Crying is sometimes distressing but it’s one of the few ways for babies to communicate their needs.
Even when babies are getting the best possible care, they can cry for a long time.
Some infants can cry up to five hours a day, with the most crying peaking at six weeks and usually lessening by the fourth or fifth month of age. After five months, crying is more intentional and related to events taking place around them.
Parents may also take comfort in the fact that by reliably and consistently responding to their babies’ cries, they are building a strong child-parent bond.
Crying is an important means of communication available to babies during early infancy – that is from birth to three months of age. At this stage in their development, infants are almost entirely dependent on caregivers to meet their needs. Consequently, infant crying can assume an important role in ensuring the survival, health and development of the child.
Increased crying among healthy infants in the Western world is now recognized in all infants in the first few weeks of life. This includes crying for prolonged periods of time for no discernable reason, a characteristic almost unique to the first few months of life. In fact, it isn’t unusual for a normal infant to cry from one to five hours daily, with a peak during the first two months of life.
In less than 5% of these infants is there ever evidence of organic disease to help explain increased crying behavior. Furthermore, prolonged crying takes place despite excellent parental care. Fortunately, after the age of five months, the increased prolonged periods of inconsolable crying decrease, crying becomes more intentional and is more related to events in the environment.
However, persistent crying, especially when associated with sleeping and feeding problems that continue beyond four months, often in the context of multiple parental psychosocial risk factors, can be a predictor of poor infant social and emotional development.