search Menu

Calming a crying baby

During these strange times a crying baby can be hard to cope with, especially when you are unable to see family and friends, or simply go for a walk when you need to.

It can feel very challenging when your baby cries, especially if they've been crying for a long time or they cry a lot every day. It’s especially hard in the middle of the night when the world is asleep, and you feel like the only person awake!

So how can you soothe your baby when it’s crying? You feel like you’ve tried everything, and you’ve followed all the advice you’ve been given by well-meaning friends and family. What’s next?

Remember – every baby is different. Some cry more than others. What works for one baby doesn’t always work for another. And just when you think you might be getting it... your method doesn’t work anymore!

Can you work out what’s wrong?

As we’ve said previously: there is no manual. If you can’t find any reasons why your baby might be in pain, they may just need some soothing and cuddles from you. Here’s a bit of a checklist:

  • Has your baby has been fed recently?
  • Have you changed their nappy?
  • Are they tired?
  • Have you checked their temperature?

If you think there’s something wrong, always follow your instincts and contact your GP or Health Visitor, or phone NHS 111.

But if everything else seems fine and you think they just need some soothing, here are some handy tips on how to help soothe your crying baby.

Comfort your baby

If you’re breastfeeding, offer your baby the breast. They may want feeding or may just want to use it for comfort. That’s absolutely fine to do this and not only may this method calm and relax your baby, because of the happy hormone (oxytocin) production in breastfeeding, it may help you feel calm and relaxed too.

Your baby may just want a cuddle or to be close to you. Try stripping down your baby to just their nappy and laying them on your bare chest. The sound of your heartbeat and the warmth will be soothing for them. Sing a gentle song or read a story so they can hear your voice. 

You can also try using a baby carrier or a sling. Often a baby will fall asleep while being worn because the sounds, movement, and warmth remind them of the womb. This can be comforting for both of you. Follow the TICKS advice for safe baby wearing: keep your baby in Tight, In view, Close enough to kiss, Keep their chin off their chest, with a Supported back. 

Do something different

Try doing the opposite of what you you’ve been doing! If you’ve been bouncing or rocking your baby, try holding them still, laying them flat on their back in a safe place with just your hand lightly resting on their tummy, or very gently swaying or walking with them.

Sometimes, too much stimulation can make your baby cry. You can try turning the lights down if it’s bright, keeping things quiet, and singing or talking soothingly in a low voice.

If you’re able to take an hour a day of outdoor exercise, it’s a good opportunity to have a change of scenery and get some fresh air, and they may enjoy the rhythmic feel of the buggy and having new things to look at. If you can’t get outside, walking into a different room can also help to give your baby a change of scenery. Something as simple as being in a different room can make all the difference. 

Try something relaxing

You could give your baby a warm bath as this some babies find this really relaxing.

You can also try stroking your baby’s back firmly and rhythmically – or try some baby massage. {Video]

Listen to your baby

Do try listening to your baby’s cries without running to immediately shush them or fix a problem. You might be surprised that you start to understand your baby’s different cries for different needs.

If you feel that you need help

As always, if you think there’s something wrong and you have concerns about your baby’s health, always follow your instincts and contact your GP or Health Visitor on their duty line, or phone NHS 111.

If you feel that you may lose control, it’s always okay to put your baby down in a safe place such as their cot, and take a five minute breather, or ask someone in your house to take over. No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Vigorous shaking can cause brain damage.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call the Cry-sis helpline on 08451 228 669, 7 days a week 9am-10pm. Cry.sis also have many helpful resources on their website.

ICON has various coping strategies on their site for coping with crying.  

And remember to visit our support and advice pages for more information on looking after your baby.

Hannah Mott and Elizabeth Parsons, Community Nursery Nurses

About the author

Hannah Mott is a Community Nursery Nurse