How to Comfort a Crying Baby
You've fed, burped, changed, and rocked your baby, but he or she is still crying.
And crying. Your nerves are frayed, your sleep is ruined, and you're losing confidence
as a new parent. Now what?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's common for infants to have "fussy"
periods, especially between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight.
Some babies between 3 weeks and 12 weeks of age cry for long stretches. At this period,
there are steps in development when their sleep is less settled.
"Colicky" babies—generally, those who cry nonstop for more than 3 hours a day, more
than 3 days a week—are thought to have a built-in tendency to overreact to any stimulation
like a bowel movement or slight temperature change. In short, they don't easily adjust
to the world outside the snug womb. Colic usually disappears around 4 months of age.
Every baby has a unique personality. Just as some babies are laid-back, some babies
cry more than others. And the longer a baby cries, the harder it tends to be to get them
Below are several tear-stopping methods to try.
Swaddling means wrapping newborn babies snugly in a blanket to keep their arms and
legs from flailing. This can make a baby feel safe and help him or her fall asleep.
You can buy a special swaddling blanket designed to make swaddling easier.
But don’t use swaddling if your baby is 2 months or older, or if your baby can roll
over on his or her own. Swaddling may raise the risk for SIDS (sudden infant death
syndrome) if the swaddled baby rolls onto his or her stomach.
When you swaddle, give your baby enough room to move his or her hips and legs. The
legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips. Don’t place your baby’s legs so
that they are held together and straight down. This raises the risk that the hip joints
won’t grow and develop correctly. This can cause a problem called hip dysplasia and
Also be careful of swaddling your baby if the weather is warm or hot. Using a thick
blanket in warm weather can make your baby overheat. Instead use a lighter blanket
or sheet to swaddle the baby.
Wear your baby. Babies who are carried more cry less. Wearing baby in a sling for several hours a
day also cuts crying and gives constant sound, temperature, and motion that signal
comfort. Special slings and carriers allow you to wear your baby while having 1 or
2 hands free. Babies like being close to you because they stay warm, they can hear
your breathing and heartbeat, and they like the motion. It is very important to make
sure that your baby’s face isn’t covered and that you can see his or her mouth and
nose. Placing your baby naked against your bare chest (called skin-to-skin contact)
can be very soothing to a crying baby. Some find that taking a warm bath or shower
can calm a baby who is upset
Switch on a quiet, meditative noise. A running shower, a whirring fan, a white noise machine, or a recording of the vacuum
cleaner helps block outside stimulation and may imitate the steady sounds of the womb.
It's important to keep the volume low. Constant loud noises can damage your baby's
Get moving. A spin in the car, motion swings, or dancing can also soothe a fussy baby.
Drape your baby. Draping your baby along your forearm with his or her head in the crook of your elbow
gives warmth and pressure to relax a tense, fussy baby.
Shushing noises. You can also try making a shushing noise in the baby's ear. This copies the sounds
inside the womb and can be very calming.
Pacifiers and nursing. Babies find sucking to be very soothing. If you are breastfeeding, nursing the baby
is a great way to offer comfort. Pacifiers can also be used to help the baby self-soothe.
Take a stress break. If you have tried everything that you know how to do and your baby is still crying,
you can place your infant in a safe place (like a crib or swing) and go into a quiet
room for a few minutes. NEVER shake your baby. If you feel yourself losing control
of your emotions, take a few minutes to calm yourself before returning to care for
Ask for help. Have your partner, family member, or neighbor care for the baby while you take a
break. Having some time to walk, take a bath or shower, or take a short nap can be
very beneficial. This time allows you to “recharge” and return to your baby with calm
emotions. A colic support group can help you cope until your baby outgrows crying.
(And they all do!)
If your baby doesn't respond to the above suggestions, be sure to contact your health
care provider to make sure that there are not health concerns that need to be addressed.