Reasons for Baby Not Crying at Birth

A baby crying is unsettling to hear. But there’s one moment where everyone wants to hear a baby cry—at birth! Why do babies cry when they’re born? Is it a bad thing if they don’t cry? Below, we’ll answer those questions, and provide possible reasons why some babies don’t cry at birth.

Why Do Babies Cry When They Are Born?

Most babies cry at birth because they’re suddenly taken out of their warm, dark, cozy den into a cold, noisy, foreign place. It’s similar to being startled from slumber by a bucket of cold water poured over your head and heavy metal blasting on nearby speakers. If it happened to you, you might cry, too!

So that’s one of the reasons why babies cry at birth. Here’s another: sometimes babies need a bit of stimulation to take their first breath. The neonatal staff might massage their skin to do this. This unexpected stimulation can cause them to cry. 

What if a Baby Doesn’t Cry at Birth?

“Oh, he’s got some good lungs!” That’s the go-to joke when doctors hear a baby break into a wail after leaving the womb. There’s some truth to it. 

A baby crying at birth is a sign that his lungs are healthy. However, if a baby doesn’t cry at birth, it doesn’t necessarily mean something’s wrong with his lungs. If the baby’s heart rate is normal and he’s breathing correctly, it’s ok if he doesn’t cry. 

Also, not crying isn’t always a red flag that the baby is ill. It could be that the baby’s cry is delayed because of some fluid stuck in the nose or mouth. Suctioning the fluid out usually results in crying. 

On the other hand, a lack of crying plus any additional warning signs is cause for alarm. Those warning signs could include:

  • A low Apgar score (a test to measure the baby’s overall health)
  • Abnormal pulse   
  • Blue or grayish skin color 
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Abnormal heart rate 
Newborn in NICU receiving medical care with equipment hooked up.

Reasons Why Some Babies Don’t Cry at Birth

More often than not, a baby bawling is the soundtrack to the finale of a birth. But some infants don’t cry immediately, due to various factors. 

Here are some reasons why a baby may not cry right away after birth:

  • Difficult labor
  • Short labor
  • C-section 
  • The mother’s pain medication made the baby sleepy 
  • They’re placed on their mother’s chest right away and experience little discomfort 
  • There’s been a complication, such as the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
  • The baby suffered birth asphyxia or oxygen deprivation

In summary, the reasons for babies not crying at birth can be benign. But they can also be serious. Babies that don’t cry due to a serious birth injury or congenital condition need medical intervention right away. 

Doctors are trained to know whether a baby’s lack of crying is worrisome or not. They should pay attention to other signs, such as heart rate, skin tone, and breathing to determine if something’s wrong. 

Babies With Birth Asphyxia May Not Cry After Birth

Birth asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen, can cause a baby to not cry at birth. This is because the baby is having trouble breathing. Birth asphyxia can stem from many birth complications, including meconium aspiration, placental insufficiency, and umbilical cord problems. 

Birth asphyxia is one of the major causes of infant mortality. It can lead to lifelong conditions such as:

If birth asphyxia is suspected or confirmed, doctors should work quickly to restore oxygen supply to the baby’s brain and vital organs. This may involve measures such as:

  • Providing oxygen therapy
  • Assisting with ventilation
  • Administering medications
  • Therapeutic hypothermia to reduce the risk of brain injury.
Scale of justice representing a lawyer's profession.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If your baby didn’t cry at birth and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, HIE, or another condition, it’s possible medical negligence was involved. You may be able to file a birth injury lawsuit and recover damages. 

If you suspect foul play, the first step you should take is to call an attorney. A birth injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a case. If evidence of malpractice is found, you may be eligible for compensation. A settlement or court award can cover your child’s hospital bills, future medical needs, and more. Ready to take that first step? Contact our experts for a free consultation.