Why Newborn Doesn’t Cry (Should You Be Worried?)
During your pregnancy, you might’ve heard about the importance of your baby’s first cry as they enter the world. However, not all babies cry, and this can be worrying to new parents.
We’re always told that during the first six months, all you’ll be doing is feeding, changing diapers, and soothing cries. So what does it mean when your newborn doesn’t cry? Should you be concerned or enjoy the peace and quiet few parents have?
You can find a lot of theories that less crying points to conditions such as autism, Down syndrome, or apnea. We’ll help ease your mind and make some sense of these newborn cries, or lack of them.
- A baby’s first cry signals they are breathing and clearing their lungs of fluid.
- Some newborns don’t cry because of a quick labor, cesarean section, or sedation effects.
- Apgar test helps doctors evaluate a newborn’s condition and if they need extra help.
- Babies communicate through other cues, such as hunger signs, sleepiness, and discomfort.
Table of Contents
- Why Newborns Cry
- Why Some Newborns Don’t Cry
- Reasons Why Some Babies Don’t Cry
- What a Crybaby
Why Newborns Cry
During delivery, your baby encounters hormonal changes that encourage them to take their first breath. This is usually when parents will hear their baby’s first cry.
Up until this point, your baby’s lungs were filled with fluid from the womb. As your baby breathes, the lungs expand, forcing the liquid out through the blood and lymph system (1).
The first breaths your newborn takes are likely to be irregular and shallow, but this is only for a moment. Soon they’ll become deeper and more regular, as they work to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. Next, blood will circulate the lungs.
Your baby’s first breaths are probably the hardest, which is why some need help. This is why you may see a nurse or neonatologist vigorously wiping the baby’s skin with a blanket or towel at birth. This stimulation encourages deep breathing and crying.
Generally, newborns will cry until they’re soothed, usually by being placed onto their mother’s chest. Following birth, your infant will cry whenever they need something, like feeding, a diaper change, or some attention. However, not all babies will cry — some cry significantly less.
A baby’s cry has an impact on many of the adults who hear it. Even if the baby isn’t yours, you may still feel somewhat distressed by the sound. Whenever we hear an infant cry, there’s something in our brain that makes it nearly impossible to ignore.
The effects of an infant’s cry aren’t as significant on non-parents as they are on parents. One study showed that when mothers hear their baby cry, it triggers an alarm, telling moms to care for them. In fathers, the cries caused more irritation than a need to provide care (2).
Either way, ignoring the cry isn’t easy.
Why Some Newborns Don’t Cry
At birth, most babies will cry due to the trauma of being born. If your labor was quick or you had a cesarean section, the hormonal changes might not have occurred.
Being heavily sedated can also affect your baby, too (3). If you receive pain medication, your unborn baby is likely to feel the effects as well, causing them to feel sleepy.
In such cases, your newborn may need some help getting their lungs going. Doctors and nurses can encourage your baby to breathe by physical stimulation. This will clear their airways so they can breathe on their own.
Babies born through cesarean section will typically cough or yawn instead of crying. Still, not crying during birth raises alarms, which is why doctors will examine your baby to check for abnormalities.
A doctor performs an Apgar test to evaluate your baby immediately after birth, usually within the first minute. The Apgar test will determine how well your baby tolerated birth and how they adapt to the outside world. Your doctor will look at five criteria, giving each a score of zero, one, or two.
The criteria are:
- Breathing efforts.
- Heart rate.
- Muscle tone.
- Skin color.
If your newborn isn’t breathing, for instance, doctors will give a score of 0 in that category. If they’re breathing well, they score a two.
After the initial Apgar test, another test is done five minutes post-birth to see how they’re adapting (4). If your baby’s score is low, doctors know to administer oxygen and will evaluate if further treatment is necessary.
Even with a low score at the first minute, most infants attain an expected score of 9 by five minutes after birth. Although the Apgar scoring system allows for a possible score of 10, infants are never given a score higher than 9. There is typically some residual cyanosis (blue color to the hands and feet), so 9 is always the maximum score given (meaning 1 for skin color). In other words, there is no need to worry about your baby not having a “perfect score of 10.” The AAP discusses variations in Apgar scores further.
