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Early Infant Crying: What We Know and What Can Help. Marsha Baker, OTR/L, MA, M.Ed. Becoming a Parent. “It’s like getting on the fast track to personal growth and you can’t get off.”. (Als, 1983). (Als, 1983). All babies cry…. Crying is a Biological Alarm. Graded signal

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Early Infant Crying: What We Know and What Can Help

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Presentation Transcript
becoming a parent
Becoming a Parent
  • “It’s like getting on the fast track to personal growth and you can’t get off.”
crying is a biological alarm
Crying is a Biological Alarm
  • Graded signal
  • Alerts parent/caregiver
  • Does not tell source of distress
  • Parents respond to level of emotion in cry and context of cry

(Barr, Hopkins, & Green, 2000;

Gustafson, Wood, & Green,2000)

importance of crying
Importance of Crying
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Increases motor activity
  • Generates heat & helps regulate temperature
  • Triggers social interaction
  • Ensures survival
    • “Acoustical umbilical cord”

(Lester, 2006)

early crying
Early Crying
  • Peaks at six to eight weeks
  • Wide variability in crying amounts across individuals and cultures
  • Parental responsiveness to early crying correlates with positive toddler behavior
normal crying curve
Normal Crying Curve
  • Peaks at 4-6 weeks
  • First documented in Brazelton’s practice
  • Replicated in 15 studies
  • Across cultures
  • True for preemies and full-terms

6 weeks

12 weeks

what is colic
What is Colic?


  • Crying in otherwise healthy infant that lasts:
  • More than 3 hours per day
  • More than 3 days per week
  • More than 3 weeks

(Wessel, 1954)

excessive crying plus
Excessive Crying Plus:
  • Sudden onset
    • Paroxysmal
    • Unpredictable
  • Cry quality
    • Higher pitch, reaches peak quickly
    • Like a pain cry
  • Physical signs
    • Clenched fists
    • Grimace/flushing
    • Gas/distention
  • Inconsolable

(Lester, Boukydis, Garcia-Coll, & Hole, 1990)

“Late afternoon fist-shaking rage”

colic is crying of infancy
Colic is Crying of Infancy
  • Begins early:
    • 100% by 3 weeks
  • End varies:
    • 50% by 2 months
    • 80% by 3 months
    • 90% by 4 months

(Weissbluth, 1998)

medical conditions to consider in infants with excessive crying
Medical Conditions to Consider in Infants with Excessive Crying
  • Medical conditions account for <5% of infants with excessive crying
  • But it’s important to identify them so they can be treated!
why there s nothing just about colic
Why There’s Nothing “Just” About Colic?
  • Excessive crying may be a risk factor for:
    • Parent/infant relationship distress
    • Child abuse
    • Developmental/behavioral concerns
    • Maternal depression
excessive crying and abusive head trauma
Excessive Crying andAbusive Head Trauma

2.75 hrs.

Age in Weeks

(Holliday-Hanson, Barr, & Trent, 2001)


Crying of normal development

Reflux or

Milk Protein Allergy

Regulatory problems, neurological hyper- sensitivity

Immaturity of the digestive system Excessive gas


Excessive Crying in Infancy

Underlying medical condition

Post Partum Depression

Environmental Stressors (Smoking)



start with what you know
Start With What You Know
  • What is your baby’s day like?
  • How do you know when your baby is tired or stressed?
  • How is feeding going? Sleeping?
  • What helps soothe your baby?
  • What developmental changes is your baby experiencing?
  • What is your level of distress around your baby’s crying?
common soothing strategies
Common Soothing Strategies
  • Containment
  • Rhythmic back and forth movement
  • Rhythmic sounds
  • Sucking/feeding
  • Warm or neutral temperature
  • Reducing amount of stimulation
  • Natural light
  • Parent support
plan for stressful moments
Plan for Stressful Moments
  • Sometimes babies are unsoothable
  • When you’re at the end of your rope:
    • Put the baby down
    • Take a break
    • Connect with someone
Call Anytime

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