to get out of here, please!”.

If necessary, speak to a baby sleep expert who can determine the cause of the problem and help you design a road map to make things better.

Your Stress

If none of the above seemed to apply to your baby, are you sure you’re not stressing them out?

Take some time and ask yourself which happened first: your baby stressing out and you stressing out after? Or you being visibly anxious, your baby picking up on it and becoming stressed out themselves?

Babies are way more capable of picking up on how we’re feeling at the time than we give them credit, so don’t underestimate how real this is.

Constipation

A baby not pooping at all is obviously not going to be happy – or the least bit comfortable – about it. Even if they are pooping but can’t manage to get it all out, it’s still very uncomfortable for them.

What Should I Do If My Newborn Won’t Stop Crying?

Winning the other half of the battle is all about knowing the right things you need to do when dealing with a baby that’s seemingly crying non-stop, as well as knowing what NOT to do.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that no two babies are alike – meaning some babies need more time than others to relax and stop crying. So stay consistent, don’t give in too early, and you’ll find something that works for them.

Get To Know Their Different Cries

All parents find this fairly difficult at first, but as the weeks and months go by, you’ll become an expert in differentiating between your baby’s different cries and telling what each means.

In a matter of seconds, you’ll be able to tell whether they’re crying because they’re hungry, need a diaper change, want to poop but aren’t able to or just want to take a nap. It takes time for you to get used to your little one’s different cries, though, so be patient.

For starters, there are tons of online guides such as this one that attempt to “decode” a baby’s crying and help you pick up on a few signals to interpret what it means.

Pacifier

Have you tried giving them a pacifier to suck on? Although not ideal, give them your finger to suck on if you don’t have access to a pacifier at the time (be sure to always pack a few in your diaper bag!).

Swaddle

Swaddling your baby does wonders for soothing them and helping them feel secure.

The younger your baby is, the more likely this is to work, because swaddling mimics how secure and cozy they used to feel in their mother’s womb.

The tighter the swaddle, the warmer and more secure they’ll feel. Just be sure not to make it too tight.

With that being said, some infants are more comfortable when swaddled with their arms free. In other words, we wouldn’t want a parent to give up on swaddling their baby if he/she cries when the whole body is swaddled!

White Noise

Sometimes, all you need to get them to relax is some white noise to play in the background so that all other noises are blocked out.

Very similarly to why swaddling works so well, white noise mimics a whole host of sounds a baby grew used to hearing in their mother’s womb for many months on end.

It’s up to you to choose whether you want to get a white noise machine for babies for this purpose, or do it yourself by playing one of those white noise videos on YouTube on a smartphone or putting the fan on maximum speed (while NOT directed at your baby).

For some babies the sound of water running (or splashing) works best, while others respond better to the sound of something like a hoover operating, so find out what works best for your little bundle of joy and use that to your advantage.

Play Some Music & Singing

Try putting on some calm and soothing music and see how they respond to it. Sometimes, it also helps if you try singing them a relaxing song or lullaby.

We’re not saying this works each and every single time, but when it does work, your baby will go from ear-piercing screeching to sleeping angel before you know it.

If they’re old enough, you might also try getting them to dance along to a jam with you.

It might take you some trial and error before you find the right type of music your baby responds to well during stressful times, but trust me when I say that it’s worth it when you do!

Step Outside For A While

Sometimes, all you have to do is step outside the house with your baby for a while to catch a breath of fresh air.

It’s a change of scenery and a nice distraction and opportunity for you to show them a tree, the cool blue sky above or just enjoy the peace and quiet.

You can carry them in your arms or have them right next to you in a carrier. Some babies prefer one over the other – while for others, it doesn’t really matter, the movement alone is enough.

Speaking of motion, you can also take them for a ride in your car or their stroller. Such motion helps make them sleepy.

Massage

If you know what you’re doing, massaging your baby can work wonders. Focus on their arms, back, abdomen and legs. Just be sure to keep it gentle and slow, and your baby will love you for it.

Plus, this helps strengthen the bond between you two.

If you don’t have much experience doing this, be sure to read up on a few guides about how to properly massage your baby first, or else you might make a bad situation even worse.

What Should I NOT Do When My Baby Won’t Stop Crying?