Consult Your Doctor
Some babies will have a high t score and still not cry as much. If you have worries, you can always consult your baby’s pediatrician.
Reasons Why Some Babies Don’t Cry
Most babies have a natural crying instinct — they’re programmed to announce their arrival with a big “Waah.” Since newborns can’t talk yet, crying is simply the best way for them to communicate.
Still, as long as your baby’s needs are met, there’s no issue with them not crying as much. Every baby is different — some might feel hungry or cold but aren’t able to express it by crying.
If your pediatrician has determined everything is fine with your newborn, they may simply still be learning how to cry. If so, you must discover other gestures your little one might use to let you know what they need.
Clinically, I find that the amount of crying varies with the temperament of the baby. This is best seen with twins; one twin may seem to cry and vocalize often, while the other is calm, quieter, and cries less.
Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
This is also why it’s so tough for parents with babies who cry less. How do you know if their needs are met? It’s common to label a baby who cries less as an “easy baby” — but chances are it’s the opposite.
Here are some ways your newborn might communicate with you without crying (5):
1. Signs of Hunger
Crying isn’t the only way a baby signals their hunger — it’s typically their last resort (6). Once your baby begins to cry from hunger, it’s usually a violent, irritated cry as if they’re telling you off for ignoring the other cues. Here are some early hunger signals to look for:
- Turning their head toward your chest: Newborns will naturally seek their mother’s breast when hungry, even if you’re the dad. You can easily spot it when they open their mouths and turn toward you.
- Clicking tongue: Clicking or sucking the tongue is another early clue of hunger, along with licking lips. You may hear a sound similar to when they’re nursing.
- Hands in the mouth: Your baby may put their hands to their mouth when they’re feeling hungry.
2. Clues to Sleepiness
Knowing the signs of a sleepy baby isn’t always easy. Older babies may rub their eyes, yawn, or become irritable. However, newborns aren’t that advanced, and not all will rub their eyes.
Try to observe your little one’s fists. If they look closed and your baby has them near their face, it could be a clue. Your baby may also appear tense or paralyzed, yawn, or struggle to keep their eyes open.
It’s important that you respond to these signals as soon as possible. Not all newborns can lull themselves to sleep, and it can quickly escalate into a full-blown cry.
3. Needing a Diaper Change
Alright, so you may think this one is easy. However, because a newborn’s poop doesn’t have a distinct smell yet, it can be tricky (7). So, how can you tell when they’ve done the deed in their diaper?
Your baby might look uncomfortable, restless, or even irritated. Having a dirty diaper can make them cranky and moody.
If your little one falls asleep while wearing a soiled diaper, they may wake up suddenly. Another clue is if it’s been a while since the last diaper change — then it’s probably time to check.
What a Crybaby
When most of us think of babies, we instantly think of that constant cry every time they need something. Almost all babies are born with a natural crying instinct, designed to affect the adults around them. It’s a sound we associate with a healthy childbirth, an indicator that baby arrived well and is breathing.
So when your newborn doesn’t cry, it’s bound to raise some alarms. However, there are several reasons why some babies don’t cry. If the labor was quick, you had a cesarean section, or received pain medicine, then it can affect your baby. Nemour’s Hospital offers some additional tips, including when crying is excessive and abnormal.
If you have any worries, always consult your baby’s pediatrician.
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The Meaning and Implications if a Baby Doesn’t Cry at Birth
Do All Babies Cry at Birth?
The first sign of life—and survival–is the sound of a newborn’s cry after birth. At least, that is what most believe is the anatomy of new life. And yet, not all newborns cry. A mother who does not hear her baby cry may worry that something is wrong, that the baby is not breathing or reacting appropriately to living outside of the womb. However, humans are complex beings, and newborns are no exception. If your child did not cry at birth, you and your medical team might be alarmed for a good reason. There may also be un-alarming reasons why your newborn’s after birth cry is delayed.
