My baby is crying all the time

Babies cry for many reasons – most commonly because they are hungry or need a nappy change. Sometimes babies cry because they are uncomfortable or are unwell. This may be due to colic, reflux, constipation or infection amongst other things (see below).

Your health visitor can provide advice and support and signpost local support services. 

Sometimes the crying can feel like it’s becoming too much, if this is the case ICON provides advice to help understand infant crying and suggests comforting methods that can be helpful. 

  • I - Infant crying is normal
  • C - Comforting methods can help
  • O - It's OK to walk away
  • N - Never, ever shake a baby

Also, Cry-sis is a charity which provides advice and a helpline to support those caring for babies who cry excessively or have sleeping problems. 

Below are some things to look out for if your baby is crying that may suggest they are unwell. 


When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

  • Has blue lips 

  • Is pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch 

  • Has pauses in their breathing lasting more than a few seconds or has an irregular breathing pattern  

  • Shows signs of working hard to breathe. These include constantly breathing fast, flaring of the nostrils, drawing in of the muscles below the ribs or making a grunting noise every time they breathe out 

  • Is too breathless to feed 

  • Is extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction), confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake) 

  • Is stiff or rigid or makes repeated, jerky movements of arms or legs that doesn't stop when you hold them (a fit or seizure) 

  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’) 

  • Is under 3 months of age with a temperature of 38°C or 100.4°F or above (unless fever in the 48 hours following vaccinations and no other red or amber features)  

You need urgent help

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • Is finding it hard to breathe 

  • Not interested in feeding and or seems dehydrated (no tears, sunken soft spot on the head, drowsy or no wet nappies in the last 8 hours) 

  • Is becoming drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them) – especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down 

  • Is getting worse or if you are worried 

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today

Please call your GP surgery or contact NHS 111 - call 111.

If symptoms persist for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to either a member of staff from your GP practice or to NHS 111 staff, recheck that your child has not developed any red features.

If none of the above features are present and your baby:

  • Continues to feed well 

  • Has plenty of wet nappies 

  • Watch them closely for any change and monitor for any red or amber symptoms 

Additional advice is also available for families to help cope with crying in otherwise well babies – click here 

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child contact your Health Visitor or call NHS 111 – dial 111

Conditions that can cause a baby to cry excessively:


  • Most babies experience some degree of reflux because the muscular valve at the end of the food pipe, which keeps food in the stomach, is still developing. Reflux may cause your baby to bring up milk after a feed, and can also give them hiccups. As long as your baby is growing normally and is not showing any marked signs of distress, there is no need to worry.
  • More severe reflux can cause your baby to cry and be sick, often after feeding. The long name for severe reflux is gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). This means that when your baby's tummy is full, food and stomach acid flow back up their food pipe causing discomfort and pain.
  • If you have tried the measures described above and seen no improvement, see your Health Visitor. They will review your child’s symptoms, give advice and may possibly advise an antacid designed for babies.
  • Click here to watch a video on reflux by Best Beginnings

Your baby may be crying because they have an infection. This is usually associated with a temperature above 38°C or 100.4°F. Although the most likely cause is a viral infection, other causes include urinary tract infections or very occasionally a more serious illness such as meningitis or sepsis. In a baby, signs of a serious infection include:

  • becoming pale and floppy or having blue lips
  • being fretful or excessively miserable when touched
  • becoming difficult to rouse
  • finding it hard to breathe
  • developing a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the Glass Test)

Your child needs urgent help if any of these features are present - go to the nearest hospital emergency (A&E) department or phone 999

Colic can cause excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It's a common problem that affects up to one in five babies. Although the cause is unknown, it is likely to be due to intestinal discomfort like bowel cramping.

Colic tends to begin when a baby is a few weeks old. It normally stops by four months of age, or by six months at the latest.

Looking after a colicky baby can be very frustrating and distressing, but the problem will eventually pass and is usually nothing to worry about.

Signs and symptoms of colic include:

  • Your baby often starts crying suddenly.
  • The cry is high-pitched and nothing you do seems to help
  • The crying begins at the same time each day, often in the afternoon or evening
  • Your baby might draw their legs up when they cry
  • Your baby might clench their hands
  • Your baby's face might flush
  • The crying can last for minutes or hours. A baby with colic cries for 3 hours a day or more
  • The crying often winds down when your baby is exhausted or when they have passed wind or poo

For more information on colic, click here


Being constipated is another cause of excessive crying babies. However, the crying tends to stop once your baby has had a poo.

Formula fed babies are more prone to constipation because formula can be harder to digest than breastmilk. A breastfed baby is far less likely to get constipated.

Signs of constipation may include:

  • Crying and discomfort, irritability or pain before doing a poo
  • Dry, hard, pellet-like poo that is hard to pass
  • Foul-smelling wind and poo
  • A hard belly

Try not to worry too much if your baby becomes constipated. It's likely to happen now and then. Simple things you can try at home if your baby is constipated include:

  • Gently move your baby’s legs in a bicycling motion to help move the hard poo along
  • If your baby is drinking formula, give them extra water in between feeds, but don’t dilute the formula. Make sure that you are using the recommended amount of milk powder when making up a bottle

Too much powder can dehydrate your baby, causing constipation. For babies under 6 months, use water from the mains tap in the kitchen - you will need to boil then cool the tap water because it is not sterile straight from the tap. Water for babies over 6 months of age doesn't need to be boiled.

If your baby is in significant pain despite doing this, you should take them to see your GP who may decide to start them on treatment.

Where should you seek help?

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between


You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughscolds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  • Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP
  • Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately
  • Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  • Doctors or GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E
  • Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, you can call 111 or use 111 online.

Please note that 111 online is for people aged 5 and over. Call 111 if you need help for a child under 5.

An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  • Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services
  • If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment
  • Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
Survey for parents and carers - what was the outcome of you looking at this page?