​14 Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby

Updated 
July 17, 2023
 | 
15
 minutes read
Written by
Mandy Treeby
Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
Medically reviewed by
Elissa Gross, DO
Board Certified Pediatrician & Lactation Consultant

Your baby communicates in all kinds of ways: smiles, giggles, hand flailing. And then there's crying. Since they can't talk yet, crying is a go-to mode of communication and can mean any number of things: your baby's hungry, tired, scared, or even gassy.

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Rest assured you will learn to interpret your baby's various cries in no time - and when you do, you'll be able to soothe them.

Here will discuss techniques for calming a crying baby and answer questions like "Why is my baby crying?" “How do I help my baby stop crying?” and “How do I cope with my baby’s crying?”

If your baby is crying at bedtime or waking during the night upset, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. This game-changing app offers expert curated advice and science-proven guidance on how to help your baby learn to love sleep - a very important skill that can greatly improve their mood - and yours!

How to Soothe or Calm Your Crying Baby

We encourage you to check on and engage your baby if they’re crying during the day, and sometimes at night. While solving the problem may be as easy as changing their diaper, here are 14 ways to soothe your baby when they're crying:

1. Swaddle: Wrapping your crying baby comfortably in a lightweight cotton blanket can work wonders at soothing them. That said, you should only swaddle until they're about 2 months old.

2. Make it Dark: Sometimes bringing your baby into a darkened room - like their room with the blackout curtains closed - can help calm a crying baby. This is especially true if they're crying from overstimulation, like house guests. (Also, this can be good for you, too!) Creating an ideal sleep space is a core fundamental of better sleep, take our free sleep assessment if your baby is struggling with sleep right now.

3. A Warm Bath: Warm water can help calm and relax a crying baby.

4. Burp Them: If your baby's crying after a meal, they may have a bit of gas. To help them, and reduce the crying, burp them.

How to Safely Burp Your Baby:

Here are three methods to burp your baby….

  • Over the Shoulder: Put a burp cloth over your shoulder to prevent messes. Hold your baby to your chest with their head on your shoulder. Place one hand under them to support their body. With the other hand, gently pat your baby's back with your palm.
  • Sitting On Your Lap: Place your baby on your lap sitting upright. Support your baby's chest and head with one hand while gently patting their back with the other.
  • Laying On Your Lap: Lay your baby tummy down over your lap. Support your baby's head so that it's slightly higher than their chest and gently pat their back.

5. Loving touches: If your baby's crying, sometimes holding them, stroking their head or patting their cheek is all it takes to calm them down.

6. Sing or Talk Softly: You're likely doing this already, but it bears saying that just the sound of your voice talking sweetly or singing can help a crying baby relax.

7. Take a Walk: A stroll around the block or neighborhood can distract or pacify a crying baby. Plus, the fresh air is good for you both.

8. Wear Your Baby: As with the deep breathing and holding techniques, this longer-term contact provides motion and closeness that make your baby feel safe and secure - two antidotes to crying.

9. Gently Rock Your Baby: Whether manually in your arms or with a rocking chair, the rocking motion can remind your baby of the warm, welcoming womb, which helps calm them. If that doesn't work, try a swing or a glider for a similar effect

10. Go for a Car Ride: A tried and true method for calming a crying baby is a drive in the car. The rhythmic motion can help lull an upset baby.

11.  Deep Breathing: No, your baby can't do deep breathing yet, but you can - simply hold your baby close to your chest, either with clothes or skin-to-skin, and take some deep, calming breaths. The rhythm and your calmness can help soothe a crying baby.

12. Calming Sounds: Sound machines, white noise, or even just a regular fan can help relax a crying baby - especially when listened to in a dark, calm room.

13. Calming Music: If you're over the sound machine or want to try something new, calm music, such as classical, soft folk or slow R&B can help bring a baby from meltdown to mellow. No matter what genre, just keep it low tempo and low volume.

14. Pacify Them: Not all babies like pacifiers, but if yours does, see if a pacifier will - well, pacify them.

Learn more science-driven tips and expert curated techniques to soothe your baby by downloading the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It is jam packed with everything you need to help establish healthy sleep habits for your baby, which in turn helps the whole family rest easier.

How to soothe a Crying Baby at night

If your little one is having a tough time settling down at night, you're not alone. It all starts with ensuring your bedtime routine is preparing them for a good night’s rest.