Importance of an After-Birth Cry
Crying involves the musculoskeletal and respiratory systems. The coordination of the face muscles, opening mouth, quivering chin, esophagus, bronchial tubes, and lungs that occur when a baby cries already begins in the womb, according to a study from the mid-2000s. At 20 to 28 weeks gestation, fetuses were able to cry after receiving sound and vibration stimulation through the mother’s belly. The facial grimace, breathing consistent with crying and frowning all indicated signs of crying without the sound. The research confirmed that stimulation to make the fetus uncomfortable causes crying.
A baby’s first breath results from hormonal reactions that help empty the fluid from the lungs so that they can breathe air. The first breaths cause lung expansion and fluid expulsion into the circulatory and lymphatic systems. It takes a few breaths or more to regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide and get the blood circulating through the lungs. The effort of those first few breaths is tremendous, and some newborns need help. As such, neonatal staff massage the skin to stimulate breathing. The vigorous skin rubbing can encourage crying.
Likewise, when newborns leave the warm womb to exit into the cold hospital room, they experience discomfort that causes them to cry in order to breathe and expel fluids. That’s why babies who are instantly placed on their mother’s belly may not cry since they are warm and content. So long as their heart rate is stable and breathing normally, newborns do not have to cry to show healthy adaptation to the new world. A baby’s quiet arrival may mean they do not know how to cry yet or other benign reasons for their silence. However, vigilant doctors do not assume that there is some negligible reason for a baby’s silence.
What if a Baby Doesn’t Cry when Born?
A baby who does not cry may alert the doctor to examine the baby for problems. Importantly, an investigation and Apgar testing right after birth measures breathing, heart rate, muscle performance, skin color, and reflexes. This can be significantly revealing and may indicate an underlying medical issue that needs urgent attention.
Potential Reasons for a Baby Not Crying at Birth
Short labor and C-section delivery may interfere with the hormonal shifts that begin the breathing transition. Thus, a baby may not cry at birth. In addition, the mother’s pain medication may cause the newborn to be sleepy at birth, so they may need help jumpstarting the lungs. Other reasons may be a long, exhausting labor and the after-effects of an umbilical cord wrapped around the fetus’s neck, causing oxygen deprivation. When a newborn’s Apgar score for breathing low, the doctor may wait a moment to see if the baby can breathe independently or with further stimulation. The optimal score is 9 or 10 after assessing at one minute, five, ten, and fifteen. However, after five minutes, a low breathing score requires a doctor to act.
Babies who are breathing but do not cry are more likely to have some type of condition that threatens their survival. A baby may suffer from asphyxia or oxygen deprivation before, during, or after birth due to many causes. A low Apgar score of 3 or less at one and five minutes postpartum with poor muscle tone, respiratory problems, elevated acid levels in the cord blood, and bluish skin should raise the suspicion of oxygen depletion. In these situations, a baby whose breathing is not vital may need oxygen, but other than oxygen deprivation due to adjusting outside the womb, there are many potential reasons why a baby may not cry when born, some of which include serious congenital conditions and birth injuries.
In other words, many reasons, both benign and malignant, exist for babies not crying at birth. Some require medical assistance to start their breathing, while others may cry after birth, and a delay does not necessarily mean trouble.
Responding to Causes for Concern if Your Baby Doesn’t Cry after Delivery
Most see the cry as a sign of working lungs. Thus, if the cry is not audible after birth, the medical team begins to encourage crying by eliminating any impediments like fluid or meconium that must be suctioned from the mouth and nose. Silence and other troubling signs should cause the medical team to act. The baby may need breathing assistance with a ventilator or may have other medical conditions obstructing breathing or other bodily functions. An abnormal fetal heart rate before or during labor with high acid levels in the blood could be the first clue.
Coupled with a mother with low blood pressure, a poor functioning placenta, overdue pregnancy, compressed umbilical cord, or a highly agitated uterus, a doctor may suspect fetal or neonatal asphyxia. A baby that does not cry after the warning signs of asphyxia should medical professionals to act immediately after registering a low Apgar score. Delayed diagnosis of or response to the condition could lead to brain damage or death. It’s also possible a silent baby is one with congenital disabilities. Premature babies also do not cry, typically, and these infants often have health conditions that require additional assistance from doctors, nurses, and medical professionals.
