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How to settle a crying baby

Mother settling her crying newborn babyCrying is a young baby’s way of communicating with you.

A baby usually cries for a reason – to let you know there is something they need you to do for them, such as feeding them or changing their nappy.

After a while you will probably learn to recognise your baby’s signs and work out what your child needs and why they might be crying.

Until that time, the best thing to do is to work through a list of possible reasons why your baby is crying and attend to each reason as necessary.

How to soothe and settle a crying baby

Reasons for crying

Babies usually cry for the following reasons:

  • hunger
  • dirty nappy
  • over-tiredness – do they just want to be put in their cot in a quiet place to sleep?
  • over-stimulation – are you putting toys/books in front of their face to stop them crying, when maybe they just wants to be held calmly with some gentle rocking?
  • tummy pain/wind – try cuddling them in an upright position and gentle rubbing or patting their back
  • too hot/too cold
  • boredom
  • thirst
  • pain/illness
  • fear

Hunger, dirty nappies and too hot or cold are the easiest symptoms to check for and solve. After that, over-tiredness or over-stimulation are major causes of tears in newborns. The signs of tiredness are often misinterpreted as boredom causing the carer to wave more toys in front of the frazzled youngster, over-stimulating and setting up a cycle of crying.

Look out for the signs of tiredness, such as jerky movements, pulling ears, fussing, whimpering, and rubbing eyes (when older). Once you see those signs, try putting baby to bed before they become over-tired.

Comforting techniques for settling a crying baby

The following are great comforting techniques for settling a crying baby. Try:

  • rocking in a rocking chair.
  • holding baby over your arm, face down, and gently rubbing their back.
  • soft, rhythmic music.
  • putting baby in a baby carrier and going outside for a walk (even if it is just into the backyard).
  • whispering can divert baby’s attention and stop them from crying.
  • soothing sounds, such as “rainmaker” toys.
  • pass your baby to a partner, or support person, if you need a rest – sometimes just doing this can calm a baby down.
  • sit down and breathe deeply and calmly (even though it is hard!)

Handling a crying baby can be very trying on your nerves — it’s meant to be, it’s nature’s way of ensuring that adults attend to the baby readily. However, if the crying has been going on for a while and you’ve checked for the causes — tried feeding, changed the nappy, baby is not too hot or too cold, tried the comforting techniques, and you can feel your nerves fraying, hand your baby to your partner or other support person.

If there’s no one else available, allow yourself to put baby down in a safe place, such as a cot, and give yourself a break for a quick minute or two.

What is colic?

Sometimes your baby cries for seemingly no reason at all. Often called colic, crying of this nature usually occurs between 3 weeks to 3 months of age and usually takes place in the late afternoon, evening, or at night. Your baby may seem calm and healthy during the day, but at night they can become hard to comfort, cry for hours, and appear to be in discomfort or have stomach pain.

Unusual crying

If your baby’s crying is different to normal, is high-pitched and persistant or your baby is having trouble breathing or is feverish, do not hesitate to take them to your doctor or hospital.

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6 Comments so far -
  • First Last says:

    Is that Taylor Swift in the picture? Sure looks like her!

  • Renee Shilkin says:

    As a GP with a special interest in distressed babies I believe that some babies who crying excessively have a combination of reflux and allergy and develop early ear problems. This is often missed as the problem is easily missed and the combination of problems isn’t always recognised. It is important that the problems are recognised and dealt with adequately as early middle ear problems can have long term effects.

    • Hi Renee, Thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Certainly something parents can now ask about when they’re talking to their own health professional. Good to know. Thanks again. All the best

  • Debbie says:

    I’ve used Aroma Diffusers with lavender pure essential oil or relax blends,Whilst cuddling my Bub. It calms and soothes them. They are great for many purposes.

  • Amanda Morgan says:

    Babies magic tea is a wonderful home remedy that will soothe your crying baby immediately. This tea is preservative-free as well as caffeine-free.

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