Circumcision, Persistent Crying (Colic), and Parental Stress

His behavior changed from calm before the circumcision to inconsolable crying


Studies have already shown that circumcision can adversely affect mother-infant bonding. Infants traumatized by circumcision often cry more. Increased crying at two days has been connected with insecure emotional attachment with the mother at fourteen months. See Infant Responses to Circumcision.

We have communicated with numerous mothers who reported that their son’s behavior changed from calm before the circumcision to inconsolable crying after the circumcision. These circumcisions were performed at least a week after birth, allowing the mothers to become familiar with their son’s temperament. The extended crying after the circumcision lasted for hours each day and persisted up to a year. This behavior is often called colic.

Persistent crying is possibly due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms connected with circumcision. Research and clinical experience have shown that infant crying is a valuable physiological process that helps to resolve earlier trauma.

Persistent infant crying is much more than a parenting nuisance. Crying and the parental exhaustion associated with it can trigger serious problems.

  • relationship stress
  • breastfeeding failure
  • shaken baby syndrome
  • postpartum depression (affecting 10-15% of new mothers and many new fathers)
  • excess visits to the doctor/emergency room
  • unnecessary treatment for acid reflux
  • maternal smoking
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • suffocation
  • infant obesity
  • maternal obesity
  • automobile accidents

The enormous emotional strain may cause parents to feel they are providing inadequate care, triggering anxiety, stress, resentment, and low self-esteem.

Conversely, if an infant withdraws because of the trauma of circumcision, he will not communicate his needs, the mother will assume he is content, and his needs will not be met. Interaction between mother and child will be frustrating and less rewarding for the mother because she will receive only a limited response from her child.