17 Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby
A crying baby can send even the most seasoned parent into a small panic—especially if you can't figure out just what is wrong. Is your baby hungry? Tired? Colicky? Hot? Cold? Trust me—we've all been there.
The truth is, there are a variety of reasons a baby may be upset. Figuring out which of those reasons is causing the fuss—and learning just what to do to fix the problem—is key to knowing how to soothe a crying baby.
The below tips will help you figure out why you have a crying baby, what to do when babies cry, and how to soothe colic in a fussy baby. If your infant is having trouble sleeping, you can also try one of our favorite baby sleep aids to (hopefully) help your baby sleep through the night. And if you still can't figure out how to calm your crying baby or you think something may be wrong, don't hesitate to contact your pediatrician. After all, when it comes to your child, you could never be too careful. You've got this!
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Knowing why your baby is crying is key to calming them down. Photo by Rodnae Productions, via Pexels
Reasons Your Baby May Be Crying
No parent likes to have a crying baby, but it can be especially unnerving for a new parent. You find yourself frantically asking yourself, What's wrong? Are they sick? Should I call the doctor? Before you panic, it can be helpful to take a moment, breathe, and go through a checklist of the baby's needs to make sure they've been met. First, check to see if your little one is:
- Wet or Dirty – Your baby may simply need a diaper change.
- Hungry – A crying baby may be a hungry baby. Try offering a feeding to see if hunger is the issue.
- Hot or Cold – Babies may cry if they're wearing too many or too few layers. Check to see if they're sweaty or cold and change their clothes accordingly.
- Sick – If a baby has a fever or is under the weather, they will be fussier. Call your pediatrician if you're concerned about illness or your little one's temperature.
- Gassy – If your baby is squirming a lot, pulling their legs up to their chest, or getting red-faced while crying, gas may be causing their discomfort. Try burping the baby or pedaling their legs to get them to pass gas.
Chances are, one of those five things is the culprit. But if you've gone through this checklist and ruled them all out, your baby may simply be bored or craving closeness. Try changing the activity (reading, singing, strolling, etc.) or simply giving baby some quality cuddle time.
If you've done all of these things and none of them have worked, here are some more things you can try to soothe a crying baby.
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Sometimes a close cuddle and a gentle rock is all baby needs to stop crying. Photo by Kristina Paukshtite, via Pexels
Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby
1. Gently Rock the Baby
Rock-a-Bye Baby isn't just your standard lullaby. It holds the key to soothing a fussy baby. A gentle rocking motion in a glider or rocking chair can provide some soothing relief when a baby is crying. Some babies may enjoy being rocked in a bassinet or a swing. Or, hold your baby tightly in your arms and rock them gently while you walk around the room. Make the "shush" sound to provide even more comfort.
2. Harness the Power of the "Shush" Sound
The gentle, hushed sound of “sshhhhhhh” can really help calm a crying baby. Think of it as your own built-in white-noise machine!
3. Sing to the Baby
Speaking of lullabies... your baby has been listening to your voice in the womb for the past many months. Hearing your soothing songs outside in the world can help put your crying baby at ease. Don't worry if you're not Beyonce—your baby loves your voice just as it is, so sing to your heart's content!
4. Offer a Pacifier, Breast, or Bottle
This can be a strong source of comfort for any baby, fussy or not. Sometimes the sucking motion is just the ticket for a little one. If you offer a breast, your baby may be sucking for comfort or because they’re hungry. Depending on your little one’s preference, the position that they’re in when taking a pacifier or feeding can also determine the level of comfort. Try out different ways of holding your baby until you find what works best.
5. Get Out of the House
A change of scenery and location can be good for all members of the family. If you're inside with a crying, fussy baby, chances are you've got cabin fever. Fresh air, vitamin D, and a nice stroll can be just what is needed to help soothe a crying baby.
6. Provide Skin-to-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin isn't just for newborns. Holding a baby close to your bare skin—or even just close to your chest, where they can feel your heartbeat—can provide much-needed comfort and security to a crying baby.
