Mild Fussiness of Unknown Cause
Comforting: Try to comfort your child by holding, rocking, massage, etc.
Sleep: If your child is tired, put him to bed. If he needs to be held, hold him quietly in a horizontal position or lie next to him. Some overtired infants need to cry themselves to sleep.
Undress Your Child: Sometimes part of the clothing is too tight or uncomfortable. Also check the skin for redness or swelling (e.g., insect bite).
- Your child is crying and fussing more than usual, but acting normal when not crying.
- He could be coming down with an illness and that will usually become clear in a day or so.
- He could be reacting to some changes in your home or child care setting. See if you can come up with some ideas.
- Children can also temporarily go through a "clingy phase" without an explanation.
- If the crying responds to comforting, it's not serious.
Expected Course: Most fussiness with illnesses resolves when the illness does. Most fussiness due to family stress or change (e.g., new child care) lasts less than 1 week.
Call Your Doctor If:
- If your child is taking a cough or cold medicine, stop it.
- The crying should stop within 4 hours.
- Antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl) can cause screaming and irritability in some children.
- The FDA does not approve any of these medicines for children under 4 years old.
- Constant crying lasts over 2 hours
- Intermittent crying lasts over 2 days
- Your child becomes worse
Normal Protest Crying
- Normal children cry when they don't get their way.
- Normal children cry when you make changes in their routines.
- Crying is their only form of communication in the first years of life.
- Crying can mean, "I don't want to".
- This is called normal protest crying and is not harmful.
- Do not assume that crying means pain.
Temper Tantrum Crying
Tips for Responding to Temper Tantrums:
- Crying is the most common symptom of a temper tantrum.
- This is likely the cause if most of the crying occurs when your child is angry, upset or trying to get his way.
- All kids have some temper tantrums, starting at about 9 months of age.
- Ignore most tantrums (e.g., demanding something the child doesn't need).
- For tantrums from frustration (e.g., when something doesn't work), help your child.
- For aggressive (hitting) or destructive (throwing) tantrums, put in timeout until your child calms down.
- Don't give in to tantrums. No means No.
- Be a good role model. Avoid yelling or screaming at others (adult tantrums).
Sleep Problem Crying
Tips for Treating the Sleep Problem:
- Your child may have a sleep problem if most of your child's crying occurs when you put him in his crib (or bed) and at night. Suspect a sleep problem if your child acts normal during the day.
- Sleep problems are common in childhood.
- Re-train your child to be a good sleeper at bedtime and naptime.
- Place your child in the crib "drowsy but awake".
- Once placed in the crib, don't take out again.
- Visit your child as often as needed until asleep.
- For night awakenings, however, it's fine to hold your child.
- Do all of this in a loving way with a calm voice.
- Never feed until asleep.
- Never sleep in the same bed with your child.
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. Clinical content review provided by Senior Reviewer and Healthpoint Medical Network.
Last Review Date: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011 2:55:50 PM
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Version Year: 2012
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.