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Why Don't Newborn Babies Cry Real Tears?

A newborn can be a handful. From soiled diaper to phlegm and pee, the loud noised crying is the one thing pulls the trigger. But, have you ever noticed that your newborn, while screaming at his or her loudest, is not producing any tears?

Even with their face all scrunched up and eyes tight shut - the crying seems almost fake when there is no real tear there. However, studies point out that it simply because of one reason and one reason only. Their tear ducts haven't developed yet [1] .

Newborns typically won't shed any tears because their tear ducts are still developing after birth.

Tear Ducts Won't Develop Until Two Months

A newborn baby is not born with a fully functioning tear duct as they do not develop until the babies are two months old. However, in some babies, the tear ducts can develop from two weeks onwards. The time difference in the development of tear ducts in newborns is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about [2] .

Doctors assert that, while the newborns are born with well-functioning tear ducts and tear glands, the tears they produce are only enough to lubricate and protect the eye. Thereby limiting the number of tears to be shared for it to be rolling down the baby's cheeks [3] .

However, their eye gets moist while crying and it takes about three to four weeks after birth for babies to have full-fledged crying marathons. When the newborn reaches one month old (actually between one and three months old), the tears will become more noticeable because, by that time, the tear glands would be functioning well and fine.

After Two Months, Too Little Tear And Too Much Tear Is Problematic

The doctors point out that, if even after the second month the baby is not producing any tears or is producing too much of it, it could be an indication that the tear duct may be blocked and infected [4] . A blocked tear duct also causes redness and swelling as well.

The symptoms of blocked tear ducts will only become noticeable after two weeks of the infection and can affect one or both of the ducts.

However, once the infection or blockage reaches the second week period - it becomes visible due to the watery eyes, pooling of tears in the corner of the eyes that spill over onto the cheeks, even when the baby is not crying [5] .

In this case, seek medical attention as soon as you can.

View Article References
  1. [1] Pollard, Z. F. (1979). Tear duct obstruction in children. Clinical pediatrics, 18(8), 487-490.
  2. [2] Nelson, F. (1953). Management of congenital occlusion of the tear duct. American journal of ophthalmology, 36(11), 1587-1590.
  3. [3] Drapkin, Z., Franchek-Roa, K., Srinivas, G. L., Buchi, K. F., & Miescier, M. J. (2019). Is my baby normal? A review of seemingly worrisome but normal newborn signs, symptoms and behaviors. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 37(6), 1153-1159.
  4. [4] Sathiamoorthi, S., Frank, R. D., & Mohney, B. G. (2019). Incidence and clinical characteristics of congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 103(4), 527-529.
  5. [5] Turgut, B., Çatak, O., & Demir, T. (2018). Meibomian gland dysfunction: an overlooked eyelid disease. Adv Ophthalmol Vis Syst, 8(3), 168-172.
Story first published: Friday, November 1, 2019, 9:00 [IST]