When you're in the first few months of parenthood, it's like time is standing still and there's not enough coffee in the world to get you through it. You've probably wondered to yourself, more than once, when do babies stop crying all the time? It may not feel like it now, but take comfort in knowing it won't last forever.
When it's 2 a.m. and it's been an hour since your little bundle of joy started wailing, you might question if the baby is sick, has colic, or if you're just not good at soothing. Don't panic. This is normal. "Babies typically cry the most when they are under three months old, and it usually improves after this," Katie Jordan M.D. tells Romper, adding that their peak crying age is "about six weeks old." David L. Hill, M.D., FAAP, explains that babies this young cry so much because they don't know how to communicate yet and "crying is the most effective way for babies to share that they need something: food, a diaper change, cuddling, a change in temperature, stimulation, or sleep."
The good news is that after the 3 to 4-month mark, the crying episodes will start to become less frequent. Dr. Jordan says that, in general, "parents are in the clear after crying tapers off." Your baby will still cry, of course, but not in the same way as those early days. Dr. Hill says this is because around this time, "infants expand their communications skills to include a wide variety of vocalizations." Now, in addition to crying, your baby can grunt, squeal, smack their lips, and make physical gestures to help them express their needs.
If you're only one month in and the thought of two to three more months makes you want to cry yourself, there are some things that you can do for yourself to get through this period. Dr. Hill recommends parents try to "think of crying as a foreign language you can learn with practice... imagine that your baby has just arrived from another country and is trying to figure out how to communicate with you in [their] language." In doing this, he says you'll start to learn the distinctions in their cries for things like sleep, hunger, or physical contact.
One thing Dr. Jordan often reminds parents about is that it's okay to walk into another room for a quick break. "If a caregiver is alone and feels overwhelmed it is okay to put the baby in a safe place such as a crib and take a few minutes away from the crying to calm down," she says. Knowing there is an end in sight can sometimes make this phase a little more manageable, plus you can look forward to a double-reward when you get there: As "crying starts to slow down around 6-8 weeks, babies also start to develop a social smile [and] become increasingly fun as they get older," says Dr. Jordan.
Both Dr. Hill and Dr. Jordan note that there will still be times of increased fussiness as your baby develops, but it won't be like those first few months. No matter what age they are, if the crying is concerning you, don't hesitate to call the doctor. "Sometimes excessive crying can be caused by things like an infection or a milk protein allergy," says Dr. Jordan. "Your pediatrician can check the baby to see if crying might be related to one of these things, or whether it could be colic, or just a part of normal infant development." No matter what, there is probably an explanation for the crying, and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
David L. Hill, M.D., FAAP, Spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics & Author of Co-Parenting Through Separation and Divorce: Putting Your Children First
Katie Jordan, M.D., Department of Pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine