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Why Doesn’t My Newborn Cry: Should I Be Worried?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Should all newborns cry? Should you worry about it or enjoy the silence?

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. But we’ve studied this subject thoroughly and are here to offer the answers we’ve discovered through research and medical practice.

Let us help ease your mind and make some sense of these newborn cries — or lack of them.

Key Takeaways

  • 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.

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.

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 in 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, something in our brain makes it nearly impossible to ignore.

The effects of an infant’s cry aren’t as significant on non-parents as on parents. One study showed that when mothers hear their babies 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 (3). If you receive pain medication, your unborn baby will likely feel the effects, causing them to be 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:

  1. Breathing efforts.
  2. Heart rate.
  3. Muscle tone.
  4. Reflexes.
  5. Skin color.

If your newborn isn’t breathing, for instance, doctors will give a score of zero in that category. If they’re breathing well, they’ll score a two.

After the initial Apgar test, another test is done five minutes post-birth to see how your baby is 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 Apgar 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 tell you what they need.

Clinically, I find that the amount of crying varies with the baby’s temperament. This is best seen with twins; one twin may seem to cry and vocalize often, while the other is calm, quieter, and cries less.
Headshot of Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Editor's Note:

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 the person holding them is dad. You can easily spot it when they open their mouth and turn toward you.
  • Clicking tongue: Clicking or sucking the tongue is another early hunger clue, 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 yawn, appear tense or paralyzed, 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, it can be tricky because a newborn’s poop doesn’t have a distinct smell yet (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.


Are Some Babies Just Quiet?

Yes, some babies are naturally quieter than others. The frequency and volume of a newborn’s cry vary. While some are vocally expressive right from birth, others may be more subdued or quiet.

How Often Does the Average Newborn Cry?

On average, newborns cry for about two hours a day. This crying typically peaks at around 6 weeks and then gradually decreases.

When Do Newborns Cry the Most?

Newborns tend to cry the most during the first few weeks to three months of life, often in the late afternoon and evening hours.

What Percentage of Babies Don’t Cry When Born?

It’s uncommon for babies not to cry immediately after birth. Most newborns will cry to some extent, but a small percentage may not cry right away due to various factors like health conditions or a calmer demeanor.

Why is My Baby Not Producing Real Tears?

Newborns often don’t produce real tears until they are several weeks old. Before this, they can cry, but you may not see visible tears.

Do Babies From Different Countries Cry Differently?

Research suggests that babies’ cries may be influenced by their mother’s language, leading to subtle differences in cry melodies across different cultures.

Do Down Syndrome Babies Cry Less?

Babies with Down Syndrome may sometimes cry less, or their cries might sound different, due to muscle tone variations and other factors related to the condition.

What a Crybaby

When most of us think of babies, we instantly think of that constant cry whenever 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 the 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, it can affect your baby. Nemours Hospital offers some additional tips, including how to know when crying is excessive and abnormal.

If you have any worries, always consult your baby’s pediatrician.

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Headshot of Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Leah Alexander, M.D. FAAP is board certified in General Pediatrics and began practicing pediatrics at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey in 2000. She has been an independently contracted pediatrician with Medical Doctors Associates at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey since 2005. Outside of the field of medicine, she has an interest in culinary arts. Leah Alexander has been featured on Healthline, Verywell Fit, Romper, and other high profile publications.