Failing to Take Action to a Baby Not Crying may be Considered Medical Malpractice
All healthcare providers, especially doctors, must practice medicine competently, up to the appropriate standard required of them, given the circumstances. When other physicians would likely have known the signs and prepared for emergency delivery of a fetus in distress before the damage occurred or responded immediately to signs of a potential birth injury, your doctor’s choices and inaction may be considered medical malpractice. If your physician acted within reason given your pregnancy history, fetal development, and signs throughout labor and delivery, then even the best decisions may lead to poor childbirth outcomes through no one’s fault. This is why it is so important to have your case reviewed by an experienced birth injury lawyer who can investigate what happened in your case and identify possible negligence that may be reason for legal action.
Investigate What Happened in Your Baby’s Birth and Know Your Options if they were Injured in New Jersey
Consulting with our seasoned team of New Jersey birth injury attorneys can be incredibly helpful for your peace of mind and your understanding of your rights and options. You deserve to know whether your doctor may have caused injury to your newborn at birth or neglected to prevent one. Our lawyers can help you determine malpractice, consulting with knowledgeable medical experts who can review your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum medical records and give their expert opinions about your doctor’s performance and decisions.
If you suspect your physician’s, nurses, or other healthcare providers’ responses to your newborn’s silence caused or failed to identify the source of an injury requiring urgent care, contact us today for a free legal consultation. You can reach us anytime at 866-708-8617 to discuss your baby’s birth and learn more about how we may be able to help.
- Kc A, Lawn JE, Zhou H, et al. Not Crying After Birth as a Predictor of Not Breathing. Pediatrics. 2020;145(6):e20192719. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-2719
- Gingras, J. L., Mitchell, E. A., & Grattan, K. E. (2005). Fetal homologue of infant crying. Archives of disease in childhood. Fetal and neonatal edition, 90(5), F415–F418. doi:10.1136/adc.2004.062257
Six causes of baby crying — MK
When a child is still small and cannot speak, the only way to communicate with others is to cry. The baby cries when he is sad and lonely, when he wants attention, if he is hungry or uncomfortable. In addition, a child can cry if something hurts him — a tooth, stomach, ears, head. Sometimes the cause of crying can be so serious that it requires immediate medical attention.
Every mother should understand what is the reason for crying in a given situation. To do this, you need to know some subtleties.
Doctors call baby crying the first language of a person. Children’s doctors constantly repeat that not a single request for help from an infant should be left unattended. Therefore, the sooner a mother begins to understand what her child is “talking about”, the sooner mutual understanding will arise between them, which will remain for life. Very often, mothers understand why the baby is crying, at the level of instinct, but, unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are situations when the reason is not at all what the mother thinks.
So, there are several main causes of children’s crying.
First: the child wants the mother’s attention
More precisely, children need tactile contact that helps them feel safe. Babies are completely defenseless and very afraid to be alone, they need a constant feeling of security like air. This is very important, because the feeling of closeness of a loved one, on whom you can rely, in the future will help a person gain self-confidence. However, not only that.
Doctors have proved that communication between a child and mother, which includes touch, facial expressions, and looks, is very important for the development of vision, hearing and the child’s ability to communicate and speak in general. By the way, studies conducted in one of the US prisons showed that 97% of the criminals serving sentences there were separated from their mother in the first days of their lives.
Second: physiological needs
Little people have a lot of physiological needs. They include hunger, thirst, sleep, urination, and defecation. In addition, the child may be cold or, conversely, hot.
The most common physiological need is the need for food, so the child announces that he is hungry by crying. If in Soviet times pediatricians insisted on feeding the child strictly by the hour and drew up feeding schedules depending on age, now this rule has been abandoned: the baby must be fed exclusively on demand. He definitely won’t eat too much. Pediatricians note that strict feeding by the hour has not been practiced in the world for 40 years, as this contradicts the physiological processes of the body and can lead to negative manifestations on the part of the digestive and excretory systems, as well as lead to overstrain of the nervous system.
Sometimes children use crying to signal that they are cold. This can be understood by the following symptoms: a frozen child has a cold nose, and wrinkles appear near the elbows and under the knees.
The opposite situation can also be: the child is too hot or stuffy — and he informs the world about it by crying. In this case, the baby scatters legs and arms, his skin turns red, and a small red rash may even appear on it. If you notice such simple signs, change your child into lighter clothes or strip him naked and give him a healthy air bath for half an hour. It also does not interfere with giving the child a drink of warm water.
The crying of a child can also be caused by the need for sleep. Usually, babies begin to “inform” their mother that they are not averse to napping already from 2-3 months of age. At the same time, it is far from always that a baby can fall asleep on its own — mom needs to rock him or put him next to her.
Third: intestinal colic
This problem haunts almost all children, mostly boys, in the first three to four months of life. Because of her, the kids toil, cannot sleep — and, of course, cry. The fact is that at this age they have not yet formed the enzymatic system of the body, so gases accumulate in the intestines and cause squeezing of the abdomen and pain. And yet, the exact cause of intestinal colic is not fully known to scientists.
The following symptoms indicate that a child has impaired digestion: the tummy is enlarged and tense; the child first presses the legs to the stomach, and then straightens them sharply; tensely clenching his fists. In such cases, the children massage the tummy in a circular motion, put them on the stomach and take the legs away, like a frog. Give herbal teas or drugs that stimulate peristalsis and reduce gas formation. Nursing mothers are advised to carefully monitor their diet and eat less foods that cause increased gas formation, which include beans and legumes, milk, apples and pears, etc. In some cases, when nothing helps, they use special gas vent tubes that are sold in pharmacies However, pediatricians advise not to abuse them — there is a danger of damaging the children’s intestines.
Fourth: illness or discomfort
This group of reasons is called the most serious by pediatricians. If we talk about discomfort, then crying can be a baby’s reaction to a loud noise, unfamiliar speech, bright lights, an uncomfortable position, prickly fabric, a tight fold in clothes, a wet diaper or diaper. In this case, baby crying is usually demanding, but very short. It is easy to identify it, as, however, to find the cause and eliminate it.
However, the cause of children’s crying may be more disturbing. The child cries due to various diseases or malformations. Here, in no case should you engage in self-treatment and other amateur activities — you need to consult a doctor.
Doctors note that in the first six months of life, children who are breastfed suffer from infectious diseases much less often than «artificial» ones, because they regularly receive antibodies from their mothers that protect against viruses through milk. And yet, there is a risk of infection, especially if someone from the family has caught the virus or the mother visits public places with the child. Therefore, pediatricians recommend that all family members with small children should definitely carry out the prevention of viral diseases. Get vaccinated or take a course of systemic antiviral drugs.
However, if a child falls ill, the treatment should be as gentle as possible, preferably homeopathic. Herbal syrups, antiviral agents with a minimum number of side effects.
Another problem is teething. This process begins in a child at about the age of three months (for someone earlier, for someone later) — and most often it is not without pain, and sometimes temperature. As a result, the child, of course, cries. The first incisors erupt most painfully. Teething symptoms can also include inflammation of the gums, fever, increased salivation, and sometimes also upset stools.
By themselves, these symptoms do not pose any danger, but in this situation, the most important thing is not to miss the onset of a serious illness under the guise of “teething syndrome”. In what cases should you see a doctor?
If the child shows signs of anxiety for more than two days: refuses to eat, the temperature rises to more than 38 ° C, cough persists, shortness of breath, he needs help. The doctor will tell you what to do in this situation. To alleviate the symptoms, for example, a special dental ring, which is sold in any pharmacy, will help. It is best to pre-cool it — the pain will recede due to pressure on the gums and vasoconstriction under the influence of low temperature. In addition, you can give the child a pacifier. Chilled peeled cucumber or banana will also help. There are also special pharmacy products to relieve discomfort during teething of children’s teeth. Traditionally, special gels based on lidocaine are used to relieve pain in the gum area, which are applied in a thin layer to the area of inflammation. In addition, pharmacies sell herbal preparations that will help if teething goes according to a more serious scenario: with stool disorder and fever. Such medicines are instilled into the baby’s mouth. In addition, pediatricians note that physical activity also helps to improve the well-being of children, especially during bathing.