7. Swaddle Your Baby
Building off the idea of closeness, your baby is used to being cozy and tight in the womb. This is one of the reasons that swaddling can feel comforting for a baby. Whether you swaddle with a blanket or use a swaddle with zippers and velcro, the wrapped-up feeling can bring a soothing calm to your crying baby.
8. Create a Calm Environment
What we consider a calm environment can be overwhelming for a baby who is brand-new to the world. Dimming the lights, turning on some white noise, and limiting bright, flashy toys can often help. It can also be useful to reduce stimuli. That might mean ending family or friend visits a bit earlier than normal or having a designated place in the house for loud and boisterous sibling play.
What to Do if Your Baby Has Colic
When a baby has colic—pain in the abdomen that's usually caused by gas—it can be extra challenging to try to soothe them. Colic is often diagnosed by a pediatrician in the first few weeks of a baby's life. The general tell-tale signs that a baby's crying is due to colic is if it goes on for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks. While this isn't a hard and fast rule, the 3-3-3 guideline can help parents determine if colic may be a reason for their baby's continuous crying. Here are a few colic-specific things you can do to help soothe a baby.
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The ByeByeCryTM Baby Sound Machine can work wonders to soothe a crying baby. Photo courtesy of the company
9. Use the ByeByeCryTM Baby Sound Machine
This portable sound machine for infants was developed by a mom who had two babies with colic. It's specifically designed "for colic cries and fussy sighs." The ByeByeCryTM sound machine features 10 custom-recorded sounds, including five unconventional sounds (chainsaw, vacuum, lawnmower, hairdryer, and jackhammer) that can help soothe a colicky baby and five calming sounds (ocean, fan, shushing, rain, and classical music) that can soothe a baby anytime.
10. Talk to Your Pediatrician
Since your pediatrician was probably the person to officially diagnose your baby with colic, they'll provide you with a list of next steps to help you through this time. Ask them anything: no question is too small when you're learning how to soothe a crying baby. Your pediatrician can provide recommendations that are specific to your child's body and colic symptoms, such as hypoallergenic formulas or unique ways to hold your baby to help combat reflux and gassiness.
11. Use Products Designed to Help With Colic
There are other products that can help babies (and parents) through colic. Anti-colic bottles that are designed to lessen airflow and air bubbles during feedings can help with gas and reflux. Parents have also had luck with probiotic drops and gripe water to help soothe colic. As always, with any supplement or addition to your baby's liquid intake, talk to your pediatrician first.
12. Try Other Ways to Provide Comfort and Calm
Other ways to provide comfort are drawing a warm bath for the baby, going for a long drive in the car, or even placing the baby's car seat on top of the washer or dryer. The continuous sound and gentle vibrating motion can help soothe a crying baby. Always make sure an adult is supervising, and never leave a baby unattended!
More Things To Do When You Have a Crying Baby
As the flight attendants say on an airplane: put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. For parents who have a crying baby, that translates into: make sure you're calm and regulated before trying to calm your fussy baby. Before trying to settle your baby, here are some tips to ground yourself...
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You can't calm a crying baby without calming yourself first. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio, via Pexel
13. Take a Moment to Breathe
It's amazing what a few calming breaths can do to relieve stress. The calmer you are, the easier it will be to calm your crying baby.
14. Hand the Baby to a Family Member
Don't feel guilty about recharging your batteries with a few solo minutes. Hand the baby over to a trusted loved one to hold while you go to take a shower, read a magazine, or just relax.
15. Go For a Walk
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that improve your mental state, which just might give you the patience necessary to soothe a crying baby.
16. Talk to a Fellow Parent
Sometimes it's helpful just to know you're not alone. Talk to friends or loved ones who have been in your shoes (it won't be hard to find one) to get advice or just to vent.
17. Be Gentle With Yourself
Know that you're a great parent and you're doing the best you can. You're providing your baby with safety, security, and love, and you will get through this trying time. As the old saying goes—this, too, shall pass.