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Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Crying, Age 3 and Younger
Crying is your child's first way of
communicating. The amount of time your baby spends crying usually increases
from birth until your baby is about 6 weeks old, when your baby may cry between
1 and 5 hours out of 24. After 6 weeks of age, your baby will gradually cry
less as he or she finds other ways of communicating or consoling himself or
herself. However, some young children seem to cry for no obvious reason. About
1 in 5 children have daily crying spells of 15 minutes to an hour, often in the
Crying lets others know when a young child is hungry, wet,
tired, too warm, too cold, lonely, or in pain. If your child is crying, try to
identify the type of cry. It helps to go through a mental checklist of what
might be wrong—but remember that there may be nothing bothering your child—and
to make sure your child is safe and cared for. As parents or caregivers respond
to the young child's other signals (such as whimpering, facial expressions, and
wiggling), the child will usually cry less.
Parents and caregivers
become better over time at identifying the young child's cry. A young child
will often have different kinds of cries.
occasions, crying may point to a serious illness or injury. Crying caused by a
serious illness or injury usually lasts much longer than normal.
Crying can be very
frustrating for a parent or caregiver. Do not get angry at your child for
crying. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing
rough, such as throwing him or her into the air, can injure the brain.
Shaken baby syndrome needs to be reported to your
doctor. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may
hurt your child:
conditions can cause a young child to cry, such as
inguinal hernia, or
Children with genetic
conditions, such as cri du chat ("cat's cry") syndrome or phenylketonuria
(PKU), may have a different-sounding cry but one that
is normal for them.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when
your child should see a doctor.
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Crying is a normal part of your
child's life. Stay as calm as possible during crying episodes. There are many
different ways to approach your child's crying, and over time you will
understand your child's needs and know how to care for him or her.
It may be helpful to keep a record of your child's crying to see whether
there is a pattern that you can discuss with your child's doctor.
checklist to help you figure out the reason for your child's crying and take
action to eliminate the cause of the crying. Remember that the crying may be
normal for your child. Ask yourself whether your child:
children may turn red or purple in the face when crying. A sick child may have
pale, blue, or spots of bluish (mottled) skin and may be listless, unusually
sleepy, or irritable. A sick child's cry may be weak and feeble or (rarely)
high-pitched and piercing. If you think your child may be sick or hurt:
If you don't find a reason for your child's crying, try comforting techniques, such as rocking your baby or offering a pacifier for sucking. If your child continues to
cry after you have tried home treatment, place him or her in a safe, quiet
place and leave him or her alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes children can
relax and soothe themselves. Be sure to stay close by.
your child's doctor before giving your child any nonprescription medicines or
herbal remedies as a comfort measure. Products with alcohol or sugar in them
are not recommended.
Do not get angry at your child for crying. Never shake or
harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing a
baby up into the air and catching him or her, can cause
shaken baby syndrome. If you find that you are losing
patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may help you care for
your child and lessen the amount he or she cries.
Check with your doctor about giving your child
acetaminophen before immunizations are given. Some
doctors suggest this to decrease discomfort after a shot.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer
the following questions:
February 16, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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