If your baby won’t seem to stop crying no matter what you try to do, please keep in mind the following very important tips until you can resolve the problem:

Shaking

One of the worst things you could do in such a case is to shake your baby in an attempt to get them to “snap out of it”, or – even worse – because you’ve had enough of the baby’s crying and have lost your temper (that’s child abuse!).

Not only does this barely ever work and get them to stop crying (it’s usually counter-effective and actually makes the crying worse), it could cause a serious brain injury called Shaken Baby Syndrome.

All it takes is a few seconds to cause severe brain damage.

So, be very careful about who you leave your child with to ensure this doesn’t happen, no matter who it is – your partner, a family member, a friend or a caregiver you’ve recently hired. If they’re short tempered, they shouldn’t be left with your baby alone at all.

Losing Your Cool

I know how hard it is for you to do that. In fact, it’s hard for any of us to do that during stressful times like this. In the end, we’re all humans.

But the fact remains that whichever mental and emotional state you’re in at the time and show your baby, it’s going to rub off on them.

A stressed out, crying baby needs you to be at your calmest at the time. If you show them you’re stressed and are freaking out too, this will easily lead to a more fussy baby and a much more complicated situation to handle.

If you ever feel like you’re about to lose it and crumble under stress, keep the following in mind.

  • Don’t give yourself a hard time. We’re all human and this happens to the best of us, so don’t feel guilty because it’s getting to you.
  • Lay your baby in their crib and make sure it’s all comfortable for them to be in there. Even if it means you need to leave them there to cry it out for a bit, sometimes that’s the best solution. Check on them every 5 minutes or so, to make sure they’re alright and to see whether or not they’ve stopped crying.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand while you take a breather. Whether that’s a family member, your partner, a caregiver or just a friend, reach out to whoever you need to when you feel it’s all becoming too much for you to handle on your own. Whether it’s just asking for some tips or asking for a helping hand, those who care will be there for you when you need them most.
  • Do whatever you need to do (and whatever works best for you) to calm down again. Whether that’s taking deep breaths for a few minutes, taking a quick smoke (although it’s bad for your health!), putting on some soothing music or whatever else works for you, know that you have to take good care of yourself just as well.

When Should I Call The Doctor?

In any of the following cases, get in contact with your doctor as soon as you can, and they’ll guide you on what needs to be done to resolve the issue.

Baby Becomes Unresponsive

You might think that your baby not responding to you or anything you do around them is a baby that’s playing mind games with you to get what they want, or just zoning out and running away from their problems, but this isn’t usually the case.

If you notice your baby has zoned out and isn’t responding to you or anything going on around them at the time, this is NOT normal. In these cases, you should let your pediatrician know about this.

This is especially true if you notice that they cry as soon as you try to touch, move or hold them.

Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Parents should call emergency services prior to calling the pediatrician.

In these situations, it is best for EMS to come and bring life saving equipment rather than the (very worried) parent trying to get the infant to the pediatrician.”

More Than 2 Hours

If they’re crying non-stop for more than 2 hours, drop everything you’re doing and either call the doctor or take your baby to the ER.

Whenever In Doubt

You don’t have to wait until something extraordinary happens for you to call a doctor to look into what’s going on with your baby.

If you’re in doubt about anything or don’t know what to do and feel like you need a helping hand with the situation, always get in contact with your pediatrician.

As they say, better safe than sorry – and sometimes not attending to a condition soon enough can have severe consequences.

Wrapping It Up

And there you have it! A list that covers some of the most common reasons why babies tend to cry non-stop, what you can do about it to help and what you should NOT to – since that creates a whole host of new problems that were never there to begin with.

Don’t feel overwhelmed, we promise it’ll all become easier as you go – there’s just a learning curve to it that all of us have to go through at first until we learn to differentiate between different cries and be able to tell what each means.

And, if nothing seems to work and you’re about to throw in the towel or – even worse – lose your temper, don’t! A pediatrician is always one call away.

Soon enough, all babies start learning how to soothe themselves on their own and without a parent/caregiver’s help. So, hang in there, this too shall pass!

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Medically Reviewed By: Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Medically Reviewed By: Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Leah Alexander, M.D. FAAP began practicing pediatrics at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey in 2000. She has been an independently contracted pediatrician with Medical Doctors Associates at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey since 2005. After graduating from Kalamazoo College and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, she completed her pediatric residency at Overlook and Morristown Memorial Hospitals. She is board certified in General Pediatrics.

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