Is your baby suddenly crying inconsolably? We feel your pain! Not only are you surely worried that something might be wrong with your little one, research shows that persistent infant crying increases a new mom’s chances of postpartum depression (PPD).

The good news: Most babies who are crying inconsolably aren’t sick, but rather homesick. That means they’re simply struggling to cope with life outside of the womb. To help bring your baby the comfort they crave and to calm the crying, read on for our advice…which, by the way, will help you, too!

What is inconsolable crying?

Inconsolable crying, as the name implies, is when your baby is crying, and nothing will calm them. This type of crying can even seem to come out of nowhere! If the crying intensifies and lasts throughout the day or night, it may be caused by colic.

When is crying considered colic?

Colic is when a healthy baby cries or fusses for prolonged periods of time—we’re talking roughly 3 hours a day.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), about one-fifth of all babies develop colic, usually between their second and fourth weeks. A colicky baby’s cries tend to intensify and last throughout the day. You may also see them extend or pull up their legs and/or pass a lot of gas. Colicky crying usually peaks at about 6 weeks and then declines significantly after babies reach 3 to 4 months old, but colic has been known to last up to 6 months.

What causes inconsolable colic crying?

That’s a great question…and one we still don’t have a definitive answer for. The leading theory? Your baby may be highly sensitive to stimulation, unable to self-console or regulate their nervous system quite yet, or there may be a sensitivity to food in a breastfeeding mom’s diet. (At times, colicky behavior may indicate a medical issue, such as a hernia.)

What to Do if Your Baby is Suddenly Crying Inconsolably

The first step to relieving inconsolable crying or colicky crying, is starting the 5 S’s method for soothing babies. The 5 S’s include swaddling, holding baby in the side-stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. Each of these 5 S’s mimic the rhythms and sensations babies experienced inside the womb and they all trigger what’s dubbed the calming reflex. This is a neurological response that develops deep in a baby’s brain months before they’re even born that’s, essentially, nature’s “off switch” for crying and “on switch” for sleep. Here’s the rundown:

  • Swaddle: Swaddling recreates the gentle hug and security of the womb, which works wonders at calming babies. (The AAP affirms this.) Plus, wrapped babies often respond faster to the other four S’s. To swaddle your baby, wrap them like a burrito with their arms snug and straight at their sides and their hips loose and flexed. You can use a large square lightweight blanket or the Sleepea 5-Second Swaddle, which takes the guesswork out of swaddling. Swaddle babies only during fussing and sleep and discontinue swaddling once your little one can roll over…unless you are using SNOO. In SNOO, babies can stay safely swaddled until they graduate to the crib.

  • Side or Stomach Position: Lay your little one belly-down across your knees and gently rub their back. The AAP notes that the light pressure on a baby’s tummy can help comfort upset babies. Plus, holding your baby on their stomach or side engages the calming reflex. Just remember that it’s never safe to place a baby on their side or stomach to sleep. The back is the only safe position for sleeping.

  • Shush: In the womb, babies listened to the sound of blood flow that was louder than a vacuum cleaner 24/7! This constant sound has a calming effect on babies, and the best way to recreate it is with a consistent, low, and rumbly white noise, like the pediatrician-designed sounds in the award-winning SNOO bassinet or SNOObear.

  • Swing: Life in the womb was very jiggly…and calming. Continuing that rocking after your little one is born has been shown to reduce crying. The same study found that rocking improves Baby sleep, too! (Plus, the AAP notes rocking is a go-to colic-reliever.) You can choose to rock your baby in your arms, place them in a baby carrier and walk, or use an infant swing, but don’t let your baby sleep in those positions! Again, the only safe position for baby sleep is on the back. For safe sleep and all-night rocking, try SNOO. It keeps babies securely on their backs so they can safely rocking while snoozing.

  • Suck: Sucking lowers your baby’s heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels, so it’s no surprise that pacifiers help many fussy babies relax into a deep tranquility. (Sucking is another AAP recommendation for soothing colic.) If you’re nursing, wait until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a pacifier.

Beyond the 5 S’s, it’s a good idea to be mindful of how much—and what position—you’re feeding your baby. The AAP notes that, in general, it’s best to try to wait at least two to two-and-a-half hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next feed. And if you’re feeding your precious bub with a bottle, practice paced bottle feeding, which helps to sidestep uncomfortable overfeeding. (For full instructions, check out our paced bottle-feeding guide.)

If you’re doing all the above, but your baby is still crying inconsolably, then it may be time to give your pediatrician a call to make sure your little one isn’t sick.

When to Immediately Call the Doctor for a Crying Newborn

If any of these symptoms ring true for your newborn, call your care provider right away:

  • Nonstop crying lasts more than two hours
  • Cries when you touch, move, or hold your baby
  • Looks or acts abnormal in any way
  • Has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Bulging or swollen soft spot
  • Swollen groin
  • Vomiting
  • Refuses to drink or consumes very little for more than 8 hours

When to Call the Doctor for a Crying Newborn

Even non-emergencies can feel like an emergency! If your baby exhibits the following symptoms, contact your pediatrician during office hours or within 24 hours.

  • You can console Baby’s crying, but cause of upset is unclear.

  • You’re worn out from your baby’s crying.

  • Crying started after 1 month of age.

  • Inconsolable crying occurs 3 or more times a day.

  • Baby is not gaining weight.

Three Questions Doctors Ask If Your Baby is Crying Inconsolably

When you speak with your baby’s pediatrician, they’ll likely ask the following questions to figure out if your child has colic, or something more serious:

  • Is your baby growing well?
  • Is your baby’s behavior abnormal in other ways?
  • Is your baby content and alert for long periods of the day?

Signs Your Baby’s Crying is a Problem

Next, your baby’s doctor will likely ask more questions to help them pinpoint the problem. The pediatrician will check for the following symptoms:

  • Persistent moaning: Frequent groans and weak cries

  • Shrill cry: High-pitched and sharp cries, unlike your baby’s usual cry sound

  • Vomiting: Throwing up more than 1 ounce per episode; experiencing more than five vomiting episodes a day; or any green or yellow vomit can signal an issue

  • Change in stool: Constipation or diarrhea, especially with blood

  • Fussing during eating: Twisting, arching, or crying that begins during or shortly after a feed

  • Abnormal temperature: That means a rectal temperature of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or under 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Irritability: Persistent crying with almost no calm periods

  • Lethargy: Sleeping twice as long as usual, acting “out of it,” or not sucking well over an 8- to 12-hour period

  • Bulging soft spot on the head: Even when your baby is sitting up

  • Poor weight gain: That means gaining less than a half ounce a day

Baby Suddenly Crying Inconsolably: Final Thoughts

While it’s so hard to bear, infant crying is unavoidable. After all, it’s one of the only ways newborns can communicate! But if your baby is not ill, the 5 S’s aren’t helping, and you’ve reached your wit’s end, don’t hesitate to both call your baby’s doctor and lay your baby safely in their crib or bassinet and call a friend or a loved one to come help. Remember: It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and helpless when your baby cries for hours! The key is to reach out for help before your frustration can cloud your judgment or impede your mental health.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.