Suggested ways to soothe a crying baby plus useful information on coping with your baby crying.
All babies cry and some babies cry a lot. This is perfectly normal. Babies cannot tell us what they want, so they cry to attract our attention when they need something. Often you will know exactly why your baby is crying. It may be from hunger, because of a wet or dirty nappy, from tiredness, or perhaps from frustration at not being able to reach a toy. But sometimes it can seem as if nothing will stop your baby crying. This can be an anxious time. Hearing your baby crying is distressing for both parents and carers. You may worry that there is something seriously wrong with your baby, or be afraid that he's never going to stop.
However parents have found ways to help sooth their babies and cope with excessive crying some may work for you:
Is baby hungry?
Is baby thirsty?
- Offer breastfeed or bottlefeed
Is baby in pain?
- Offer drink from spoon or bottle
Is baby tired but fights sleep?
- Check for illness or allergies with GP or Health Visitor
- Offer the breast, bottle or dummy
- Offer cool boiled water, an infant colic remedy e.g. Infacol, gripe water or baby herbal remedy
- Try gentle massaging of baby's tummy
- Try changing baby's position
- Pick baby up and walk about with him/her - a sling can be helpful
- Try gently rocking up and down
Is baby fighting at the breast?
- Offer breast, bottle, dummy
- Try rocking baby horizontally in your arms or in the pram/pushchair
- Try a rocking or swinging cradle
- Try a quieter room
- Leave baby to cry for a short time
- Try a softer light or a darker room
- Use a baby soother cassette or sing to your baby
- Some very quiet background noises may soothe baby
- Try ticking clocks, or make cassettes of vacuum cleaners, hairdryer noises, etc.
- Check that baby is comfortable and that he/she is not too hot or cold
- Check tummy to gauge temperature
- Car rides or pram walks may help baby to fall asleep
- Let baby sleep in fresh air
- Try a warm bath
Is there too much milk?
- Check baby's position at the breast, most of your nipple should be inside the baby's mouth
- Check baby's nose is free of the breast (his/her head should be tilted back slightly)
- Let baby suck on a dummy and substitute breast quickly
- Check to see whether his/her nose is blocked and consult Health Visitor or GP if necessary
- Try changing feeding position, e.g. sitting up, lying down
Is there too little milk?
- If so, express some off before feeds or feed on one breast, changing sides at each feed for a few days
Difficulty bottle feeding?
- Consult Health Visitor, GP or a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) counsellor if you are still experiencing problems
Is baby uncomfortable?
- Try a different bottle or teat
- Check the size of the teat hole and change to a different size if necessary
- Try offering bottles more frequently for a few days
- Leave half an hour, then try once again
- Consult Health Visitor or GP
- Change baby's nappy
- Try different nappies or leave off plastic pants
- Let baby kick nappy-free
- Check for nappy rash - consult Health Visitor
- Check for clothing rashes
- Check baby's temperature by feeling tummy - adjust clothing accordingly
Is baby generally cranky?
- Handle and talk to baby gently and quietly
- Do not overwhelm baby with stimulation
- Try a quieter environment. Try to keep to a routine and limit the number of visitors
- Check for illness consult Health Visitor or GP
- Talk to your baby
- Play with him or her - use toys or safe household objects
- Let baby kick nappy-free
- Try using a sling to carry baby around
- Try a bouncing chair or baby bouncer (always follow manufacturers guidelines)
- Take baby out in pram or buggy
- Visit a friend
- Comfort by gentle rocking movement or soothing noise
- Offer baby a feed
- Massage baby and give warm bath
- Consult registered homoeopath
- Try infant herbal remedies or infant colic remedies e.g. Infacol
- Consult a registered cranial osteopath with paediatric experience
- Put baby down, shut door, walk out of room for a break
- Give baby to someone else for a few hours if possible
- Use any time away from baby to look after yourself. Eat well and unwind
- Go out with baby
- Phone your Health Visitor, GP, the CRY-SIS Helpline, friend or relative
Ideas for settling a baby under a year old
- 1. Make sure baby is not hungry or thirsty.
- 2. Check that baby is comfortable and that his/her nappy is clean and dry
- 3. Make sure the clothing is not too tight.
- 4. Is baby too hot or too cold? Check baby's tummy temperature.
- 5. Rhythmic movement often settles babies. Rocking in a pram and gentle swinging in a crib can have a hypnotic effect. Baby slings are useful as they provide continual movement plus the security of Mum or Dad.
- 6. Some babies like light, others prefer the dark.
- 7. Soother tapes and devices may help babies fall asleep. A bedtime routine is a worthwhile investment for the future. This is best introduced as soon as possible with perhaps a warm bath before bedtime and a quiet feed and cuddle before sleep.
- 8. From 3 months babies are becoming aware of their environment, so other methods of settling them to sleep can be considered. Mobiles and soft playthings above the cot prevent boredom and make baby's cot a more enjoyable place to be.
- 9. As babies get older a particular toy or "cuddly" can be encouraged so that baby is more secure on his/her own. Soft toys in the cot can act as insulators - avoid overheating baby.
- 10. Many of them find their own fingers and thumbs to suck for comfort.
A crying baby can be exhausting and stressful. When a baby cries during the night it can be a particularly lonely time for parents. But the last thing you should do is lose your temper. Shouting at or getting rough with a baby who won't stop crying will only make matters worse. Whatever your feelings or thoughts, never shake your baby. Shaking babies is very dangerous. Remember, this difficult time will not last forever. If you feel you can't cope and need a break - and we can all feel like this sometimes - it's very important not to overreact from frustration. Give yourself time to think through some of the alternative options to stop your baby crying.