A routine offers predictability, signaling to your baby that it's time to sleep, and it should ideally last about 20-30 minutes.

Creating an Effective Bedtime Routine

To ensure a solid and easily replicable bedtime routine, simplicity and brevity are key. This allows any caregiver to follow the routine and also makes it easy to move through the steps swiftly if your baby is particularly tired. Start with setting up the environment: dim lights and quiet. Then, here’s a sample routine you could do every night with your little one:

1. Change them into a fresh diaper

2. Get them dressed in comfortable pyjamas

3. Cuddles, along with a short story or a gentle lullaby

4. End with goodnight kisses before placing your baby down in their crib when they're drowsy but not completely asleep

It's important to note that feeding should be done separately from the bedtime routine, preferably in a well-lit room. This helps avoid creating a feeding-to-sleep association, encouraging your baby to fall asleep independently.

The routine should happen at the same time each evening, which helps regulate your baby's internal clock and enhances sleep quality and duration. Make sure the sleep environment is baby-friendly - think dark, quiet, and comfortably cool. This structured routine can help decrease nighttime awakenings and teaches your baby the vital skill of self-soothing.

If you're up for experimenting, here are a few more ideas for soothing your baby at bedtime, or during the night:

· Swaddling: Like a cozy little burrito, many babies love the snug feel.

· Pacifiers: Sucking is a big soother for some little ones.

· Baby swing or rocker: That gentle rocking can be pure magic.

· White noise machine: A constant hum can mimic the comforting sounds of the womb.

· Skin-to-skin contact: Nothing beats the warmth and rhythm of your heartbeat.

· Change of scenery: Sometimes, a simple distraction does the trick.

· Baby carrier: Close to you and in motion, it's a winning combo!

Remember, every baby is unique, so what works might take a bit of trial and error.

How to soothe a Crying Baby without holding them

Just like us adults, every little one needs some quality me-time. It's not just about a parent being unavailable or needing a short breather—it's also about helping our tiny treasures learn to self-soothe, a vital skill for their emotional growth.

Here are some effective strategies to soothe a fussy baby without holding them:

· Swaddling: It's like giving your baby a cozy, warm hug similar to their time in the womb.

· White Noise: This might mimic the comforting sounds your baby heard before birth.

· Pacifier: If your baby is older than one month and isn't breastfeeding, a pacifier could provide some relief.

· Changing Positions: A new position can sometimes distract and soothe a baby.

· Introducing a Comfort Item: A soft toy or blanket can serve as a familiar source of comfort.

As you try these techniques, don't forget to monitor your baby to ensure they're both safe and comfortable.

How to soothe a Crying Baby with Colic

Caring for a baby with colic can feel like you're playing a guessing game. Is the baby hungry, too hot or cold, in need of a fresh diaper, or just overwhelmed? It could be any of these reasons, or it might be something that’s not quite so apparent.

Once you've ticked off all the possible physical needs and discomforts, it's time to switch gears into comfort mode. Remember, every baby is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Here are some comforting tips to soothe your colicky baby:

· Try changing their position; sitting them up or facing them outwards could be comforting.

· Take a walk together for a change of environment.

· Consider a ride in the car. The combined motion and noise could help soothe your baby.

· Rock your baby gently or let them experience the calming motion of a swing.

· Swaddle them gently in a soft blanket for a secure feeling.

· Cherish some cuddle time and hold your baby.

· Sing or talk to your baby in a soft, soothing voice.

· Give a gentle rub to your baby’s back.

· Position your baby near low, rhythmic sounds like a washing machine or heartbeat recording. A steady hum of a fan or a white noise machine might work wonders too.

· Offer your baby a pacifier. The act of sucking can be quite calming for many babies.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Colic can be stressful for parents, and one of the best ways to be there for your baby is calm, even though it’s not always easy. If you're feeling overwhelmed, take deep breaths to relax. If you need a breather, it's okay to place your baby in a safe spot and step away for a few minutes to regroup. Listening to calming music, doing a quick chore, or just taking a moment to unwind–all these actions can go a long way when you need them most.

Don't hesitate to ask for help from friends or family members so you can take a break. Going for a walk, taking a nap, or just having some "me time" isn’t selfish—it's essential. Remember, your calmness can greatly contribute to your baby's comfort, so ensure you’re taking care of your wellbeing too.

