Can a Baby Die From Crying Too Long? Potential Risks

| Reviewed By Sarah Schulze, MSN, APRN, CPNP

Each parent can relate to the instinct to comfort their children when they cry, and the frustration when their efforts prove unsuccessful.

Struggling to understand why your child is crying, how to help them, and when to be concerned is a normal part of parenthood.

Can a baby die from crying? A baby cannot die from crying. However, repetitive prolonged periods of distress can cause negative repercussions on social and emotional development. Hormone imbalances caused by these occurrences can also affect physical growth and brain development. 

The information in this article will help you to identify underlying issues and possible solutions when it comes to your fussy baby. 

Crying in Babies: What’s Normal & Potential Risks

Crying is the first form of verbal communication that a child learns. It’s their way of signaling that something requires their caregiver’s attention. 

Can Too Much Crying Hurt A Baby?

Crying too much doesn’t cause an otherwise healthy baby physical pain.

They may experience some symptoms after crying such as flushed cheeks, increased body temperature, sore throat, congestion, or runny nose. However, these symptoms should fade within the hour. 

Risks Associated With Prolonged Crying

Studies show that repetitive exposure to hormone imbalances associated with bouts of prolonged crying can cause negative impacts on the brain, development, and psyche.

These imbalances can impact nerve connections, physical growth traits, and immune suppression. 

These studies only examine cases where the child’s needs were ignored. These are not conclusive findings for babies diagnosed with colic or other underlying medical conditions. 

Normal Crying For A Baby

Determining how to manage prolonged crying can be tricky since each baby is unique in their response to stimuli. Thankfully, there is a general guideline for differentiating between normal and excessive quantities of crying.

Normal Crying For Newborn

The average newborn will cry for up to 3 hours a day for the first 6 weeks of life. If your child cries for more than 3 hours a day, consult your doctor for underlying conditions or colic. 

Normal Crying For Baby 2-6 Months

Crying usually decreases to 1 hour per day around this time. If your child has colic, crying may persist, but a decline should occur within this time frame. 

Normal Crying For Baby 7-12 Months

At this point, your child is learning new methods of communication. When in need of attention, they’re likely capable of using hand gestures, crawling, or walking to you.

Keep in mind that stressors, such as sleep regressions, separation anxiety, illness, or injury can still cause prolonged crying patterns.

What Qualifies As Excessive Crying? 

Excessive crying, also known as colic, is diagnosed using the rule of three.

If your baby cries for more than three hours a day, at least three days a week, for three weeks straight, then speak with your pediatrician regarding colic diagnosis and management. 

Up-close image of a screaming newborn lying on a bed.

How Long Can A Baby Cry Without Stopping? 

The duration of these crying episodes varies, especially in children with colic. Crying to signal discomfort, hunger, or pain will typically escalate quickly and last until the need is met. 

Is It Okay To Let A Baby Cry If Nothing Is Wrong? 

Babies cry for a variety of reasons outside of distress. Crying serves to help alleviate tension, burn extra energy, and shut out overwhelming environmental stimuli.

Regardless of the cause, addressing a baby’s attempts at communication is important to their emotional and social development, especially in the first 6 months. 

How Long Should You Let Your Baby Cry? 

Newborns are not capable of self-soothing and must have someone to tend to them immediately.

After 6 months of age, a child can begin to learn self-soothing techniques like sucking on their fingers or rocking their bodies.

At this point, leaving your baby to cry for intervals of 10 minutes or less has benefits, such as improved sleep patterns. 

Is Crying Good For Baby Lungs? 

The biological process by which the lungs develop and strengthen has no scientific correlation to the act of crying.

In fact, if your child is suffering from any illness involving the respiratory system, then prolonged bouts of crying can irritate or worsen those conditions. 

When To Be Concerned About Your Baby’s Crying

It’s time to be concerned about your baby’s crying when it is partnered with other symptoms or exceeds three hours a day.

In these cases, it’s best to call the pediatrician and schedule an appointment. Prolonged crying could be attributed to underlying medical conditions or colic. 

Why Does My Baby Cry For No Reason?

Babies don’t often cry for no reason. Though a need may not be physically evident, that does not mean one does not exist. If you’ve tried various soothing methods and tended to their needs but crying persists, seek advice from your pediatrician. 

How To Stop Baby Crying

There are many methods to soothe your little one. Be adaptable and try a variety of techniques until you find what works for you and your baby.

1. Back to The Basics

The first thing to do is make sure that their basic needs are fulfilled. See to it that they are comfortable by changing to a clean diaper and checking their temperature.

Offer food or drink to ensure that they’re not hungry. Look for signs of pain or exhaustion.

2. The Four “S”s 

  • Swaddling: A swaddle is a tightly wrapped blanket that soothes the baby by replicating the spacial feeling of the womb. Keep in mind that swaddles are only meant to be used until your child starts rolling over. 
  • Sucking: Offer a pacifier or help the baby find their finger. Sucking motions soothe a baby without filling their stomach. If breastfeeding, wait to offer these alternatives until your child has established a good latch.
  • Swaying: Try swinging, rocking, or gliding your baby. If you use a carrier, sling, swing, rocker, or glider, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions for correct use and safe sleep protocol. 
  • Shhh-ing: Sometimes just the sound of your voice is enough to calm a weeping young one. Check that they’re not overstimulated by moving to a quiet space and repeating slow, quiet, soothing sounds.

3. Take Them Outside or Put Them In Water

If weather permits, take the baby outside and carry them around. The change in temperature and environmental stimuli is likely to at least temporarily calm the baby.

Alternatively, run them a bath or shower. Water has a plethora of benefits, from mimicking the womb to regulating temperature and relieving gas. 

4. Divide and Distract 

When it seems like you’ve tried everything, call in reinforcements. Have your partner or a support person try various soothing methods with or without you in the room.

Oftentimes, just hearing a different voice, being held a different way, or smelling a different person can calm a baby down. 

Related Questions:

How Long Does Colic Last In A Baby? 

Colic often begins around 3 weeks of life and is the most intense in the first 6 weeks. It typically lasts until 3-6 months depending on the child. 

Can A Baby Die From Not Sleeping?

A baby cannot die from not sleeping since eventually, the baby’s body will force sleep.

However, sleep deprivation is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as it affects crucial biological sleep responses. 


While healthy babies do not suffer physical harm from crying, there are studies that show negative effects on physical, social, and emotional development. Responding to your baby’s cries in a timely manner is the best course of action.