Allergies are called the epidemic of the 21st century. The reasons are not fully known: it can be ecology, industrial production of food, a large amount of genetically modified food, and poor water quality.
Children in their first year of life are very susceptible to food allergies. Most often it manifests itself in the form of skin rashes (the so-called atopic dermatitis), as well as in the form of various disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. The rash can cause pain, itching, and even lead to eczema, which can cause a child to cry for a long time, especially at night.
In most cases, allergic reactions develop in babies who are on artificial nutrition. But there are also those whom the mother breastfeeds. Especially if she makes mistakes in nutrition: she eats foods with a high risk of developing allergies. These include sweets, oranges, chocolate, fast food, red vegetables and fruits, cow’s milk, chicken eggs, etc. If a breastfed baby has allergic reactions, doctors prescribe a hypoallergenic diet to the nursing mother. If the baby is an «artificial», he needs to select a specialized therapeutic mixture.
WHEN YOUR BABY IS CRYING:
■ Hold your baby: this way the most common cause of crying can be eliminated.
■ If the baby continues to cry, it is likely that he is hungry or sleepy.
■ It is also a good idea to check the baby’s diaper — he may feel uncomfortable in it.
■ When trying to calm the baby, the mother must be calm — children often cry in response to the mother’s nervousness.
■ If all else fails, call your doctor.
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Why do small children cry?
Very often parents simply do not know why their child is crying. It would seem that the baby slept well, he is wearing comfortable clothes, he should not be hot or cold … What worries him?
Or does he have a bad temper? Is he spoiled for attention? How then, maybe, it is worth simply ignoring this crying? Cries and stops …
But studies have shown that children whose parents approach each time they hear crying grow up calmer. And those whose crying is ignored become capricious, spoiled, constantly demands attention, which they did not receive at an early age.
Sometimes adults at all costs try to explain a child’s crying by some good reason — the tummy is swelling, teeth are being cut, and the like. but there are not so many children whose intestines suffer from gases, and not all babies have teething painfully.
If everything is taken into account and analyzed, it turns out that about a third of children cry just like that, for no apparent reason. But there is a reason. It’s just that we adults don’t take it into account.
Anyone knows that if a person has experienced trauma, psychological and physical, he is experiencing. For an adult, to relieve tension, it is enough to speak out. And what about a child who does not speak yet? He can’t express his emotions in any way other than crying.
In this case, crying is nothing but a way to protect the nervous system from stress! And if a child cries for no reason, then most likely he wants to get rid of stress.
Babies cry because they need to!
And what do adults do in this case, trying to calm the child? They deprive him of the opportunity to relieve stress. And stress by itself does not go anywhere. Emotions that have no way out accumulate and place a heavy burden on the body.
Babies who are not allowed to cry, distracted by toys, pictures, pacifiers, develop more slowly than those who have the opportunity to cry. Such a baby is less inquisitive, does not actively study the surrounding objects, just lies in the crib and watches what is happening with a look that does not express anything.
So, should a crying baby be comforted or not? First, you need to make sure that he is crying for no apparent reason. Of course, it is difficult to learn to understand, to feel a child.
Some pediatricians believe that crying will bring relief to the child if it receives attention and support. You need to take the baby in your arms and … listen to how he cries.
And what does a baby get from such «passive» attention? First, your complicity. secondly, an important life lesson: if you left him alone now, he would understand that he is loved only when he is cheerful, and when he feels bad, no one needs him.
Parents should not feel sorry for themselves (say, his heart breaks from crying) — they should understand that crying is a process of release from pain. By the way, when children are allowed to cry, they become cheerful again and maintain a good mood for a long time.
What kind of injuries can cause stress?
First, birth trauma (prolonged labor, use of painkillers, bright lights and loud voices in the delivery room, and so on).