Soothing Your Crying Baby

When your newborn cries, try to attend to him as soon as possible. A hysterical infant is much harder to soothe. As your baby gets older, you may opt to let your little one fuss for a bit in the crib at night, to see if he can soothe himself back to sleep.

Regardless, when trying to stop the crying, check first to see if your baby is hungry, cold or in need of burping or a clean diaper. If the crying continues, and your baby doesn’t appear to be sick or in pain, try the soothing techniques below. Over time, you’ll discover which methods work best. 

Soothing Techniques

Swaddling – Newborns respond well to being wrapped snugly in a blanket (the swaddling method you were likely taught while still in the hospital). Swaddling recreates the continuous tactile sensation of being in the womb. It’s a great soothing technique, though some infants don’t like the feeling of confinement. Just remember:

  • Always put a swaddled baby down to sleep on his back (not his stomach) and monitor the infant periodically to make sure he stays on his back. 
  • Once your baby reaches 2 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends stopping the swaddling practice—well before the baby starts to try to roll over. A swaddled baby who can roll over is at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Movement – Picking up your baby also works, though not by calming her down. Rather, she becomes more visually alert and distracted, especially from the vantage point of your shoulder.

Other movements to try:

  • Hold and gently rock your baby while you stand, walk, dance or sit. Or try rocking her in an infant swing, cradle or stroller.
  • Take a walk outside with the baby in a stroller or sling.
  • Put the baby into a car seat and go for a drive.

Touch – Some babies like to be massaged. Try lying on your back, placing your baby on his stomach on top of you, and gently massaging his back.

If you think your baby may be suffering from gas, lay him on a firm surface and gently massage his stomach in a clockwise motion. Then gently press his knees toward his stomach to expel any air.
 

Sounds – Sing softly to your baby, speak gently or play soft music. Babies are often comforted by nearby rhythmic, repetitive sounds and white noise, such as washing machines, dishwashers, vacuums or fans.

Warmth – Give your baby a warm bath. Or hold her skin-to-skin and lay her face down on your lap on top of a safely wrapped hot-water bottle. (Never place your baby in direct contact with the hot-water bottle.)

Distraction – Try getting your baby’s attention with a soft rattle or brightly colored toy. Change the environment around you both; walk into a different room. 

See also …

•  Why babies cry

•  Calming a fussy baby – tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics

•  Signs your baby is overstimulated

•  VIDEO: When your baby is fussy

• VIDEO: How to swaddle your baby

•  The 5 S’s for soothing babies – a popular, effective method developed by pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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