Tips to soothe a crying baby

All babies cry, and some cry a lot. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you they need comfort and care.

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Sometimes it’s easy to work out what crying babies want and sometimes it isn’t. The most common reasons for crying babies are:

  • hunger,
  • a dirty or wet nappy,
  • tiredness,
  • wanting a cuddle,
  • wind,
  • being too hot or too cold,
  • boredom, or
  • overstimulation.

There may be times of the day when your baby tends to cry a lot and can’t be comforted. Early evening is the most common time for this to happen. This can be hard for you as it’s often the time when you’re most tired and least able to cope.

Try some of the following ways to comfort your baby. Some may be more effective than others:

  • If you’re breastfeeding, let your baby suckle at your breast.
  • If you’re bottle feeding, give your baby a dummy. Sterilise dummies as you would bottles. To avoid tooth decay don’t dip them in anything sweet. Some babies find their thumb instead. Later, some will use a bit of cloth as a comforter.
  • Hold your baby or put them in a sling so that they’re close to you. Move about gently, sway and dance, talk to them and sing.
  • Rock your baby backwards and forwards in the pram, or go out for a walk or a drive. Lots of babies like to sleep in cars, and even if they wake up again when you stop, at least you’ll have had a break.
  • Find something for them to listen to or look at. This could be music on the radio, a CD, a rattle or a mobile above the cot.
  • Try stroking your baby’s back firmly and rhythmically, holding them against you or lying face downwards on your lap. You could also undress your baby and massage him with baby oil, gently and firmly. Talk soothingly as you do it and keep the room warm enough. Some clinics run baby massage courses. For information, ask your midwife or health visitor.
  • Try a warm bath. This calms some babies instantly, but makes others cry even more.
  • Sometimes, rocking and singing can keep your baby awake. You might find that lying them down after a feed will help.
  • Ask your pharmacist for advice.

Crying during feeds

Some babies cry and seem unsettled around the time of a feed. If you’re breastfeeding, you may find that improving your baby’s attachment helps them settle. You can go to a breastfeeding or drop-in centre and ask for help, or talk to your peer supporter or health visitor.

It may be that something you’re eating or drinking is affecting your baby. Some things will reach your milk within a few hours, while others may take 24 hours. All babies are different, and what affects one won’t necessarily affect yours. You might want to consider avoiding dairy products, chocolate, fruit squashes, diet drinks and drinks containing caffeine.

If this doesn’t work, try keeping a note of when the crying happens to see if there’s a pattern. Sometimes, crying during feeds can be a symptom of reflux (acid indigestion), which is relatively common in babies. Speak to your GP or health visitor for more information and advice.

If your baby is crying excessively (nothing comforts them) see Excessive crying in Useful links, below. You can also talk to your health visitor or GP any time for support and advice.

Never shake your baby

No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Shaking moves their head violently, and can cause bleeding and brain damage.

Talk to a friend, your health visitor or GP, or contact Cry-sis on 0845 228 669


NHS Choices

Published Date 2010-12-20 12:33:27Z

Last Review Date 2009-07-28 22:00:00Z

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