How to soothe a Crying Baby with Gas

When your little one is uncomfortable from gas, the first and most crucial step is to assist your baby in releasing their gas. If one burping position doesn't seem to be effective, don't hesitate to try another. Laying your baby on their back and gently bicycling their legs can help to free up the gas, even though they might wriggle or cry.

Pacifiers can be particularly beneficial in this situation. While they don't necessarily alleviate or move gas, pacifiers can help calm your baby enough for them to fall asleep.

It may also help to reconsider how to prevent your baby from feeling gassy in the first place. Here are some pointers:

· Burp During Meals: Instead of just after meals, burp your baby throughout to release gas gradually.

· Paced Feeding: Slow down feeding pace to prevent gas. Use slow-flow bottles or control milk flow during breastfeeding.

· Let Formula Settle: Avoid shaking or mixing formula vigorously. Let it settle before feeding to minimize gas.

· Switch Formulas: If your baby is often gassy and formula-fed, consider trying a different brand. Different formulas might suit your baby better. To learn more about the topic of Helping your gassy baby sleep, read our full article.

How Much Crying is Normal?

Newborns can cry for one to four hours every day. And sometimes more. This may sound like a lot but remember that crying is used to communicate lots of different needs or wants: hunger, dirty diaper, exhaustion.

In no time you'll learn the difference sooner than you think. For example, your baby's "I'm hungry" cry may be a bit more high-pitched than the "the dog got too close" cry.

Common Reasons Your Baby May Cry

They’re hungry: Just like adults, your baby can get cranky when hungry - and since they eat a lot, that can happen pretty often. You'll likely learn to distinguish the "I'm hungry" cry pretty early on, but some other signs include your baby smacking their lips or moving their hands to their mouths.

They are wet or dirty: Dirty diapers are another common and uncomfortable cry-worthy occurrence, especially for newborns. As with "I'm hungry," you'll likely learn the "new diaper" cry, as well as the rhythm with which your baby "goes." But here too are some ways to check if a diaper needs replacing:

Check its wetness indicator: Pampers diapers have a line that changes to blue when the diaper inside is wet.

  • Sniff test: An old school favorite because it works.
  • Touch test: If the inside is wet, it’s time for a change.
  • Sag test: Is the diaper sagging or heavy? Time for a change!

They're Tired: Parents will relate to this one - sometimes your baby's so tired they just have to cry. This is often referred to as overtired, following a developmentally appropriate schedule in tune with their biological sleep rhythms can help here. Download, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ and get a personalized sleep plan and schedule that updates automatically with each sleep tracked! Plus it notifies you when it is time for a nap or bedtime, so you can always stay one step ahead of their sleep.

They’re Too Hot or Too Cold: A good rule of thumb during the day is to dress your baby in the same number of layers you're wearing, and +1 at night.

They Have Reflux: It's common for babies to spit up and vomit occasionally, but if it happens very often, they may have GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. Call your doctor if these things happen:

Frequent spitting up or vomiting. This is more than the usual spit-up. This is consistent and regular spitting up or, more likely, vomiting.

Fussiness after feedings. Usually babies are tranquil after meals; if your baby's not, this may indicate a problem.

Losing weight or not gaining weight. Babies gain on average 5-7 ounces a week. If your baby's deviating from this too much, check with your pediatrician.

Tip: Wait at least two or two-and-a-half hours between feedings to prevent overfeeding.

Food allergy? If your baby cries or is sick after eating, they may have a food allergy. If you suspect a food allergy, consult your pediatrician. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, you may want to consider changing your diet to reduce caffeine, spicy foods, or dairy products - all of which can be common irritants for babies. But, again, consult your pediatrician on this front.

Teething: Teething typically begins around the 3- or 4-month mark. If your baby's this age and suddenly fussy or crying, that may be the cause. Giving your little one a gum massage or teething ring can help.

Fever: "Fever" is defined as a rectal temperature of 100.4. This can be cause for concern, and you should call your pediatrician if you observe the following:

Your baby's 2 months or younger and has a temperature of at least 100.4° F

Your baby is 3-6 months, and their fever is 101° F or higher.

Your baby is older than 6 months and has a 103° F fever or higher.

Tip: Remember that it's always okay to call your pediatrician if you're concerned. They are there to help and won't be bothered. And, trust us, they've been asked all kinds of questions.

