Soothing and calming your baby

All babies cry and some cry more than others. It's normal for them to cry. Crying is their way of communicating with you.

Each baby is unique. It can take time to figure out why your baby is crying. Sometimes there may be no obvious reason why.

Things to try

Things you can try when trying to soothe your baby include:

  • thinking about possible causes like hunger, a dirty nappy or a button digging into their skin and responding to the need
  • offering your breast if you breastfeed - some babies want to suck more when they are going through a growth spurt. This normally settles after 24 hours
  • using paced bottle-feeding if your bottle-fed baby is hungry - they may drink too quickly if stressed
  • talking or singing in a calm tone
  • gently touching your baby
  • picking your baby up and holding them in your arms - try different positions to see which they prefer
  • doing skin-to-skin contact with your baby
  • gently rocking your baby
  • giving them a soother if you use one - some babies may have an urge to suck
  • playing gentle music
  • using background noise, such as a 'white noise' toy, vacuum cleaner or washing machine
  • using movement like going for a walk or drive

If soothing is not working

It is understandable if you feel stressed.

It will help your baby if you:

  • take a few deep breaths to try to feel calm
  • remind yourself that your baby is having a tough time and needs your help

If you are able to remain calm, it will help your baby to calm. It is okay if this is hard for you. Both you and your baby may need a rest.

Rest

It can be very stressful trying to calm a crying baby. Sometimes our efforts to soothe babies can actually lead them to cry more. This may be because they are overstimulated.

Try laying your baby down on a mat beside you. This will give them a chance to move their body, which can help if they are overstimulated. Watch to see if this makes a difference. It may help them to calm.

It could also help if you turn down the lights and reduce noise.

Colic

If your baby cries a lot, they may have colic.

Colic is crying that:

  • begins and ends for no obvious reason
  • lasts at least 3 hours a day
  • happens at least 3 days a week
  • continues for 3 weeks to 3 months

Colic is temporary and should resolve with time. Talk to your GP if you are unsure and concerned about your baby's crying.

When to see your GP if you cannot soothe your baby

Phone your GP if your baby is crying constantly, or if their cry sounds different to normal. It may be a sign that your baby is sick.

Talk to your GP or public health nurse if:

  • your baby's crying is making it hard for you to bond with them
  • crying only occurs around feeding times
  • your baby isn't gaining weight
  • you're not coping or feel unable to soothe your baby

Never shake your baby. This is very dangerous and can cause brain damage.

Urgent advice: Phone your GP urgently if:

  • you have thoughts of hurting your baby

These thoughts are frightening. But talking about them can help.

Your GP will not judge you, they will help you.

Looking after yourself

It's normal to feel stressed as you try to figure out what your baby needs when they cry.

If you can, ask someone to take your baby for a few minutes. Go outside for a break.

Your public health nurse or GP are there to support you.

Contact them if you:

  • are alone a lot when trying to soothe your baby
  • need help with stress
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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 5 November 2021
Next review due: 5 November 2024

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