Newborn Babies Will Cry Without Tears Until They are Several Weeks Old

Julia 11

Today I found out newborn babies cry without tears until they are several weeks old.

Newborn babies are incapable of producing actual tears because their tear ducts haven’t fully formed yet. In many cases, their underdeveloped tear ducts can also be clogged with amniotic fluid for a time after birth.

Every baby is born with basal tearing, which means that their tear ducts create enough moisture only to keep the eyes wet and healthy. Proper tears in a baby begin around 3 to 12 weeks old. In some cases, it will take even longer – up to the first several months of a baby’s life.

Interestingly, despite this lack of “crying” tears, newborns do have reflex tearing; the kind that adults get when slicing an onion, for example.

Bonus Fact:

  • Babies are also born without fully functioning salivary (spit) glands. At first, their food is entirely liquid so there is no need for saliva. During the first three months of baby’s life, their salivary glands kick into gear and another problem appears – swallowing your own saliva is a learned skill which a baby hasn’t developed yet, which is one of the reasons babies tend to have a bit of a drooling problem.

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11 Comments »

  1. Zwrzi May 3, 2011 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Oh, that’s the reason why…I thought Johnson’s baby shampoo was responsible.

  2. John May 4, 2011 at 3:09 am - Reply

    I’m sorry but babies not having saliva simply isn’t true. If they didn’t, they would have exremely dry mouths and bad breath due to bacterial growth. For an example of proof, see this study: http://www.earlyhumandevelopment.com/article/S0378-3782(01)00130-X/abstract

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven May 4, 2011 at 3:32 am - Reply

      @John: Thanks for including the source. It seems the original source (Infants and Toddlers from Suite101, which is usually a very accurate source) was wrong for that factoid in that they do have developed salivary glands at birth, but there is some contention out there among various reputable sources as to when they start working. I’ve now found two reputable sources that say they start working in the womb and three that say not until a couple months has passed do they start working properly, including this one from the University of California, Children’s Hospital. Any pediatricians out there want to clear this up?

      I’m guessing it’s an issue where they work just enough to moisten the mouth slightly at first and slowly kick in gear to normal levels of saliva production within the first two months or so, but that’s just a theory.

  3. debra Pryor June 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Its also because if a small baby could cry tears it could become severly dehydrated ;)

  4. Beth Reed October 14, 2012 at 6:30 am - Reply

    My son cried real tears as soon as he was born, and a lot of them! He was at least 40 weeks old and over 9 lbs so I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. All babies are different and many are born at different stages of development. When everyone at the hospital said “Look he’s crying real tears” I thought yeah, so what??

  5. Yer Pal April 25, 2013 at 4:22 am - Reply

    So all that whining from newborns is just faking it? Shut up you babies! :)

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