Overexcitement: The world is new to your baby, so it's entirely possible they're crying because of too much excitement. For example, house guests or a vacation could overstimulate your baby. If you suspect this is the cause, simply take them to a quiet room until they calm down.

Boredom: See? We told you crying is adaptable. Just like crying can indicate overstimulation, it can also indicate boredom. If you suspect your baby's crying from boredom, consider singing them a song or taking them for a stroll.

Stress: A bit like being overexcited, a baby may experience stress that causes them to cry. This is completely normal - crying is their way of “shutting out” the world and managing their emotions. If this happens they may be inconsolable for a little while but will likely be calmer - and may even fall into a nap - once they’ve worked it all out.

Colic: Last and definitely least desirable cause for crying is colic - the term for inconsolable long-term crying. It can start around the 4-week mark and last until the 3 or 4 month mark. It's distinguishable from other crying because:

  • Colic goes on for longer
  • Your baby may turn red in the face from crying so much,
  • Colicky babies often draw their legs into themselves.

How To Cope with a Crying Baby

Hearing your baby cry can be upsetting, and that's especially true if you can't get them to settle. This is completely normal. And, yes, sometimes you won't be able to calm your baby. That too is normal. So, what do you do if your baby's crying?

Here are 5 tips for coping with a crying baby:

1. Take deep breaths and count to 10: This works in other stressful situations, too.

2. Listen to calming music: Just like calming music can help soothe your baby, it can help soothe you, too.

3. Call a friend. Good friends are always there for you to vent, and there's no shame in doing so. BUT, if you don't even want to talk about it, you can always call just to chat and have some "me time." Your friends will probably be thrilled to hear from you - and you them!

4. Do some chores: This may not be as fun as calling a friend to gab, but chores go a long way in calming one's nerves. Just think of the phrase "busy hands, quiet mind." And, who knows, maybe the vacuum sound will calm your baby.

5. Take "Me Time": If your baby's crying and you can't calm them, or yourself, it's completely acceptable to put them safely in their crib, close the door, and take 10 minutes for yourself. It's better to do this than keep getting frustrated, which your baby can sense, and which can cause them to cry even more.

The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ also includes mindfulness techniques and emotional support to help you grow and thrive through parenthood’s ups and downs.

What is considered excessive crying?

If your baby is crying for more than four hours or their crying gets progressively worse, shriller, or more urgent over the course of a few hours, it may be colic or a medical condition. If you suspect something is wrong, always reach out to your baby’s pediatrician. Your peace of mind is important and they are there to help.

Finally, we must mention that you should never shake a baby to “snap them out of it” or from frustration. This can cause irreversible damage or death. If you’re struggling to copy with your baby’s crying seek professional help.

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FAQs:

There's no one-size-fits-all answer, and every baby will react differently. A soothing bath, gentle back pats, burping, playing calming sounds or music, rocking, singing, wearing your baby in a carrier, or offering a pacifier (if over 1 month old) might just do the trick for your little one.

There could be a variety of reasons why your little one is suddenly fussier. It might be hunger, discomfort from being too cold or hot, needing a diaper change, needing to be burped, teething, illness, overstimulation, boredom, feeling unsettled, or dealing with colic.

If your baby's cries are ramping up and not calming down as the day progresses, you might be dealing with colic. Babies with colic often cry or scream, extend or pull up their legs, and sometimes pass gas. This often happens in the late evening, between 6 p.m. and midnight, commonly known as the 'witching hour'.

Absolutely, it's normal. Babies haven't developed a regular sleep-wake cycle and often wake up during the night. If they're uncomfortable, hungry, or need a diaper change, they'll cry to let you know.

If your baby's crying feels excessive, different from usual, or comes with other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, a rash, or reduced activity, it's time to reach out to a healthcare professional.

Crying after feeding might be due to gas, reflux, or overfeeding. It could also be due to a wet diaper or your little one still feeling hungry. If this kind of crying is a regular pattern, talk about it with your pediatrician.

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How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Sources

Healthy Children: Swaddling: Is it Safe?

Kids Health: What to Do When Babies Cry

Healthy Children: How to Calm a Fussy Baby: Tips for Parents & Caregivers

Mayo Clinic: Colic

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: How to Soothe a Baby with Colic

Book: Caring for your baby and young child birth to age 5, Sixth Edition Paperback – November 2, 2014 by American Academy of Pediatrics (Author)

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